I've been a big fan of the facebook game bejeweled blitz for a while now. Popcap just released an updated version today.

At first I didn't like it, but only because I'm of the "don't fix what ain't broke" mindset, and I really enjoyed the first version. But I was intrigued, and once I got the hang of the new version, I find I like it even more.

The main gist of the game is still to move one jewel at a time to make sets of three or more of the same color. In the original version you got a special exploding jewel when you matched 4 in a row, and a hypercube when you matched 5 in a row. Those are the same in this version, except the exploding jewels are now flaming jewels, but they still blow up all the jewels in the vicinity when matched. Now there is a NEW special jewel that is created when you make a "T" or "L" shape match (basically making matches in 2 directions with one move). This is called a "star" jewel, and it blasts all the jewels in its row and column when it explodes. The hypercube is the same, taking out all the jewels of a single color when you use it.

Another scoring change is called "last hurrah". In the first version of the game, you had to match your special gems before the game ended, or you lost them. But now, any of the special jewels left on the board at the end of the minute are exploded automatically for you. You keep not only whatever points you get from that, but also from any cascades that result (which might also create more power gems which will also be automatically exploded). I've gotten in excess of 25,000 points during the "last hurrah" so players should see their average scores increase without any change in play just from this change alone.

But I think the biggest difference between the new game and the original version is the speed of play. In the original game, you could look for and set up your next move before all the exploded gems stopped falling, but the move wouldn't actually happen until the previous move completed. In the new version, you can move gems WHILE the exploded gems are still falling. This makes for significantly faster play. Once I got in the habit of making matches as fast as I saw them, I found it to be a lot more fun than the old way.

The graphics are also a bit different, which was off-putting at first glance, but they're fine. I liked the old hypercube better, but the flaming and star jewels are pretty in this version. The arrow pointing to the target gem when you request a hint is now MUCH more prominent and easy to see. In the old version, sometimes I'd lose even more time when I couldn't find a match because I then couldn't even find the hint!

The new version is much higher scoring, so I wouldn't be surprised if more people started getting the 250,000 badges in their stats. My previous high score was 121,000, but I got 168,900 on this first day playing the new version. Not that I'm any higher than usual within my friends' rankings, the top person right now got 176,950.

The first thing I noticed, in fact, when I opened the new version of the game, was that different people were on top of the score chart than usual. That clued me in that this new version favors a different style of play than the old version, otherwise the same people would be best at the new version as the old. So if you didn't do so well playing the old version, you might want to give the game another try, you might be pleasantly surprised to find your scores and ranking much improved.