These two little gems, now finally available on one CD, have been around as Internet games at www.popcap.com. The Omni group has finally gone and catered to us (the uprising Mac-users) and polished them up a bit. Bejeweled & Alchemy provide all of the entertainment value you enjoyed back in the old days before the Internet. You know…Tetris…Dr. Mario…Bubble Bobble. Simple, yet exceedingly complicated as you go along, just like a good puzzle. If one of them isn’t your type, you’ll be sure to enjoy the other and all of its addictive qualities.
"Bejeweled" features a series of multi-colored gems, which fill up your screen like a full board of Connect 4. The only difference is that the pieces aren’t just colored red and black. It’s up to you to make matches of at least three jewels in a row by pushing two jewels to switch places with each other. Matches of more than three are entirely possible…if you can play on a strategy level with a D&D-head. When you make your match, your jewels disappear to give you points. Then the screen continues to be filled with more jewels to play with.
After the meter at the bottom of your screen gets full, you’ll be sent to the next level, where more game pieces and more wild card jewels begin to appear. You have the option to choose the level of difficulty, or simply make it difficult for yourself by how you play. Definitely recommended as a good gift for the kids this year.
But for you parents, who may not enjoy things so simple…Alchemy is definitely for you. It’s basically the same premise as its partner, but with more of a twist. In this case, you have a blank screen. By placing symbols on the screen, you must make sure that every square on your board is filled in order to move on to the next level. The only trick is that you have to place symbols together by color, or by identical symbol. Once you have a full row complete, the row disappears.
There are wildcard pieces, such as the skull which can destroy a piece you’ve already put on the board. There are also blocks, which can act as any symbol or color, essentially helping you complete that tricky row when you need it. And, just in case you can’t use the piece you’re given, you can throw it to the cauldron on the side of your screen. Once that cauldron fills up though, it’s all over.
Similarities between Bejeweled and Alchemy include a very adequate tutorial…and a very inadequate choice of music. With two games as great as these which come on a 700 MB CD, one would think there to be a wider variety of music choice. Tetris had three songs. These have one. You do, however, have the option of continuing your game after quitting. Both applications will ask whether you would like to move on with your previous game or create a new one.
My personal favorite: Alchemy. It takes more thinking. You decide. The total package earns 4 GiN Gems.