Bejeweled Live+ for Windows Phone
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Bejeweled Live+ Review: The puzzle king returns to Windows Phone

You might not know this, but Microsoft and Bejeweled go way back. PopCap created the very first version in Flash in 2001, originally calling it Diamond Mine. When Microsoft hosted the game at its MSN gaming site, the two parties agreed to change the title to Bejeweled, a name that has now become synonymous with the match-3 puzzle genre.

Windows Phone 7 launched with Bejeweled Live, a decent but overpriced ($5!) port of the game with only three game modes. Considering that Bejeweled on iPhone and iPad each include five modes for only one dollar, the original Bejeweled Live has always represented a poor value proposition.

Thankfully, PopCap has finally made good with Bejeweled Live+, essentially a port of the iOS version. A timed Nokia exclusive, it has a two dollar markup on Windows Phone 7 and 8. But three dollars doesn’t sting too badly when we’re talking about the finest pure puzzle game on the platform.

Once more into the mines

Bejeweled Live+ classic

By now, just about every gamer should understand Bejeweled’s core gameplay. Match three or more gems of the same color by sliding a single gem horizontally or vertically. More gems then fall into the field, and the process repeats until the game ends. It’s simple and addictive, more so thanks to PopCap’s typically great sound effects.

Matching gems in a skillful way (or by happy accident) can produce some helpful special gems. Four in a row make a Flame Gem that destroys all gems within a small radius when matched. Make a T, L, or Plus to create a Star Gem that clears an entire column or row when matched. Matches of five gems in a row make the all-powerful Hypercube. Swapping the ‘cube with another gem will destroy all gems of that color. Finally, the very rare six gem matches make a Supernova gem that clears a large portion of the screen.

Five ways to play

Bejeweled Live+ includes several modes, some of which originated in Bejeweled 3 for XBLA and PC. That game’s Quest, Ice Storm, and Poker are not found here, nor is Bejeweled Blitz, which sells as a separate game on iOS. Scores achieved in any mode contribute to an overall player level, but that level doesn’t unlock anything (not even an Achievement), making it kind of a worthless feature.

Classic

The original, un-timed game mode (pictured above) in which matches fill up a meter at the bottom of the screen. Once the meter fills, you move on to a new level with a fresh set of gems. The game ends when you can’t make any more matches.

Lightning

Bejeweled Live+ lightning

A timed mode highly reminiscent of Bejeweled Blitz. You start with 60 seconds to make as many matches as possible, always in pursuit of a higher score. Matching special Time Gems adds more time, so don’t miss them! Eventually time runs out and the game ends.

Diamond Mine

Bejeweled Live+ Diamond Mine

Another timed mode that I find the most addictive overall. The goal is to dig deep below the ground and find various artifacts buried therein. Matching gems adjacent to the dirt will eliminate that dirt, though some tough spots take two matches to clear.

You start with precious little time, but clearing all of the dirt below a certain line gets you 25 more seconds. On the rare occasions when the entire field is clear of dirt, the game awards a big time bonus. I love Diamond Mine mode, but I wish time wasn’t always so short. Despite the high difficulty, I do find myself coming back again and again…

Zen

Bejeweled Live+ Zen

The Endless mode of Bejeweled Live becomes Zen mode in Live+. It plays just like Classic, but the there’s always at least one possible match and so the game never ends.

Zen offers some interesting options to enhance the tranquility of the experience. You can change the background music to various nature sounds, select textual mantras to pop up during gameplay, or enable a breathing modulation display. This causes a line to raise and lower on-screen in order to help you regulate your breathing. You do NOT want to get so into your Bejeweling that you forgot to breathe and drop dead, after all!

Butterflies

Bejeweled Live+ Butterflies

Want some challenge without a time limit? In this unique mode, colored butterflies spawn at the bottom of the screen. Each match you make causes the butterflies to go up one space. Matching a butterfly eliminates it, but another one will soon spawn. If any butterflies make it to the top of the screen, they get eaten by a spider and the game ends. The game counts how many butterflies you match, but the real goal is just to score as high as possible.

Bejeweled Trance

We can always count on two things from PopCap: their games will look pretty and sound even better. Bejeweled Live+ gets high marks on both fronts, but the sound impresses me most of all. The great sound effects are bolstered by the ethereal voice of Zachary Throne. His commentary could sound goofy on its own, and yet works perfectly in this game’s setting.

