- Publisher: PopCap Games
- Developer: PopCap Games
- Price: GBP 5.99
- Compatible with: iPhone/iPod touch with 2.0 firmware
Say what you like about Apple, but it's clearly taking this portable games console thing seriously. First monkeys, then kart racing, and now Bejeweled 2. It's textbook. They'll be putting on disappointing press conferences and charging 30 quid for fancy carry cases before you know it. Oh.
For their part, the programmers on PopCap's iPhone/iPod touch port of the 21st Century Tetris have played it by the book as well, producing a basic, unspectacular conversion that ejects some of the extra modes available on other systems.
Fortunately the core gameplay is as compelling as ever. Faced with a grid full of gems, your job is to create lines of three or more of the same, which then disappear, allowing the gems above them to tumble into the gap left behind. As ever, you can only move gems that will form scoring groups when they switch position with their neighbour.
Observant gamers will quickly learn to spot potential four- and five-strong groups and line them up, producing more powerful gems that create explosions or delete other gems of the same colour when they're themselves despatched, while queuing up lucrative chain reactions becomes second nature.
The iPhone/iPod touch version, which is as good as the game's ever looked on Apple's pin-sharp display, also takes advantage of the handheld's sexy touch-screen input for control, allowing you to shuffle gems around with your fingertip - tapping a piece to select it and then tapping the adjacent square you want to move it to. It's not as smooth as ZooKeeper on the DS - still the benchmark for block-swapping touch-screen interfaces - but after a few minutes' practice you won't find it gets in the way too much.
PopCap even gets some mileage out of the accelerometer, rotating the display between portrait and landscape depending on how you want to play it. We didn't find it made much difference, but those of you who do will want to bear in mind that the play area is pushed to the right side of the screen with the score and menu buttons on the left, which is bad news for lefties. Unless you have hands the size of a bear, in which case you probably didn't buy an iPhone anyway.
Perhaps that's not the sort of thing everyone notices, but after half an hour playing Bejeweled 2 on our iPod touch we were running out of new things to notice in general, as there are only two game modes to pit your fingers against. Classic is about keeping the game going for as long as possible - filling up a green progress bar along the bottom of the screen by deleting gems, and trying not to run out of possible combinations, which spells Game Over. You can't run out of possible combinations in Action mode, but you can run out of time.
Suitably different disciplines, then, but then they have to be, because there's nothing else: no other gameplay modes, no leaderboards and no multiplayer. The absence of leaderboards is the daftest thing - you can't even save your high scores locally, which has been standard for pretty much the entire history of videogames. It doesn't seem like much to ask.
Bejeweled 2 is still a fine puzzle game, and we had no trouble pecking away at it for a whole afternoon, but this is quite expensive for an App Store download and makes only a token effort to take advantage of the opportunities the platform provides. Those with access to other systems and a desire to play this would also be better served by the Xbox Live Arcade version, which is available for 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60) and offers considerably more value in exchange for the loss of portability.