Developer and Publisher: PopCap Games
Bejeweled 3 is the latest in this highly popular American-made franchise, and it includes dazzling bells-and-whistles that set it apart from the “match-three” crowd. You may play with either mouse or keyboard controls, and this title is sure to run on any computer. The principal play modes are Classic, Quest, Lightning, and Zen. In Classic Mode, you match three or more gems for a “basic clear;” match four in a row to create flame gems that can detonate to clear a large space; match five in a row to generate a hypercube that wipes out everything of a particular color; and match two perpendicular rows of three to create a star gem that obliterates vertical and horizontal lines. In Quest Mode, you journey through 40 puzzles, and try to win at poker, rescue butterfly gems, battle ice storms, and dig through diamond mines while confronting challenges of increasing difficulty. In Lightning Mode, you play a timed game where you try to rack up the highest score you can, earning extra time with special gems and moving fast for a Blazing Speed bonus. Finally, in Zen Mode, you discover new ways to relax as you match gems endlessly with no pressure at all. If you do well, you may earn achievement badges. There are wonderful visuals and sound effects, and I especially love the deep-voiced announcer.
The Dream Machine
Developer and Publisher: Cockroach Inc.
The Dream Machine is a highly unusual Swedish Flash-based point-and-click adventure game (which can be played in a browser offline) comprising the first two of five episodes. The creativity and imagination displaying in the visuals and the gameplay are unparalleled. Most amazing of all is that the backgrounds and the characters are made from clay and cardboard, so they have a unique look to them reminiscent of one of my favorite older games, Dreamworks Interactive’s The Neverhood. You play the role of Victor Neff, who has just moved into a new apartment with his wife Alicia. After you dream that you are stranded on a desert island, you undertake a series of domestic chores. The gameplay appears to be rather mundane until you uncover in your apartment complex a major secret so startling it literally knocks your socks off. This secret leads to a series of new mysteries and to a renewed effort on your part to unlock all of the puzzles so that you can really figure everything out. Rather than having artificially injected puzzles that have no relationship to the storyline, in this offering the puzzles all seem organic, well-integrated and vital to plot understanding and advancement. This title pleasurably takes you way out of the realm of reality and of your normal comfort zone.