WordJong Arcade (DSiWare)

Game Review

WordJong Arcade Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Zach Kaplan

Will it put a spell on you?

A DSiWare shopper with yet another mahjong solitaire game is like a mule with a spinning wheel – no one knows why he got it, and darned if he knows how to use it. But WordJong Arcade stands out from the pack as it gives the game a Boggle twist; instead of removing matching pairs of tiles, you'll form words as you clear the board. The premise proves quite fun in practise, but unfortunately it fails to deliver as a complete package.

Like its source material, you can only remove tiles on the top layer of the structure that aren't bordered on both sides. Each contains a randomly selected letter instead of a Japanese symbol, and once you spell out a word, tiles coming off the stack one by one and freeing up more as you go, you press an OK button and move on to the next combination. It's quite addictive and a perfect marriage between two fun time-wasters. But beyond this foundation, the developer made some odd choices in its execution that can really hamper the fun.

The main mode, Arcade, has you remove as many tiles as possible, earning multipliers and combos for bonus points and allowing you use of three power-ups – a single tile-destroying bomb, a butterfly that turns one tile into a wild-card and a tile shuffler. It goes for just eight rounds, though each features different letters and a new structure every time you play it. The problem comes when you get to the end; you have to perfectly clear the board or it's game over. You can get away with saving a power-up and blowing up your last tile or making a word with a new wild-card, but when you run out, it can be pretty difficult – not to mention almost completely up to chance.

Yin-Yang and Hot Seat are your two other options, the second simply a version of the first that turns it into a two-player affair by swapping between scoreboards every move. Here, tiles come in equally apportioned dark and light varieties, and you only get points for removing the correct shade, the game switching between them whenever you create a word. While the competitive version adds a welcome edge, in single-player, the new mechanic doesn't really add much. It takes things to a more peaceful place, but we like our WordJong manic and find that limiting the available letters ends up with somewhat frustrating results. There's an element of challenge in that you must think harder to score, but with a small, random selection of letters, the limitations generally outweigh the benefits. This goes for two rounds, again brand new every time, and you must once more remove every tile to finish successfully – still a chance-based, overly difficult task that's made even more so by the lack of power-ups.

It's true that not every round ends in disappointment, but hinging your success in such a large part on what largely boils down to random probability keeps WordJong from being all that it could. It's still fun to play, but your sense of achievement and progress is diminished. The game does include leaderboards, however, so you can retain your high score, and you can save your game and return to it as well as unlock a small assortment of achievements.

The game looks quite nice, with its flashy, colourful Arcade mode populated by anthropomorphic animals who smile when you do well and scowl when you remove a tile, as well as the pretty Yin-Yang Mode, which switches from day to night per move and features birds and stars that flit and twinkle when you place tiles. The latter includes decent audio, but you'll likely want to mute the hectic, frenetic Arcade Mode, with its pinball-esque sound effects and constant ticking.


WordJong presents a fun and somewhat addictive combination between Boggle and mahjong solitaire. Unfortunately, your progression hinges on your ability to clear the board every time, a somewhat chance-based, often difficult task. It's still entertaining to play until you have to quit and start over with a new board and set of letters, but a diminished feeling of achievement lets the game down. If a more robust, tweaked version hit the shelf, however, it could perhaps prove a must-buy, but as it is this entry falls in the "just decent" range.

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User Comments (14)



Mowzle said:

Thanks for the review Zach.

I've got the cart version of WordJong which I love (and went to tremendous efforts to obtain - it took ages to come out on UK release), but this looks a different variation. I'd go for it to add to the mix, if it comes to Europe. Please Nintendo, are you listening?



grumblegrumble said:

I actually did buy this because I'd never heard of it and it seemed interesting. I agree with what you say about it needed more 'oomph' to it... If you fail to clear a board it's game over. I've gotten up to game 6 or 7 already. I do like this game but for the price it should have included more content, perhaps even online multiplayer? I think this game should be $2 or $5 instead of $8, but if you like word games you'll like this, just maybe not for the price.




I have the full Wordjong DS retail cart which I imported from NA. Out of the 80 or so DS games I've played its one of my favourites. Really, really addictive. The modes on it are very good and u can generally clear a board quite easily - but if u want to get a high score its a challenge. Battle amd two player are brilliant as well. Better than scrabble and mahjong for me any day of the week. Thoroughly recommended for conventional or family gamers. Whoever I leant my cart to, casual or 'hardcore' have been addicted to nth degree. Also, the modes on this seem to be a bit different to the cart versions which makes this worth a purchase as well as the cart for me.

EDIT: Juts read no.2's comment and I totally agree



Mowzle said:

I've checked a few details out, and if anyone based in the UK is after the retail cart WordJong DS, it is available at present through a few online retailers at about £12 - see the usual search engine




Yeah, I think it only recently was released in the UK but its been in NA for around 2 years. Also, I think its a port of the PC game 'Wordjong'. Bought the UK version for my relatives cos they were getting withdrawal symptoms. Heh heh.



Mowzle said:

I also have the PC version - I think the DS game is a port of that. It's certainly just as addictive, but it's pretty low powered and needs to be played in a window. It looks real fuzzy played full screen



alLabouTandroiD said:

Thanks for both the review and comments, guys. It's an intriguing concept and if my English was good enough i'd get the retail WordJong first and maybe this afterwards.
As much as i don't mind other games in English Crossword Collection has clearly shown me my limits.



Rockgamer said:

Wow, I bought the retail version for the same price that this downloadable version goes for. I haven't got around to playing it yet though, so I can't say whether or not I actually like it enough to consider getting this version.



Mowzle said:

@9. battLeToaD
Don't underestimate your command of the English language, you use it better than some English natives .
With WordJong you just have to use letters presented on the tiles to compose random words in English. However, with a crossword you have to understand a clue to guess a related word, which I think would be a lot more difficult if English is not your first language.



alLabouTandroiD said:

@Mowzle: Thank you. I know it's not terrible but often i come to a point where i feel i can't get my point across as good as possible and sometimes think i'm writing in a too complicated manner. From being as clear as possible to cheap puns I just love everything you can do with words so it's always kinda frustrating to reach your own limits there. And while i love that i ma~i~nly was brought up with German things would be much easier if the only official world language was English. My paranoid side now tells me that all the governments probably support different languages to make it harder to communicate and unite with everyone alive so i better stop here.
I only referred to Crossword Collection because it's the best known but i also had problems with Puzzler World 2011. But yeah it might be worth another shot with WordJong.
Completely unrelated now but i'm glad i somehow got to know about the A Boy and his Blob UK release. I've never seen it in a shop in Germany or the Netherlands since. What a shame for one of the very best games on the Wii. And even more irritating since it practically doesn't need any localization.



Mowzle said:

@battLeToaD: I only have handheld consoles, so I regret I've completely missed out on A Boy and His Blob. I was really disappointed when Way Forward said they were not after all working on a version for the 3DS .

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