Review: Word Searcher (WiiWare)

Words fail to impress

Digital Leisure and Aksys seem locked in a fight to the death to see which company can release more generic, public domain games on the WiiWare service. Following up on their release of Sudoku Challenge earlier this year, which we found to be about as barebones a presentation of that game as you could get, DL now brings us ‘Word Searcher’. That’s the genre and the title, all wrapped up in one convenient package. So have they provided Wii owners with an experience superior to that offered in the local newspaper this time out?

Like Sudoku Challenge, Word Searcher is based on a game that is common in newspapers and other periodicals, as well as on websites. The game board consists of a grid filled with letters: the object is to find words hidden within the jumble of letters and circle them as you find them. Once you have found all of the words, the puzzle is complete and there is nothing more to do but lean back and feel smug.

Or you could start a new puzzle. Word Searcher for WiiWare includes 100 different puzzles each with their own unique topic. Topics include everything from ‘US Presidents’ (which, by the way, does include Obama) to ‘Anatomy’ (which, by the way, does not include any of the words you’re thinking of right now). When a puzzle is completed, your time is locked as a best time for that puzzle which you can try to beat on your next play through. However, through the magic of your Wii, the puzzle will be rearranged so that all of the words will be hidden in different places the next time you play. This means that the puzzles have some replay value.

The length of each puzzle is short. There are only fourteen words to each puzzle, with the words arranged in a list on the right side of the screen from shortest to longest. As you find each word, it will be crossed out for you to mark your progress. Your time to complete each puzzle will ordinarily be less than ten minutes, depending on your personal skill, but there are no varying difficulties, and the 100 puzzles don't get any tougher as you progerss. That said, you will no doubt have an easier time with topics that you are knowledgeable in, as it is the nature of these games that words you already know will stand out more than words you are unfamiliar with.

Controls are pointer based. Much like a mouse, the player simply clicks at either end of the word he/she has found and then drags the pointer to the other end of the word to highlight it. The letters are just small enough that errors will be fairly frequent, but the game does not punish you in any way for your mistakes, other than in the time you will waste reattempting the same task. Players will want to make sure their Wii Remote is properly calibrated as the slightest flutter of the pointer can cause frustration.

Like Sudoku Challenge, the options here are sparse. Only the option to turn off the one song that plays in an endless loop repeatedly is included, which is greatly appreciated. And like Sudoku Challenge, there is also no multiplayer either.

Worse, the aesthetics are not quite up to the standards set by Sudoku Challenge and lack a bit of the polish and sparkle of their earlier release, and while Sudoku Challenge played around with its formula just a bit with its ‘Grand Sudoku’ optional game, Digital Leisure has kept things even more basic this time and spent no time on including an optional ruleset to the basic word search game.

Conclusion

The final word is that no one should walk into this game expecting anything other than a barebones word search game, and that is exactly what Digital Leisure has provided here. The game offers nothing beyond scanning rows and columns for hidden words and then highlighting them. If that’s what you want, then you’ll find plenty to enjoy here despite the spartan presentation. But unless you have an unusual Wii setup, you will not be able to play it on the bus, at lunch, or in the bathroom, so for most casual word search fans, this game is still a pass.