Will Howells writes a good piece about removing the game Bejeweled from his phone.
Bejeweled is a PopCap game and they are very good at making games. Worryingly good.
From their stable I have enjoyed Zuma, Zuma’s Revenge, various versions of Bejwelled, and Plants vs Zombies. Especially Plants vs Zombies. But I came to PopCap firstly through Peggle.
Once you move beyond Bejeweled, they have a curious “try before you buy” policy. You can download any of their games and play them for an hour on a free trial before you have to pay up to continue.
They know they can afford to do this, because they know their games are so good that you’ll play them for an hour, barely notice the time passing, and then feel seriously aggrieved when your time is up. So aggrieved, you’ll reach for your card and stump up the usually fairly reasonable sum of money just to carry on playing.
Each of their games starts really simply, so anyone can play them. They even run on an average specced machine. They ramp up the skill level fairly steeply, but train you as you go so that you keep pace. Plants vs Zombies, for example, teaches you a new plant and a new zombie each level, and it’s fun, cutely drawn, and the music is good. Before you know it, you’re battling with dozens of zombies in a wide variety of scenarios. Peggle was the same. Start with the simplest of levels, and build up gradually.
Many of the games are easy enough to complete, but even if you play every level and defeat the ultimate boss monsters, the game doesn’t end. You can replay every level with a higher win ratio. There are seemingly infinite challenges based on the basic game engine. And the reward for even little wins is pleasing enough to make you want to keep playing: every successful Peggle level end ends up with rainbows, unicorns and the Ode to Joy. Srsly. And despite how that sounds in words, it’s great! Here’s a review of PvZ – and I endorse everything in it.
Peggle, PvZ and Zuma have a basic level structure and a game you can complete. Bejeweled, Chuzzle and their ilk get increasingly more complex, but technically if you got good enough, they’re probably infinite. (( Much like Cybertron Mission, where after the first four levels, you just got the same levels again with nastier bad guys )) They even have normal modes, where you get hazards, and “zen” modes where you just have the fundamentals of the games without the pesky threat of dying. So you can keep playing for ever.
I’ve been more than happy to pay for several of these games multiple times over, so that I can play them on more than one computer. Then, when I got an iPod Touch, mainly for leafleting (( and mainly because the UX of trying to get podcasts and music onto my Nokia N95 8GB – and still use it as a phone – is just too ghastly to do routinely )) I bought the games all over again through the iTunes store.
I have an ever so slightly addictive personality. If I like something, I get a bit obsessive about it. This usually manifests itself in reading all the books by an author, renting all the films with an actor and eating all the chocolate in the house. (( Unhelpfully, the addiction generally only manifests itself in unproductive ways. I have never been addicted to work. Or canvassing. Or leafletting )) Heaven knows what would happen to me if I even started taking a little bit of drugs. But with videogames it manifests itself with unhelpful obsessive playing. I’ve had nights where I’ve played PvZ all night. 6 hours straight is not all that uncommon. I’ve definitely played each of the games for so long that they have caused me pain in the mousing hand. And when I’ve switched hands, they make the other hand hurt too.
But the worst game I’ve been playing lately from the Popcap stable is Bejeweled Twist. Like Bejeweled, you have to match gems into rows of 3, 4, 5 and 6, and when you do, they explode and new gems cascade down. The method of moving gems is different – you have a rotator cursor that takes four gems and moves them clockwise. If you can pop gems with every turn for a successive 10 levels – well over 100 consecutive mini-wins – you get a Fruit Gem. If you pop 4 gems, you get a Flame Gem; 5 gets you a Lightening Gem. If you fail, the game makes a heart-rending “disappointed :(” noise at you. On the way, there are hazards like gems that are stuck and won’t rotate, bombs that tick down with each turn, and DOOM GEMS that tick down with each non-productive turn, but that can’t even be exploded!
Look at the screenshot. I’ve been playing this game for days. I’m on Level 57. There are fruit gems galore. I’ve over 9 million points. Somebody stop me!
Colleagues, if you value your free time and your wrists – and Will, this is especially applicable for you – DO NOT DOWNLOAD BEJEWELED TWIST.
And if you don’t want to download it – here’s a handy link