Digital Leisure attempted to jump on the Sudoku DSiWare bandwagon a while back, failing miserably in the process. Now they've taken another crack at the service with something different: Word Searcher, a game featuring 100 different word-search puzzles to sink your vocabulary into. Granted, Word Searcher as WiiWare wasn't that great, but for those of us who passed up the original, how does this game fare now that it's on a handheld console?
Word Searcher is entirely controlled via the stylus. Declare which hand you write with and begin the game by choosing one of the 100 available puzzles to play. The topics range from Anatomy to Z Words and all are in alphabetical order. A few of the topics from the WiiWare version, like Birds of Prey and Caribbean Nations, are missing from the lineup so it seems perhaps a few of the original 100 puzzle topics have been replaced with new ones. The word lists from the returning topics are the same, though.
Like the WiiWare version, each puzzle features 14 different words buried within a 15x17 grid filled with random letters. As in their pen-and-paper counterparts, the words you'll need to find in the grid are shown on a list (on the top screen in this game). They may be found in vertical, horizontal, or diagonal positions within the puzzle, both forwards and backwards. Tap and drag your stylus to highlight words as you find them, after which they'll be crossed off of your list. Sometimes the game is finicky and won't quite register a word as highlighted if you attempt to do it too quickly, so just try again slowly and be sure to keep your stylus on top of the word you're attempting to highlight. When you complete a puzzle, the game will congratulate you on a job well done and spit you right back out at the puzzle topic-choosing menu to do it all over again. With such a small amount of words to find in each grid, it'll take you perhaps ten to fifteen minutes max to complete each one, but that actually makes this a game you can pick up and put down anytime.
Should you need to suspend your game you can save and quit at any time. Note that you may only have one game going at a time, so if you choose not to load your previous game you'll lose all your prior progress in that puzzle. With puzzles as short as these, though, it won't take long to get back where you were anyway so it's not a huge deal.
The puzzles are timed, but there are neither points nor penalties in this game. Upon completing a puzzle the game saves your time. Should you choose to try that puzzle again (the game creates a random grid with the same 14 words every time you load a particular puzzle, providing some replay value here), the game will ask you if you would like to attempt to beat your previous time in an attempt to give some legs to the experience. Sadly, there is no difference between playing normally and racing against the clock whatsoever - the game won't even bother telling you when you've failed to beat your time. If you do manage to successfully beat your previous time, you'll lower the overall Total Time as shown on the top screen, and that's all. The top screen also shows how many of the puzzles you've managed to complete so far.
Although this game did receive a makeover for DSiWare, the graphics are still about as bland as the gameplay. The fonts are clear and easy to read, however, which is a must for this kind of game. Like Sudoku Challenge! before it, Word Searcher's music consists of a laid-back 10-second loop that repeats endlessly with no options menu with which to turn it down or off. It's not bad as far as background music goes, but you'll probably find yourself muting the DSi should you play for an extended period of time.
Sudoku has long been the most popular choice of pen-and-paper puzzle game for publishers to bring to DSiWare, so it's good to finally see something different hitting the DSi Shop. Digital Leisure did well by bringing Word Searcher to the DSi, as word-search puzzles are really something that needs to be portable, just like the books, magazines, and newspapers they're printed in every day. Provided you didn't bother purchasing it already as WiiWare, this game is a decent candidate for something to pick up and play anytime you've got a few spare minutes to kill, and even after you've completed all the puzzles, the game will randomly generate them all again and again for you so that you can play each one again as if it were completely new. That said, you'll need to be the kind of person who truly enjoys word-search puzzles in order to enjoy this game, because this is a very plain, no-frills release that will otherwise bore you to tears.