|Publisher: MacPlay Genre: Puzzle & Trivia|
|Min OS X: Any Version CPU: G3 @ 233 MHz RAM: 128 MB Hard Disk: 35 MB 2x CD-ROM Graphics: 640x480 @ 16-bit|
While both games are simple and enjoyable in scope, I found myself popping Bejeweled open far more than I did Alchemy. This is most likely due to the fact that Bejeweled is simply much easier to pick up and play at the drop of a hat – something that my tiny brain appreciates after a hard day’s work. Swapping jewels takes no coordination, and the process of trying to start a chain reaction of jewel matchings by swapping just the right jewels is always its own reward, particularly after staring at the board for what seems like an eternity. And for those times when my brain absolutely refuses to work, the game even comes with a big shiny hint button that spots a good swap, though it leeches some of the completion meter for this service.
Alchemy, in contrast, requires considerably more foresight and planning than Bejeweled. Thankfully, there are three levels of difficulty, with each successive one adding more colors and shapes for those that like punishing themselves. This title reminds me a lot of the old-school favorite Pipe Dream (I know I’m not the only Mac user to lose days of productivity to THAT title), as runes must be intelligently placed to allow the placement of more runes. Due to this factor, I found myself booting up Alchemy only when I was in the mood to convince myself that I was in fact an intelligent being capable of strategic thought. Unfortunately, much like playing Warcraft III with an opponent who obviously memorized the hit points and attack speed of every unit and creep in the game, I would often find myself overmatched, sending piece after piece to the forge.
Luckily, Bejeweled comes with a Time Trial mode, which basically pits players against a completion meter that starts half-full and slowly ticks down, forcing speedy play to keep it filled up. Besides making for quick games, this also proved a salve to my wounded ego when I felt like showing off. Unfortunately for me, Alchemy also comes with a Time Trial, substituting a slowly-filling forge as its timer, which would basically taunt me with its bubbling red goop as it inexorably filled up.
Both games also feature a scoring system that I have yet to fully puzzle out, though it’s obviously related to completions and wise placements. They also keep track of high scores, allowing players to prove their outlandish claims when bragging to disbelieving friends.
One of the nicest features about both titles is that they have an autosave feature. If you quit in the middle of a game, each title simply saves it right then and there, and gives you the option to get right back into it the next time the game is launched. This makes both titles excellent time-fillers when waiting for the laundry or a file download.
Shapes, Colors, and a Talking Wizard HeadThough you won’t find fancy bump-mapped polygons and rendered textures in these games, both Bejeweled and Alchemy have plenty of eye-candy to keep your drunk roommate mesmerized while playing. Bejeweled is a veritable riot of colors and multi-faceted jewels that sparkle when moused over. It also contains the sounds you’d expect jewels to make when disappearing and a techno-pop soundtrack that is catchy for about the first minute and completely annoying forever after. Thankfully, it comes with the option to control the volume for both sounds and music, as well as the option for running the game in full-screen, though it defaults to the highly convenient windowed mode when run for the first time.
Also included is an option to turn on custom cursors, which add to the eye candy, but for some reason seems to slow the performance of the game, even on my modestly powered G4 867/GeForce 3 combination. I tip my hat to the superior folks at Omni, who apparently understood this to be a problem and made the cursors an option rather than a given.
Alchemy, while not nearly as colorful as its cousin, features plenty of extra touches, including runes that sparkle as they’re moved around the board and a forge that fills up with a bubbling red liquid depending on conditions. In addition, it also features appropriate gong-like sound effects when placing runes and the same sound, graphics, and custom cursor options as Bejeweled. This is a good thing, because it also contains its own short-lived techno-pop soundtrack. Mitigating this is the inclusion of a floating wizard head which talks you through the game’s tutorial, congratulates you when you complete a level, and taunts you when you screw up.