Bejeweled set the bar in terms of broadening the audience for video games. It was the first of the PopCap Games, released ages ago in 2001, and served to get moms and grandmas everywhere hooked on its mega-simple puzzle while discovering the possibilities on their PCs beyond solitaire and freecell. Now, after several sequels and turns of the screw, we have Bejeweled Stars, a new free-to-play release for Android that adds gameplay elements from Candy Crush and its ilk. May the heavens shake.
The traditional Bejeweled was not played in turns. You just had to get the highest possible score in a set amount of time by matching colored jewels in a constant orgy of matches and explosions on the board. Later came the Zen mode that removed the time limit, but in the smartphone realm just getting points is not as attractive as levelling up – and getting the ubiquitous three stars – so your aim in this new version (like in the rather stale games from King) is to make a set number of matches within a max number of turns.
It might seem obvious, but levelling up over and over again requires you to spend lives so you can repeat the levels you don’t make it through, with this being the main hook that keeps you playing day after day and, if you’re impatient, gets you to buy lives with real money. And there’s also a social component as well as a scoring system with global rankings – basically everything your granny needs to play away on her smartphone on the morning bus. OK, maybe me, too. That’s the magic of well-made games: they hypnotize for no apparent reason no matter how trite the formula appears.