Match-3 puzzles games are a dime a dozen nowadays. Candy Crush is king of course, but it owes some inspiration to Bejeweled. Now PopCap has launched Bejeweled Stars, which might just Crush the competition. What makes this one so stellar? Read our detailed impressions to find out!

The next evolution of Bejeweled

Bejeweled Stars for Android

The basic concept of Bejeweled is simple. Match three or more gems, score points, and try to create larger matches and chain reactions in order to score even more points. Bejeweled has always been one of the best games of this genre because of its appealing visuals and weird but soothing announcer who exclaims things like "Good!" or "Awesome" when you fire off combos. Creating certain combinations of gems also tends to conjure up power-up items. These in turn produce impressive effects when unleashed.

Combining Bejeweled with the level-based structure, limited moves, and limited lives of Candy Crush.

With the traditional Bejeweled Classic and the time attack Bejeweled Blitz already available on mobile, PopCap had to find a new gimmick for its latest entry Bejeweled Stars. The trick was to combine Bejeweled with the level-based structure, limited moves, and limited lives of Candy Crush.

Each level has a specific goal to complete, such as matching a quantity of a certain type of gem, clearing all the crystal panels by making matches on them, or creating and using power-up gems. The wrinkle is you only get a fixed number of moves to do it. Fail the level and you lose a life, which takes time to replenish.

The more moves you have remaining upon clearing the level, the better the score you get. Each level has a Facebook leaderboard, so you can try to outdo your friends. The stars you earn for doing well on a level contribute to Constellations. Complete a Constellation to earn rewards like Skygems.

Skygems, Charms, and In-App Purchases

Bejeweled Stars for Android

Skygems are a new type of gem in Bejeweled Stars. They share the same colors as normal gems, but they have unique Lucky Charms-like shapes. Match some Skygems, complete a level, and they'll go into your inventory. They can then be spent in the Laboratory to produce special on-demand power-ups.

Early on, those power-ups are entirely optional. But like Candy Crush, it's safe to expect that levels will become tough enough that many players will need help in order to beat them. At least you can go back and replay levels to get more Skygems. And if you're really in a hurry, you can buy Skygems with gold earned from clearing levels.

Bejeweled Stars is a free to play game, so naturally it has in-app purchases. These include buying lives and buying gold. Players can also buy chests which contain random assortments of Charms. These seem to be used in the game's social features, although I couldn't test those due to playing before launch.

A star is born

Bejeweled Stars for Android

As match-3 games so, I've always loved the Bejeweled series (with the exception of Blitz). After playing for a couple of hours, Bejeweled Stars looks like another fine entry. The early portion of the game is super fun. It looks and sounds great as well, though the flashy effects might cause performance issues on some devices.

Hopefully the harder levels of the game won't push players too strongly into spending money. We'll keep playing Bejeweled Stars and report back if we run into trouble. Be sure to let us know your impressions (and how the game performs on your phone or tablet) as well!