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Subject: Boardgame Heaven reviews: Bejeweled Stars (Popcap Games) rss

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Raymond Haaken
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Boardgame Heaven reviews: Bejeweled Stars (Popcap Games)

Bejeweled Stars is a mobile app game that you can download for free in the Apple or Google Play stores. It's a match-three game like the other Bejeweled games, but this one is a bit different.

The graphics are really pretty: colourful jewels are presented in a grid of various shapes each level. Each jewel has a distinct shape and colour. Special effects are also colourful and pretty. It's a visual feast.

The game has levels. Each level has a different layout/shape, and often has some special moving areas:
- rivers move 1 space each turn, moving all gems inside it with it.
- glaciers are blocks of ice with gems on them, and they slide through the map, back and forth.
- clouds can be moved by the player from one spot to another, with all gems on them.

Gameplay is easy but challenging. All you need to do it swipe jewels around to match them up. But there's a catch: each level needs you to reach a certain goal in order to progress, and you only have a set amount of moves! Here lies the challenge: if you don't reach the goal within that number of moves, you lose a life. Nopt that this matters a whole lot, you have 5 lives, and they replenish automatically rather quickly. I have never played and lost so often that I was forced to stop playing while waiting for time to pass and receive new lives.
The goals are diverse: within the grid, there can be special spots that you need to "clear", such as butterflies, that have a colour and move up 1 space each turn. You need to match them with gems before they fly up and out of the grid, because then you lose. There's also crystals: light purple crystals only need to have a match made on them to disappear. Dark purple crystals turn into light crystals after one match, so you need to hit them twice. There are light grey stone spots, that do not disappear when a match is made, but only if a jewel is exploded on or near it. Dark grey stones again need 2 explosions.

So, how do you explode gems? Well, the game has several interesting ways to match jewels and clear spots in the grid:
- match 3 and they disappear, and new gems drop down to fill the gaps.
- match 4, either in a line or in a 2x2 cube, and they disappear, but one gem stays behind and becomes a flaming gem.
- match 5, either in a L or T pattern, and they disappear, but one gem stays behind and becomes a star gem.
- match a flaming gem, and it explodes, taking out all 8 adjacent gems and grey stones. This also works when you match 2 flaming gems of any colour together.
- match a shiny gem, and it zaps ALL spots in the same row AND column.

- match 5 jewels in a line and you get a shiny rotating hypercube. If you match that with any one gem, it will zap ALL gems of that colour in the entire grid.
- match 6 jewels in a line, and you get a Darksphere. Swap with a gem, and all gems of that colour become Hypercubes!
So you need to try and make flaming or shiny gems if you have stones in the grid, get them to explode next to as many stone spots as you can. This can be very challenging.
Rivers and glaciers can mess up your plans, but if you plan ahead, you can use them to your advantage. Clouds are even better, as you can choose whether to move them or not.
You also gain coins and special gems from playing levels, and gems can be used to craft special powerups, that can help you. Some of these will simply zap a block, others will scramble the jewels on your grid, and others will turn a regular jewel into a flaming jewel, etc. Special gems can also be found in eggs, which you get by feeding a chicken (yes, you read that right). You get a free corn cob every day to feed it, and of course you can buy more... The chicken lays 9 eggs and you pick one for a prize.
You can also craft emoji's, but they do nothing at all.

It's a game that is free, but with ads. This can be annoying, but you can return to the game immediately, and it only happens inbetween levels. You can also voluntarily watch ads for free moves.

The game is based on microtransactions. You don't need to buy anything at all to enjoy this (good), but it will constantly remind you that you can buy powerups to make the game easier (annoying). You can also watch a video ad before starting a level to get 1 extra move.
You will run out of gems to craft if you use powerups often, and then you will have a hard time as levels get more difficult, so I will more often just retry a level instead of using my powerups.
As I mentioned, if you lose, you lose 1 life, and you can buy extra lives with coins. You can also buy extra turns after you lose with coins. But that is not cheap: the game asks a lot of hard earned coins for this, but offers coins and gems for real money.

So if you're a hardcore player of this game, they will tempt you to spend money in order to progress. Again, you don't need to: you can beat each level by simply retrying, but you may need to wait for your lives to replenish if you lose a lot. And since each level is filled with jewels randomly, there is no 1 solution. You need luck.

I love this game as a fun, quick, filler for when you're waiting for something, or riding the train or bus. For that, it's great. But don't think you can binge this game at the later levels, unless you're really lucky. I can only advise you to please never spend real money on any of these games. Just play them a bit and enjoy them, until it gets frustrating, and then uninstall. I've advanced quite a bit before really having to retry a level more than twice.

ENDSCORE: 8/10 (for a mobile app game)
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