Bejeweled Twist

Bejeweled has long been considered the videogame obsession of housewives—and no one else. But you can't cast a net that captures 350 million people without snaring at least a couple of hardcore gamers. Bejeweled Twist aims to bridge the gap between the two camps with a sweet dollop of complexity.

The formula is nearly the same. Matching three or more colored gems removes them from play, allowing all the jewels above to settle into the vacant space. But rather than swapping two neighboring gems to begin the avalanche, players rotate a cluster of four clockwise. There's no such thing as a wrong move in Bejeweled Twist. This freedom lets you set up bigger matches. These premeditated maneuvers are rewarded with gems that explode or eliminate entire rows and columns with electrical blasts. With these new power-ups come a few obstacles. Coal can only be trashed by power-up gems. Bombs count down with every gem twist, and can potentially end your game.

It's tough to say whether these tweaks and complications are necessarily improvements. There's certainly more to juggle in Bejeweled Twist, and more than a few ways to play, especially for those looking for a tougher challenge or a high score to beat. Still, it's hard to imagine legions of casual gamers permanently abandoning Bejeweled's tried-and-true simplicity for this shiny new bauble. Nobody really gushes about the many failed, forgotten versions of Tetris we've played all these years. Sometimes a simple set of rules are all a gamer really needs.

Beyond the game: Speaking of Tetris, Bejeweled Twist's bombs are a swipe from Hexic, a new puzzler by Tetris designer Alexey Pajitnov. The comparisons stop there. Hexic may be the most confounding casual game ever devised.

Worth playing for: A light science-fiction theme launches players on a trippy journey through space between levels. Nothing here comes close to Peggle's kitschy flavor, but we'll take what we can get.

Frustration sets in when: Most of Bejeweled's appeal stemmed from its reluctance to punish. Bejeweled Twist feels a bit more punitive. Luckily, a low-stress "Zen" mode recaptures the old carefree vibe.

Final judgment: A serious time-killer, but not quite the second coming.