Bejewelled Deluxe 1.71 & Alchemy Deluxe 1.41
Wednesday 21st November, 2001
In terms of gameplay this is probably about the right level for an eight-year-old. Again, there are three difficulty levels, and, again, it’s very, very addictive.
When it comes to games on the Mac, we’re used to waiting for them to be ported from the PC. But here’s something new - two games ported from PalmOS, both from PopCap Software, and both are puzzle board games.
Ruby in the dust
Bejewelled is the easiest of the two to understand. You’re presented with an eight by eight grid of ‘aquafied’ gems. You score points by swapping adjacent gems to create rows of three or more identical gems, either horizontally or vertically. Once you create a row, it disappears, allowing the gems above to slide down. If, once they’ve settled, these gems themselves form new rows, they will also disappear. At the bottom of the screen is a progress bar, and each row you delete tops up the bar. Once the bar is full you move on to a new level. Sounds easy. Trouble is, you need to watch to make sure that you are always left with at least one move. If there aren’t any gems left to swap, then the game ends.
In lots of ways, Bejewelled is like a sort of static version of Tetris, and though the rules are easy enough for a five-year-old to grasp, there are easy, medium or hard difficulty levels. And hard is very hard.
Alchemy, at least the first time you play it, is a touch more difficult to get your head around. You start with an empty nine by eight board, with just one ‘stone’ at the centre. When you begin the entire board is grey - supposedly a base metal. You’re given a ‘rune’ - a symbol that comes in a number of shapes and colours - which you need to place on the board. Runes can only be placed next to existing objects on the board. When you place a rune on the board, it transforms the square it’s on into gold. The aim is to transform the rest of the board into gold by placing runes on every square. Once the whole board is transformed, the level is finished, and you start again. To make things a little trickier, a rune must match all horizontally and vertically adjacent runes in either their colour, their shape, or both in order to be placed on the board. To make things a little easier, you are occasionally given ‘Stones’, which act as wild cards and don‚Äôt care what goes next to them, or ‘Skulls’, which you can use to blow away an existing rune or stone.
If you can’t place the rune you’re given then you can drop it into the ‘forge’. There’s room in the forge for three discarded runes. Every time you place a rune, the forge is depleted so you’re OK provided you don’t have to discard four runes in a row. If you do, the game ends. Once you complete an entire row or column, they disappear, leaving you more room to manoeuvre. You don’t have too have all the squares filled at the same time to complete a level, just as long as you’ve visited each square at least once.
In terms of gameplay this is far more strategic than Bejewelled, and probably about the right level for an eight-year-old. Again, there are three difficulty levels, and, again, it’s very, very addictive.
Both games have been ported by the Omni group. These are the same chaps who are behind OmniWeb, OmniGraffle and OmniOutliner, and this, no doubt, has a lot to do with the high quality of the interfaces. Background music, excellent sound effects, full-screen or window mode, beautifully executed sprites and (at least with Bejewelled) an Internet high-score table, add up to two marvellously playable, addictive games.
These are just the first two original PopCap games that Omni has ported and more are in the pipeline. If you’ve every played the Palm versions of Seven Seas, Atomica and Mummy Maze, then you know that there’s more to look forward to. There may also be ports of PopCap’s online Java-based games, such as Bookworm, Insaniquairium and Diamond Mine.
So how much is are these two games going to set you back? Here’s the best news. If you’ve upgraded to a full .Mac membership then you can download a full version of Alchemy from the applications folder on your iDisk for nothing. There’s also a demo version of Bejewelled, which you can enable for $5 less than if you download it directly from PopCap’s Web site. If you‚Äôve managed to avoid the .Mac siren call, then demo versions can also be downloaded from PopCap’s Web site, and then register them for just £12.80 a pop. One piece of advice - make sure you’ve got some spare time before you do.
Rating (5 max): 5
Pros: Cheap + Hellishly addictive
First published in MacUser, Volume 18, Issue 22