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    Mar 4th, 2008 at 23:24:37     -    Bejeweled 2 (Web)

    Gameplay 2:
    Not much to add to the gameplay this time around. I have managed to get up to level 6 or 7 on the timed and standard game modes. After playing for a while on both I have mixed feelings about the special gems you get for larger combos. While they are fun, especially using a 5 in a row cube to remove a bunch of gems from the board, the fact that they replace one of the gems that would otherwise create an opening for other gems to fall is somewhat annoying. Part of me feels cheated every time a gem doesn't fall to replace it.

    I also spent a little time playing through all the puzzles (I've been playing the online version, which only has, I think, 7 levels of puzzle play). While they're interesting and a nice addition to the game they don't provide me much motivation to play. You can receive infinite hints, meaning that a player isn't even required to actually play, they can just keep doing what the hint tells them to. Also, there doesn't seem to be any real reward for solving the puzzle other than you beat it. It claims over 75+ more puzzles in the full version, which may add more variety, but it doesn't feel very meaningful to play them.

    Design:
    Visually, Bejeweled 2 provides a very nice update on the original game. I like the addition of different landscape backgrounds that change as you progress. Also, the pieces look cleaner and brighter than in the original game.

    The design of gameplay remained mostly the same from the previous game, but it seemed odd to me that they added a level structure. For a puzzle style game like this the short term level goals seem overdone. While in the first game the bonus that would remove random gems was a nice regular reward. In Bejeweled 2 the level increase causes a break in the flow of gameplay without providing any clear reward to the player. That is, in the original you got bonus points as it destroyed random gems (and a subtle 'level up' as things went faster/were worth more points), but in 2 there is no clear bonus, just the level up.

    The design of the puzzle mode was an interesting addition. The developers created a menu that lets you easily select and replay any levels you've completed already. However, there is also an infinite hint system and the undo button which lets you go back any number of moves, which eliminates a lot of the reward from the puzzle mode. Since the only reward is the accomplishment of finishing each puzzle, it seems somewhat cheapened that anytime you are stuck you can simply be told the next move.

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    Mar 4th, 2008 at 17:09:28     -    Bejeweled 2 (Web)

    Summary:
    In Bejeweled 2 you match 3 or more gems of the same color in a row to remove them from the board and earn points. Gems fall to replace removed gems, possibly creating more matches. You gain more points the more chained matches you have.

    Gameplay:
    At face value the gameplay has changed very little from the original Bejeweled. The player still performs swaps of adjacent gems to try and make three or more gems in a row. This is pretty fun, as there is an 8x8 grid with 64 gems at a time, giving a very satisfying number of possible moves and patterns. As you continue to play the game you begin to recognize patterns and act more on instinct than on thought. Also, as in the first game, there is a time trial version and a version where you play until there are no moves left.

    Bejeweled 2 does some things differently. To start, it adds a Puzzle version. The puzzle version has a set number of gems on the field and the player must make the correct set of moves to remove all of them. The gameplay of the standard two versions is also different. In Bejeweled, you simply eliminated gems. In Bejeweled 2, if you match 4 gems in a row, one of the gems is replaced by an exploding gem, which detonates when you next use it in a match. Get 5 gems in a row and you get an "Energy Cube" which will destroy all gems of whatever color you try to swap it with.

    The biggest change, for me, was the addition of distinct levels. In Bejeweled, when you got enough points a certain number of gems were removed as bonus and, if it were a timed game, the timer started decreasing faster. In Bejeweled 2, when you reach that point limit you go to the next level, which has a new background and a completely new set of gems. This is the most frustrating part of the game for me, as I often feel I've set up a perfect combo, only to "level up" just before using it. The breaks to switch levels also break the flow of gameplay for me, making me less inclined to keep playing for long periods of time.

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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 14:52:58     -    Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)

    Gameplay 2:
    After another bout with DKC2 I've started to get back in the rhythm of the game. Unfortunately, every time I think I've got it they throw something completely different in. Some of the more recent stalls I've hit were a set of hot air balloons, which you move by walking to the edge of them, and then continuing to try to move (my only remaining question is what finally prompted me to try walking off a balloon into a pit of lava). Next was the giant spider you can ride, which can't jump on enemies (that was a fairly quick discovery). Finally was a parrot whose flight is much like the swimming levels, but if you or the fairly large parrot get touched you lose a monkey (there are two monkeys, and when they both are gone you lose a life).

    Though extremely frustrating at times, DKC2 is still an enjoyable game. It does all the things the first one did right, including an entertaining story, interesting bosses, and lots of secrets hidden everywhere. Still, I found myself going back to the first DKC whenever I needed a break.

    Design:
    The game clearly used DKC as a starting point for the design (and why not, DKC was an amazing game). They added some slight graphics upgrades (including giving Diddy a bellybutton), and many many many new elements to the gameplay. The game has a very strong sense of uniqueness, which is supported by the design of the levels and backgrounds throughout the game. The character is rewarded on a regular basis and each level has a half dozen secrets to discover.

    All that being said, there is very little that is original about this game and I've been unable to understand why it's on the classics list instead of the first DKC. Most of the elements of DKC2 are expanded from DKC1, such as a different variety of large animals to ride (a springy snake instead of a frog, a giant spider, and a parrot), and the secrets are now in more varied locations. Dixie's helicopter hovering had been done in Sonic a year earlier. The largest design difference I've found is that DKC2 has a large number of vertical levels that involve climbing and firing from barrels upwards instead of horizontally. Which, while an interesting idea, leads to no end of frustration as these levels tend to be sparsely populated with platforms, meaning a fall can often be a very long one.

    It's a good game, but the first one was immensely better.

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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 03:06:27     -    Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)

    Summary:
    In Donkey Kong Country 2 you trade off playing as Diddy and Dixie Kong, spinning, climbing, jumping, and swimming around to defeat K. Rool and his Kremling Crew.

    Gameplay:
    While the game employs the same basic style of gameplay as the first Donkey Kong Country (two monkeys running around jumping on things) I found myself increasingly frustrated with some of the newer elements. After finding I could only jump from rope rigging while climbing it if I was on a far edge of the rigging and that I had a fairly difficult control of when I caught onto the rigging again I gave up and played the original DK Country to bring my spirits back up.

    Having improved my spirits I resolved to get back to work. DKC 2 does maintain the same level of humor and variety of scenery as the first DKC, but it also adds several new gameplay elements. Dixie Kong replaces Donkey Kong as a playable character, and she has the ability to twirl her hair to float (much like Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog did a year before) and to catch her hair on hooks to swing to higher places. One of the better added elements is the ability to throw the other monkey, which creates a whole new set of puzzles to find.

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