Review: Bookworm (DSiWare)

A classic puzzler in its most basic form

PopCap has made quite the name for itself over the years as the go-to developer for supremely addictive casual games, so it's only natural for the company to worm their way onto Nintendo's handheld. The Bookworm series has been a staple of word game enthusiasts since first hitting browsers in January 2005, and now DSiWare patrons can get their fix.

Bookworm is a word-finder with a few twists. Holding the DSi book-style, players link together letter tiles on the touchscreen to form words at least three letters long, which then vanish off the grid and are replaced from the top. Special tiles make an appearance depending on how you're performing: if you keep knocking out high-scoring words you'll be rewarded with green, sapphire, gold and diamond tiles that can significantly boost a word's score. Burning tiles will frequent the playing field if, say, you continuously match three- or four-letter words. When in play, burning tiles torch their way towards the bottom of the grid one tile per turn; they're good for blazing through a large string of useless letters and will give you a score boost if used, but if they reach the bottom then it's Game Over, Man. If you feel the grid layout has you struggling to spell anything then you can shuffle it up, but you'll find yourself with more burning tiles this way.

The game is still super-addictive nearly five years on and remains one of the best word puzzlers across all platforms. It's really easy to get sucked into a longer-than-expected session and it's very rewarding when the planets align to let you spell out a particularly long word. You might even learn a thing or two as the game offers up a definition of a word you discovered.

The game keeps track of stats like your three highest-scoring and longest words as well as a tally of the lengths of words played, which lets you see just how reliant you are on those easy three-letter words. The high score list is pitifully small, keeping a record of only the three best. And since the game doesn't include multiple profiles, those who share a handheld won't know who scored what or be able to compare their vocabulary victories.

Other versions of Bookworm included Bonus Books, which are lists of a dozen or so words in a certain category (e.g. body parts or insects) that check off as you find them in play. It was a nice feature to give you a little something more goal-oriented to do, but sadly they are not included here. Nor is a Timed mode, leaving a few-frills "Endless" mode as the only way to play. The iPhone/iPod Touch edition includes these features and costs the same (if not less), and their absence makes the DSiWare version feel like a glorified version of the browser game instead of a serious portable contender. At least you can save and resume a session!

It's important to note that the full retail release is slated for next week in the US, so if you're interested in a fleshed-out Bookworm release you might want to just hold off for the time being. If you don't really care about the above mentioned frills, this is a good way to go.

Conclusion

Anyone looking to flex their vocabulary will certainly find a good time in Bookworm, although missing fun features hurts the longevity somewhat — if you want a fleshed-out version then wait a week for the retail release. It may not be the be-all version but it's still good fun for a reasonable 500 Points and is recommended to those looking for a quick-hit word puzzler on DSiWare.