Bejeweled 's Endless mode is soothing enough to put players into a blissful trace. With subliminal positive affirmations, fine aural tones, and breath modulation, Bejeweled 3's Zen mode could have players slipping into puzzle-induced comas.
After spending countless hours arranging gems into groups of three or more in previous iterations of Bejeweled, I would argue that the game doesn't need to get any more relaxing. PopCap co-founder and Chief Creative Director Jason Kapalka obviously disagrees, delivering details on the all-new, ultra relaxing Zen mode in an interview with Games.com.
Endless mode in Bejeweled allows players to play the game forever, with gems generated in such a way as to ensure there's always at least one move to be made.
Zen mode takes Endless mode and adds heavy breathing.
Turning on Zen mode's breath modulation feature starts a tracking line moving back and forth, while the sounds of breathing in and out urge players to match their breathing patterns to the game. As the game goes on, the breathing rate will slow.
"If you sit there and do that, it's very likely it will actually kind of slow your breathing down, which will probably cause you to calm down and lose your stress," Kapalka told Games.com.
There's no concrete medical testing backing up the idea, though Kapalka does say that Popcap has been consulted with scientists that have created a version of the game that uses biofeedback to help players relax.
Another tool in Zen mode's relaxation arsenal is fine aural tones. These are tones outside of the range of human hearing. One tone is played in one ear, and a different tone in the other. Kapalka tells Games.com this tricks your brain into hearing a different frequency.
Now the point of that is that, in theory, you can have it be tones that are outside of the range of hearing but are in the range of different kinds of brain wave pulsations. The theory being it can be useful for meditation by playing frequencies that are in the beta wave or delta wave range that would be associated with deep sleep or dreaming. That's kind of an interesting thing. It's in there in the experimental category. But that is an area that's sort of fringe science. And, you can turn the monitor off as you prefer.
Kapalka said that response to this feature has been mixed, with some testers thinking it sounds cool, while others hear only irritating tones and noises.
And then there's visual stimuli. Zen mode players can opt to have positive affirmations flash on the screen. Messages like "Don't Worry," and "Be Happy," can be flashed on the screen visibly or subliminally. Popcap even considered using the technology to help players quit smoking.
At one point we had a quit smoking set in there where it would try and tell you things to quit smoking, but we had to take that out because, bizarrely, even having the mentioning of smoking in there gave us an ESRB rating, where we had tobacco use. So it was just too weird to have a thing where we would come out with a warning about smoking on it.
All of this adds up to an experience that should take the already ridiculously addictive Endless mode to a whole new level.
Bejeweled 3 comes out on December 7. If you don't hear from me after a week has passed, send help.