Better than all that: the music from composers Peter Hajba and Alexander Brandon. It has this haunting, electronic sound completely unlike any game music I’ve heard. Live+’s tunes come from the longer Bejeweled 3 soundtrack, which you can buy at Bandcamp.

Clunkiness

Bejeweled Live+ menus

Live+ is a great port, but the actual menus somehow got worse on the way to Windows Phone. On iPhone or iPad you’d find all of the game modes on the main menu, nice and easy to pick. But here, only here modes are on the main menu, with Zen and Butterflies tucked away under Bonus Games – a needless separation.

The Options menu isn’t found under the main menu’s Help & About, either. Instead, you have to press the up arrow at the bottom of the screen to view your profile. From there, you’ll find Stats and Options. The profile screen refers to the player as “Player” and shows a non-changeable Yellow gem as an avatar. It really should display the player’s Gamertag and Gamerpic or Xbox Live avatar.

Achievements

Bejeweled Live+ No More Moves

PopCap always gives the Bejeweled series brutal, hardcore Achievements that are odds with the games’ casual nature. The first Bejeweled Live for instance had an Achievement for matching one million gems, a feat that took an insane 150-200 hours of grinding.

Live+ fares slightly better, as its only grinding Achievements are for destroying a far more reasonable 400 Star Gems and 400 Hypercubes. You can easily knock these out in Diamond Mine mode where they occur more frequently, though it will still take a few hours.

That said, this one still has several Achievements tied to unreasonably high scores and challenges. You’ll have to do insanely well in Lightning and Diamond Mine modes. Butterfly mode has a couple of tough ones too, but they’re more attainable by comparison. A huge part of doing well in these modes comes from luck, so you could spend countless hours in one and play your best but come away with no Achievements for your trouble.

All told, only 20 people have completed Live+’s Achievements.

Overall Impression

Bejeweled Live+ puts the first Bejeweled Live to shame. It has way more content and yet costs two dollars less, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the original game gets de-listed whenever Live+ becomes available to non-Nokia users. Heck, Live+ even trumps the recently released Bejeweled Live for Windows 8 as well since that one lacks Lightning and Zen modes.

Among the Xbox Windows Phone lineup, the only puzzle game that can possibly match Live+ is Puzzle Quest 2. Namco Bandai’s offering takes the same core gameplay and adds a story and RPG elements. On the other hand, it’s much longer than it needs to be and doesn’t even support Fast App Switching. If I could choose only one puzzler for mobile play, it would be Bejeweled Live+.

Bejeweled Live+ - Windows Phone 7 or 8 - $2.99 – 53 MB – Store Link (Nokia exclusive)

QR: Bejeweled Live Plus

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Comments

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KasakDesign says:

I remember them hosting this. I miss playing msn games lol I love bejeweled

Otto Gunter says:

I've always been able to play Bejeweled 3 online, at least here in Canada...
http://www.xbox.com/en-CA/Live/Webgames?xr=shellnav
 

Sean D. says:

I love this game, but I'm gonna hold out for the Blitz version.

CaptDjob says:

Really good game. Rank is now 31 and achievements 170/200.

Residing says:

I purchased Bejeweled Live + the day it was released, and is one of only 4 games that I've purchased that cost more than $0.99; the additional modes as well as the price point (as compared to the Bejeweled Live version) made it an instant buy for me.
 
I play this game every once and a while, and really enjoy Diamond Mine mode.  Thanks for the review.

Luke Morris says:

Y is it not available for Ativ S? FFS this phone is crap defo getting Lumia next time.

Paul Acevedo says:

Nokia and EA (including PopCap and Chillingo) have a deal to publish timed exclusives for Lumia phones. After six months those games become available on non-Nokia devices too, as we saw when Spy Mouse and Trivial Pursuit released to general audiences earlier this week.

Luke Morris says:

Ah right thanks for the info. Still gonna get a Lumia next time. Maybe very soon.

myrandex says:

No blitz no thanks. I paid $5 for the original on my old Quantum thinking if I (and others) showed enough support that they might port Blitz eventually...well we see where that went.

Paul Acevedo says:

Blitz is a separate game; you'll never see it included in a mainline Bejeweled game again. We just don't have it on WP yet. But Bejeweled Live+ includes Lightning mode, which is very similar. Also, I can't really imagine someone only enjoying the Blitz style of gameplay and not the others.

myrandex says:

When Blitz originally came out on iOS, it was part of the base app, then later separated. My wife won an iPad 1 for free and she plays it on there, and I used to play it on my old work iPhone (changed jobs don't have it anymore).

