Publisher: PopCap Games/ Developer: PopCap Games / Platform: XBLA

Bejeweled Blitz LIVE is an Xbox LIVE Arcade version of Bejeweled Blitz, the Facebook app edition of the popular puzzle game…with a Twist.

You’re given the choice of two different game modes: Classic and Twist. Classic is like the version on Facebook, where you try to match up sets of three or more gems in a row by switching around only two gems at a time. Twist is similar, but instead of two gems, you rotate four gems at a time, in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.

Within those two game modes are four play modes: One Player, Battle Local, Battle LIVE, and Party Live. All four modes are based around quick, 60-second matches; there’s no option to play longer matches like in other Bejeweled games. Making matches of more than three gems in a row will result in special gems appearing, which can be used to create large combos. However, unlike the Facebook version of the game, you don’t earn coins, and you can’t select a special gem to start the match with.

Battle Local and Battle LIVE are both split-screen one-on-one matches in which the winner is determined not based on overall high score, but on who had the highest score in two of three categories: points (overall score), amps (gems matches), and style (points scored with special gems).

Party LIVE practically the entire purpose of the game’s existence. In this mode, you’re essentially in a LIVE party with up to 16 other people, who you can voice chat with while you play. On the left side of the screen, there’s a visual representation of how all the players in the room are doing compared to each other, though how this is determined isn’t entirely clear because you can’t see the other player’s point totals.

In fact, you’re not even all playing matches to the same timer; for the sake of keeping things moving and not requiring people to wait until everyone is ready for a match to start, you can either wait the full 10 seconds between matches, or begin the next one immediately. Honestly, it makes me wonder why they went with the 60-second format for Party LIVE, rather than just endless matching without a timer, drop in and drop out whenever. I have no idea how they’d handle where people in the room are placed on the visual ladder, but then I have no idea what the current version really indicates anyways.

I imagine Party LIVE is probably most fun with a group of friends, but you can also join a Quick Match if, like me, you don’t know anyone else who has the game yet. If so, you may notice a few odd quirks in how the party is handled. For one, there’s no visual indicator of who is speaking at any given time. Especially troublesome if someone is being obnoxious, because there’s no easy way to figure out who to mute. It’s also not obvious what button you even press to mute a person; A to start the next match and B to leave are displayed clearly on the bottom of the screen in between matches, but X to mute whoever is selected is something I discovered only by pressing random buttons. It would also be nice if it was more clear that clicking the left thumbstick is how you view a player’s profile.

However, I do like how the controls for Classic mode have been modified to use all four face buttons on the controller. In the Facebook version of the game, you have to make two clicks to select the two gems, but Bejeweled Blitz LIVE requires you to only hover over one gem, and choose the direction to swap using A, B, X, or Y. It takes a little getting used to at first, but ends up being a much quicker way to swap gems.

Users of the Facebook app might also be surprised at first to discover that the usual Mortal Kombat-esque announcer in has been replaced with a breathy-voiced woman. It also includes music, a mellow trance-based soundtrack, which enhances the zen and addictive qualities of the game.

Twist mode is interesting in that it may well be one of the very few puzzle games where a player can get away with button mashing. Rotating the right thumbstick in a clockwise motion while mashing the A button can have fascinating results, possibly better results than playing it normally unless you’re really fantastic at this game mode. Shamelessly experimenting with this strategy is how I managed to not only unlock the achievement for scoring 100,000 points in a game, but also the achievement for reaching Blazing Speed (making a large number of matches in a very short amount of time).

Ultimately, how well you do against other players is just as much about luck of the draw as actual skill. This aspect might not appeal to everyone, but one thing for certain is that the short and rapid pace that results in a continuous “oh, I think I’ll play just one more match” feeling can make the game extremely addicting…whether or not you’re really having all that much fun.