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Plugged In

Bejeweled 3 coming December 7, will make you relax

Plugged In

Buzz's Words

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Clear your calendar

It's one of the top selling franchises in video games history. Even the older versions still sell a copy every 4.3 seconds, and more than half a billion people around the world are thought to have played the game. And it's about to get its third major release in its decade-long lifespan, so you'd better start making room in your calendar.

If you hadn't guessed, we're talking about celebrated gem-swapping puzzle game Bejeweled. As its creators, Popcap Games, revealed today, they've been working away in secret on Bejeweled 3, expected to be in the hands of gamers everywhere in a little over a month, on December 7.

How do you update what's widely considered one of the most addictive games ever made? According to Jason Kapalka, Bejeweled co-creator and chief creative officer at PopCap, you do it very carefully indeed.

"The challenge in creating a new version of Bejeweled is to innovate and keep it fresh and exciting without losing touch with the game-play that millions of people love," Kapalka said. "We've worked hard to make sure Bejeweled 3 retains the classic appeal of the earlier games while bringing a host of exciting new features to the table."

In practice, that means Bejeweled 3 will keep the original game's modes, though it'll introduce minor gameplay updates -- like a new achievement system and extra hidden minigames. But it's introducing an all-new Zen mode that'll take the game's classic gem-matching addictiveness to a higher plane of existence.

While you might associate Bejeweled (particularly if you've played recent Facebook smash Bejeweled Blitz) with adrenaline-pumping, against-the-clock action, Zen mode removes all possibility of failure. Instead, it adds calming music, encouraging messages ("Be happy!", "Don't worry!") and an integrated audio-visual experience that's intended to subliminally slow your breathing rate and generally chill you out.

Time to cancel the therapist appointment and fire your yoga instructor? Maybe -- with an expected price of $19.99, a Bejeweled 3 habit will be a lot cheaper than either. It'll be available both at retail and via download on December 7.

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