Word Puzzle Review

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Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Interserv


Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Word search puzzles proliferate in this puzzler that has gamers hunting for words in vast pools of letters.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Word hunt puzzles have always been popular, and you still see people carrying books full of letter grids, circling the combinations that actually make words. Word Puzzle for Xbox Live Arcade begs the question, how much overlap is there between Xbox 360 users and word hunt fans? Because Word Puzzle is as good a word hunt game as you could expect from console.

All the games work off the same premise. You get a list of words, and a vast jumble of letters. You highlight the words hidden in the grid. There are a number of play modes with variations on the theme, but that's the game in a nutshell. Does that sound intriguing to you? If so, read on.

The most straightforward mode in Word Puzzle is Freeplay, a customizable mode in which you simply search for words. Arcade mode is similar, but has you working as fast as possible to find words so that you can rack up large combos of quick finds. It might sound hard, but the first or last letter of every word is highlighted, making this really easy. This mode can simply be played forever. After around an hour of it, I simply had to quit because it became repetitive. More word packs would extend the play, but fundamentally it would be nice if Arcade were more challenging.

Survival is the most interesting mode of the lot. In Survival mode, you visit a series of ancient monuments, and defend them by finding words. Random words from the list will be associated with bombs on a timer. Find the word before the timer goes off, and you diffuse the bomb. Allow too many bombs to explode and the monument is destroyed (losing the game). For me, this was, by far, the most entertaining single-player mode. But Survival was not without its own issues. Throughout Survival mode, annoying distractions try to prevent you from disarming bombs. These range from an eclipse that makes it hard to see many letters to a strange dancing guy who obstructs the letters.

There are multiplayer modes. You can play with other people on the same console or over Xbox Live, but all the multiplayer comes down to a race to see who can grab the most words. Also, while I had fun playing on my console with friends, only once over several days was I able to find an online match. So I'd suggest not counting on the multiplayer when considering your purchase. Also keep in mind that the game supports the Xbox Live Vision camera. That's a boon if you know the people with whom you play (but sometimes a risk with strangers – you never know what you'll see).

I was disappointed that multiple words can't use the same letter. That makes it much easier to find words as they often run parallel to one another. Also, I didn't mind that many of the puzzles were larger than the viewable area, but I didn't like the cube puzzles. To make things harder, the game will throw out puzzles broken up on four sides of a cube. You can rotate the cube freely, but it's just a way of making you solve four puzzles simultaneously (out of the same word pool) when you can only view one puzzle at a time.

I also could have done without the annoying distractions in Survival mode. They did more to irritate me than to increase the difficulty. But there were a few equally nice touches. In some puzzles, all the words follow a theme, and if you locate the undisclosed theme word, you'll earn extra points. In other cases, you get bonuses for unveiling synonyms or antonyms one after the other.

Anyone who enjoys word hunt puzzles will find the 800 points ($10) a worthwhile purchase. Word Puzzle is well done and features a lot of cool, artistic trappings, but it is still just a word hunt.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 13, 2007 8:29 PM.

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