Twenty years is a long time in anyone’s book, and the gaming world was a very different place back in 2001. I remember the rise of the browser game, which provided hours of fun in school when I should have been paying attention in my I.T. lessons.
Believe it or not, Bejeweled was originally one such game. The aim was simple: swap adjacent gems to match-3, to make them disappear. As the rest tumbled into the space left behind, you had an opportunity to string together a chain reaction, or a cascade as it was known. Of course, if you pulled off fancy matches such as bigger or simultaneous chains, you would bag yourself more points.
And scoring points was the closest you could get to winning in Bejeweled; it was all about pushing your matching skills to the limit. Aside from this, you had two choices in how to do this.
First up was the excitingly named Normal Mode. Here the aim was to fill your progress bar (located at the bottom of the screen) by successfully matching gems. Once filled, you would be clear to proceed to the next level. Naturally, things got more challenging as you levelled up, but there were also more points up for grabs. You were free to play on until you had no moves left to play, which is when the game would end.
Alternatively you could have a go at Time Trial Mode, where the aim was to stop your progress bar from running down to empty. You would, once again, level up by matching gems but this time it would cause your progress bar to deplete increasingly quickly. But if you ran out of matches, it was not game over and you would get a new board to play on. Failure here came only when your progress bar emptied completely.
For me, it was this latter mode that really brought the perfectly tuned gameplay to life. The quick thinking but ultimately simple puzzling, when pitted against the clock, became an irresistibly tense and colourful take on the match-3 genre. There would be plenty of imitations that would follow in the years after.
What I always found pleasing about Bejeweled, was how the in-game announcer gave you verbal reassurance when you scored a decent amount of points. Hearing the deep-voiced “Excellent” back up your moves became something of a hallmark for the match-3 game, and a personal highlight.
Bejeweled was possibly the finest example of a browser game, apart from maybe “Yeti Sports” or “Smack the Penguin” (look it up, kids). It was certainly a step up from many of the amateur titles created to run using Adobe Flash Player on the numerous free to play websites which sprang up at the time. The tragedy here is that Adobe’s Flash Player was actually discontinued in December 2020, so the original Bejeweled is no longer playable.
Never fear dear reader, as Microsoft (being the enterprising devils that they are) stepped in with Microsoft Jewel, a free-to-play browser game hosted on their MSN games website. It’s very similar, but just as enjoyable (it actually distracted me for about 30 minutes in the middle of writing this). To enable you to get in on the action whilst on the move, publishers of the original game (EA) have you covered with their mobile app, Bejeweled Classic.
If you fancy spending your cash on something a little more substantial however, Bejeweled Deluxe is available on Steam and it’s many sequels are also available from the Microsoft Store. They all work in broadly the same way, each ever so slightly building on the last game, so you aren’t really missing out by not having access to the original.
Bejeweled truly is a modern classic which re-ignited the passion for the humble match-3 puzzler. All of the games in the series are great fun for a short blast, especially if you get satisfaction from organising brightly coloured shapes.
But what are your memories of the original Bejeweled? Did I send you off on a wormhole of match-3 titles? Let us know in the comments.