Aquawords Review

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Publisher: Realore
Developer: Realore


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium 200 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Video card with 1 MB RAM, Windows 95 or more recent OS
Available at: www.realore.com/aquawords/

Fans of Scrabble and other tile-based word games, such as Boggle, can download any number of electronic games. A newcomer to the field is Realore's Aquawords.

Rating:

Elizabeth Barden

Set in the airbrushed Hawaii of velvet posters, with perpetual sunsets, and Shmoo-like, grass-skirted, hula-dancing, smiley bubble-beings, Aquawords is awfully cute. It also employs a clever visual trick. Each letter is contained in a yellowish bubble. When you link bubble-letters together, surface tension creates a bond between them, and they turn blue. The trick is to form as many, and as long, words as possible, within a certain time.

I was never able to figure out what the time limit was. It seemed as though the main limit was on how long between clicking on bubbles, or making words, you could go – not how long it took to finish a level.

As you link bubbles and submit words, those bubbles disappear, and more bubbles rain down from above.

There are three modes: Timed, Arcade, and Strategy. In Timed mode, the screen fills with bubbles, and you try to make as many words as you can, while bubbles fill the spaces left behind. You make more points by forming longer words, thus ending the level sooner. In Arcade mode, only the bottom third of the screen is filled at first, and as bubbles rain slowly down, the screen fills. The object is to keep the screen from filling, by making words. If the screen fills up to the top, the top letters shake, and then they all pop, and you lose. The only increase in difficulty for the Arcade mode is that as you get further along in levels, the screen is pre-filled higher.

Strategy mode mimics the burning tiles of Bookworm, by introducing grey bubbles that you must stop from sinking to the bottom of your letter pile, lest they shake and explode your whole pile, losing you the game.

With every level you advance, the smiley, dancing bubble-beings toot a conch-shell horn, hula happily, and a screen appears, showing your total score, your best single-word score, and your longest word, as flower petals rain from the sky.

The animations and sounds are incredibly cute, and oddly hypnotic. The only change in scenery is when the bubble guy pulls a chain, and day turns to night (with more mellow music) or night to day (when the background tune ramps up again). But the whole scheme is just too cutesy to put up with for long – at least for an adult. Kids might just LOVE this game.

Which brings me to my main gripe. This game is too simple and repetitive, with too restricted a dictionary (I found too many good, real words, that are in my dictionary, but that weren't accepted. There is an an option to add words, although that isn't as satisfying as having them built into the game.) And somehow, it just isn't as much fun as Bookworm, despite sharing many features. It's a bit too cutesy, and the letters that drop are somehow less conducive to making long, interesting words. Perhaps the randomization of the letters is too good, because it seems you often get left with few choices for making words. There is very little challenge, beyond beating the time clock, that isn't too pressing to begin with. Even the Strategy mode's gray bubbles just aren't that challenging, without more interesting word possibilities. I prefer more difficult word choices, with no time limit.

The difficulty level is too simplistic for an avid wordsmith. Language-lovers will get bored very quickly, and anyone who loves this type of game will be disappointed.

But it could be a great game for kids. The easy setting was extremely simple, and it doesn't get much harder on the normal and hard settings. This could be a fun way to introduce kids to "educational" word games without being unbearably academic.

The biggest problem with the game is its price. Twenty dollars is way too much for this game alone, especially when there are much better word games out there for free on sites such as Popcap, and the Merriam-Webster site. If it were bundled with a bunch of other games, it might be worth it. But as is, it's too pricey for such simplistic fun.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 27, 2004 4:38 PM.

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