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The Face of Addiction

Bejeweled Blitz is a Facebook flash game by PopCap, the creator of such awesomeness as Plants vs Zombies. For those familiar with the classic 2001 game of Bejeweled the basic idea is comfortably familiar, though the game does differ in some small (and some significant) ways.

The most prominent aspect, and the presumed reason for the attached nomer of "Blitz" is the addition of a one minute countdown. This of course increases the intensity of the game, notably in the last few seconds as the timer chimes each second slipping desperately through your fingers. The purpose then is not to simply idle away a moment or two, but to score as many points as possible within the brief minute available. And then the next minute after that. Because though you might think to yourself that this is the infinitesimal labor of a moment, you are wrong. This game is not like popcorn, or Pringles: you cannot have just one bag.

As the game is on Facebook it also naturally includes a comparative aspect that displays the scores of your other friends who have also played the game during the week. Every Tuesday PopCap resets the scores and holds a new tournament, wherein participants have a week to gain the highest score they can. The drive to crush your friends' puny scores with your behemoth integers is directly beneficial to not only your self-esteem, but also your friends as the composite of you and their scores is calculated towards getting your prizes. At least, so long as you send in an email address. Your name is entered in a prize drawing. I wouldn't really recommend it, but I'm ornery and suspicious that way.

Regardless, being better at the game can only improve your life, which is actually the point of this text: better living through not sucking at Bejeweled Blitz.

Not Sucking

While the contest starts over each week, PopCap keeps track of every game you finish, so you'll be able to track your improvement and show off all your shiny medals. New medals are obtained at different tiers of points, 25,000 apart. They're pointless, but shiny, so you want them. Here are a number of tips for getting the points, and thus, the shinnies.

    Don't ever break your speed bonus
    Early on, get sets of 4 as often as possible
    Work as fast as you can to get your multiplier up
    Identify joinable spaces
    Get your eyes used to switching between color foci
    The help button is not cheating


Don't ever break your speed bonus


When you connect a series of at least 3 gems, they disappear. That's the basis of Bejeweled. The point of Blitz is to do it quickly, and they reward you for doing so. When you complete three series in a row within a short time period the game gives you a bonus to your points equal to the regular points + 200. When you get four in a row, you get your score + 300, etc, until it maxes out at the ungodly value of score +1000. In order to get and maintain these mounting bonuses you have to move fairly quickly, completing series' asap. At the start you have virtually no downtime to work with; by the time you get to +1000 though the game gives you a second of breathing room to hunt for gem patterns.

Obviously, these bonus points are invaluable. They are your friend, nay, consort. If you lose your rhythm and stutter, losing your mounting hard won bonus, odds are you'll get a disappointing score. Bejeweled does not care that your hand is tired. She is an unyielding mistress, time is.

Early on, get sets of 4 as often as possible


When you complete a series of four gems, the last gem that you move remains behind as the others melt away. This gem is special. It is no pithy bastard, selling its life cheaply. It is angry at the world and will explode violently if forced into another series. No, really. The gems left behind after you get a line of 4 gems will explode if you match them up in another series, taking out the adjacent gems and creating a pleasantly large hole that needs filling. You like exploding gems because you like the holes they leave behind.

When the game shifts new gems down to fill that gaping hole it opens up the very likely opportunity for a cascade. A cascade is when, through no direct effort of your own, the game happens to create sets of three or more of the same color gem for you, which of course vanish and are replaced with yet more gems. This can continue for increasingly giddy amounts of points. Exploding gems make cascades much more likely, and more potent. Also, cascades can create multiplier gems, which are absolutely vital to getting the shinnies.

Work as fast as you can to get your multiplier up


Multipliers are the difference between getting scores of 30,000 and scores of over 100,000 (or more!). The problem is that they're only somewhat up to you. As stated, the game can be fickle, and sometimes it hates you. It kicks your dog and steals your significant other. You might be exploding gems left and right and it could serenely drop sequences of exquisitely useless gems on you, with nary a multiplier gem in sight. But when they do drop, match those gems up right quick fast. Then explode some more and get some more multipliers. The value of multiplying your subsequent point values by two, or three, or more, is obvious: more is more, and don't ever believe anyone's lies about selflessness.

Identify joinable spaces


I made up a word for this tip, it's that important. Patterns of gems that resemble the movement capabilities of a knight in chess are common, and easily identifiable as points one step away from being had. More difficult to notice are gem series with a space in between. That is, two gems of color A, followed by a gem of color B, followed by a gem of color A. That final gem is further away from the first two, so the eyes don't see it as easily. Similarly, you'll find that you'll notice certain patterns in certain directions easier than others. Maybe you see potential sets easier when they're columnar rather than transverse, or perhaps you like to swing gems up more than down, or left rather than right. This is not because you are crazy, and out of balance, but because that's how you tick. Fix it so that you're as capable omnidirectionally, if possible, but at least be aware of it.

Get your eyes used to switching between color foci


Often while scanning the screen you'll become focused searching for series only in a subset of colors. This might be from the screen being the victim of some statistical clumping and being covered in a certain color, or perhaps you just cleared the screen of such a set of clumping and so you've been literally seeing red for a while. It happens. Don't let it happen. The faster and easier you can identify sets of colors the faster and easier you'll be able to move around the board snatching up points.

Ideally, you see the entire board equally for what it is without falling into optical or mental traps. I know I'm not that awesome, and I scourge myself for my failure every day. So I make due with the next best thing: alternating between being trapped in one board pattern and the next as quickly as possible.

The help button is not cheating


But it is slow and a goddamn liar. If you hesitate at all you can do one of three things: click instantly on the help button and do exactly what it says, trust yourself and look faster, or founder and die. If you choose to use the help button, you will find that it highlights a gem. This gem is one step away from completing a set. It is not necessarily the best move you have available, as the game is vicious and hateful and wants to punish you for having failed it. But if you move fast enough the help button can definitely give you the chance to maintain your coveted speed bonus. It does waste some time, as having to ask for an answer is obviously not as fast as simply knowing it, and if you're using it constantly your score will suffer terribly. It's an emergency tool, like a blow torch, or a hacksaw. Also, only use it when you have at least +800 bonus points, as you simply won't have time to click it and react to the board fast enough otherwise (see first tip).

TL;DR


Really, just play the freakin' game. You'll figure it out. I'm not special. It's a highly luck based game anyway. Chrissakes, reading a strategy guide about fucking Bejeweled Blitz.

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