I've tried the different forms on the original WP7 game and nothing was quite as addicting and satisfying as Blitz. I might play it on my Lumia once every three months or so, and that's with loosing that iPhone.

rcasey says:

One of my favorite purchases. No regrets at all after many months of play.

MSFTisMIA says:

I rock this daily on my commute. Much better than the iOS or Android versions. Paul is right...the achievements are insane to unlock...

KasakDesign says:

True some achievements are nearly impossible

Trust1421 says:

Blitz tied into FB or cross platform would be awesome!

erzhik says:

While bejeweled is the known name associated with games like this, the best jewel puzzle game is Jewel Mania that's available on iOS unfortunately. If only that was ported over to WP.

This came out months ago right? Or is this a new version. I bought it a while ago. Amazing game. Of all the games I have on the phone, this is the only game that convinced that windows phone is cool enough :)

Paul Acevedo says:

It was released in February, but since we only review one Xbox WP game a week, we're just getting to it now.

azaright says:

Here in india we dont have carrier billing nor carry around credit cards,how re we supposed to download paid stuff

Paul Acevedo says:

Getting a credit card would probably be the best solution. You could also pay via bank account with PayPal.

What I love is that this version includes fast resume.
 
The original you had to wait for the whole game to load if you read an SMS.

sakkee says:

I love this game (and been playing it a lot) and that's why I see few mistakes in the article. for example, the supernova gem does not explode the hole screen, only 3x3 and 2 vertical lightings and 2 horizontals in both ways. And the time gems in lighting do not disappear after few seconds, but when the time is over. I have played this game over 70 h so I know these things ;)

Paul Acevedo says:

I could have sworn that I was able to keep playing after the time gems disappeared...

sakkee says:

yes you can, if you have matched time gems before the time runs out (you have extra time in your pocket or whatever, and when your "primary" time is over, you gain your stored time :P) but when this happens, the time gems you haven't matched on the table transform to special gems (+5 to explosives and +10 to star gems)
I hope this explained my previous correction :D Ps. don't mind my English, I'm only 15 yrs old boy from Finland (the home of Nokia!)

Ridlah says:

Can you get a blazing speed in the lightning mode for this game?

Paul Acevedo says:

Probably. I just never played fast enough to accomplish it.

sakkee says:

yes you can :D got it twice in one game once. it's very hard to get indeed! (in bejeweled 3 much easier)

yellowmage says:

Do you think you could do it again if I gave you my phone? It's the only achievement (apart from one million gems) I'm missing in the original Bejeweled Live!

kitty778 says:

I would like to play Bejeweled Blitz on my Windows Phone against my Facebook friends. Is this ever going to happen?

Paul Acevedo says:

If they ever release Bejeweled Blitz on WP, it would probably have Facebook support. But EA and PopCap haven't announced Blitz for WP yet.

speccy says:

Ran great on my Lumia 800, but I now have a 620 and it runs like dog on that :( I still love my 620 though :)

AskaLangly says:

Started Diamond Mine via Lycos. :D But seriously, Plus was a disappointment in quality. The original was better and had more quirky achievements than Plus's Bejeweled 3-like ones.

Paul Acevedo says:

What do you like better about the original other than the Achievements?

AskaLangly says:

Gameplay was much smoother and just looked better...

silverdoe says:

So still Nokia exclusive? Thought with review, it's available on every phone! LOL

Paul Acevedo says:

We do review Nokia exclusives, just less often since genera Xbox WP games get priority. But hey, now you know what you have to look forward to in 3-4 months when this one stops being exclusive. :)

Mads Knudsen says:

What about Candy Crush?
Will it ever come to WP?

ricsip says:

My only issue with this game is that after 20 mins of play, my 920 becomes hot like crazy. If I played it more than an hour, I could imagine the polycarbonate body would start melting at the top where CPU/GPU may be located. I am more than sure all the higher end WP8 devices (with the 1.5Ghz Krait CPU and the stronger GPU) will face HW malfunction after 1 or 2 years due to the excessive heat they recieved from games. Bejeweled shouldnt stress the CPU/GPU so heavy, unless it is running in 3D mode instead of 2D.

Paul Acevedo says:

It's probably something to do with running a WP7 game on WP8. But Lumia 920s are generally known to get hot during gameplay - hopefully the next generation of Lumias will distribute heat better.

speccy says:

Ran great on my Lumia 800, but unfortunately runs like a dog on my 620 :o(