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May 11, 2007

PopCap Mania

For some time now I've had PopCap's Bejeweled and Bookworm on one handheld device or another and found them both totally addicting. When I came across the PopCap site and saw that there were Windows versions as well, I thought I would try them on a larger screen. First I put them on my desktop. Wow, it was like going to the drive-in theater (if anyone remembers what that was) and parking in the front row. What an amazing transformation from the tiny handheld screen to a 23 inch desktop display.

Actually, my ultimate intention was to try these games on my Tablet PC and on an UMPC to see how they performed for when I was on the road. It's nice to have a game or two to play while flying and in the hotel room at night. I must say that they both performed superbly on the portable devices and that it was a pleasure to have them both on board. But then I couldn't resist a couple more.
If you have enjoyed playing these games on a Windows Mobile device, I'd say that the pleasure doubles on a larger screen format. For one thing, the games are more sophisticated with incredible graphics and more features.

Bejeweled 2--$19.95
What is it about Bejeweled that is so addicting? Basically, all you have to do is slide a colored gem to an adjacent square so that three or more of the same shape and color match and poof, they're gone, and more pieces fall into place from the top down. Of course there are dazzling graphics and music going on to create a carnival-like atmosphere. I am particularly dazzled by the tie-dye vortex that swirls you to the next level momentarily revealing a new exotic landscape in the background.

Line up four, you get a bigger explosion, and one remaining piece forms a power gem that starts shimmering. When you match it, you are in for more points and an even bigger explosion. Match up five to create a hyper cube, and it's suicide bomber time with all kinds of fireworks. You play until there are no more moves available, and the game is finished.

There are four modes of play: Classic, Puzzle, Action, and Endless. Classic is as I described above. Endless is too but for masochists without an ending. The action version pits you against the clock, which progresses faster and faster along with your adrenalin. The Puzzle game requires you to clear the board to win. It can get tricky and requires some thought and planning.

Simple enough, isn't it? So, why is it so addictive? Somehow you just can't quit until you slide one more piece into place. It's like trying to eat just one potato chip.

Bookworm Deluxe--$19.95
Now here's a goofy scenario. You feed words to a little green nerd worm with a red bowtie and big glasses. You have your choice of playing the Classic Game or the Action Game. The idea is to spell the biggest words you can by linking adjacent letters in seven columns of seven letters. Once in a while burning letters will appear. You must use them before they reach the bottom, which terminates the game. If you don't like the letters in play, you can shuffle them with a penalty. Sometimes a bonus word appears for you to spell. Green and gold bonus tiles appear also. Use them for earning greater points As you earn points and progress through the levels, you evolve from an encyclopedia salesman to a super librarian. If you like words and consider yourself any kind of lexicographer, you will be enchanted with this addicting game.

Bookworm Adventures Deluxe--$29.95
There is a mission involved in Bookworm Adventure Deluxe. You must travel around the islands and mainland of ancient Greece to solve the mystery of the Great Library spelling words to conquer mythological monsters along the way proving once again that words are more powerful than the sword.

It can get challenging as you get wounded and lose energy, which must be regained or you die or at least Lex the worm dies. There are special words, letters, bonus points, and powerups throughout the quest to make it more interesting.

The graphics and animation guys did an outstanding job with this game. If it seems juvenile or a bit Teletubiesque at first, I assure you that it is a good test of anyone's vocabulary and spelling skills, which just may increase as a result of playing. Beyond level eight, three letter words have no effect on the beasts that beset your path. At the higher levels, this game is not for the lexically challenged.

I have to admit that I ruined the best part of what I had intended to be a productive day playing this captivating game. The guilt disappeared after lunch at a Chinese restaurant when my fortune cookie said to relax and play a game because I deserved it.

Peggle Deluxe (New)--$19.95
The Peggle graphics could fill the galleries of a modern art museum with a show on fantasy art and animations. Each level is a fun surprise in animated graphics. Playing Peggle is a bit like a vertical pinpall game with changing backgrounds and peg layouts featuring interesting and challenging twists. You can earn immediate extra shots if a ball lands in a basket moving back and forth across the bottom of the screen.

The game involves shooting a ball out of a cannon at red pegs. Hit a green peg to activate another ball. The blue pegs disappear if hit at the end of each round clearing the board, but without them, you have fewer carom points. I should think that a good pool player would excel in this game because good bank shots rule.

You don't run out of game anytime soon. Peggle offers 55 levels with 75 Grand Master challenges. You can earn up to 10 magic powers. You can play against your friends online or challenge the computer to a dual. Save and replay your best shots.

While this set of great games will enhance your desktop, consider installing them on your laptop, Tablet, or UMPC to make your next journey more pleasurable. Bejeweled is one of the most beguiling games you will ever play. It is inexplicably addictive. The Bookworm games are equally engaging, but more cerebral. I found myself, on many occasions, taking out my Pocket PC to check the spelling of words or testing anagrams using Lexisgoo. Someone should package Bookworm with a good dictionary program. Peggle is both fun and challenging. The graphics are spectacular works of whimsical art. Way to go PopCap.

These games are available on the developer's Website at You can try them out for free to see if you can avoid the challenge of addiction or in Peggle terms, "extreme fever." While you are there, check out the plethora of other games for desktops and handhelds.

Posted by tim at May 11, 2007 08:24 PM