That sure is a mouthful and by a mouthful I mean monster disintegrating death ray of spelling power found in Bookworm Adventures! Let’s be honest I am a terrible speller so the folks over at Pop Cap created just thing to help me conquer my spelling deficiency, a sort of turn based Scrabble RPG. I love me some games with learning!
The game sends Lex, a wisecracking bookworm, off on an adventure to save whom else but the princess. The princess is whisked away through the pages of three books, which are filled with mythological beasts, pirates, and monsters all standing between Lex and the princess. Each level is broken into a few fights with a climactic boss fight yielding a hidden treasure Lex can then use to boost his abilities. The hidden treasures range from damage upgrades to status boosts; one of my favorites was the Bow of XYZ that added extra damage to any word using one of those letters. In between levels there are mini-games, which can yield items and special tiles to aid Lex in his quest for the princess, which serve as a nice distraction.
The spelling gameplay is centered on a 4x4 grid of tiles, each containing a letter and colored dot. The colored dots serve determine the strength of the tile; there are bronze, silver, and gold dots and the strength increases in the same order. Length of word increases the amount of damage dealt per word spelled so when coupled with the dot system it creates a simple relationship for dealing damage. Sounds easy enough right, well now come the RPG elements; the creatures can cast spells and use special moves to change the status of with the tiles and Lex himself. Most of the status changes are variations on damage over time, wait X turn, and lose a turn. Now to be fair the designers also included almost all of the same abilities for Lex to use against his foes by allowing his tiles to care special properties. All of these systems work together to make the player create strategies for spelling based on the potential of their own tiles and the abilities of the creature. It may sound like a lot to take in but the game is paced to introduce these systems in such a way that once you think you have the hang of one element a new one comes into play and the learning starts all over again. Without this the game would have gotten quite stale and boring within the first 15 minutes, so kudos to the designers for keeping it fresh!
Now I am going to ramble a bit about all the little touches that made this game so endearing. First the dialogue is pretty funny Lex and the creatures all have personality and make you want to actually read the text bubbles. The sound effects, character models, and animations further the personality of the creatures to something rarely found in games these days. Mouse clicking on Lex himself makes him perform funny little animations that feel like taunts, silly and fun for no reason at all. Oh yeah Lex can level up as well with the traditional EXP gained from each creature he defeats yet another nice nod to RPG genre. If you actually die all of the mini-game re-spawn to help you build up potions and special tiles for the next fight, the system can be abused by just dying time and time again to buff up for the later fights. I am glad this is in there for the people that might be great a spelling but suck at the strategy aspect. Overall I loved this game even though I suck at spelling. Give it a shot if you have time… demo found at Pop Cap!
p.s. Here is a much more colorful and well written review!