The 3DS is no stranger to puzzle games, with Japanese developer Nikoli being responsible for most of the puzzle games on the market. While games like Sudoku, Hitori and Kakuro have provided us with enough numbers to last a lifetime, there’s a distinct lack of wordplay on Nintendo’s newest handheld.
Enter Crosswords Plus, the follow-up to the similarly titled DS game from a few years back. Nintendo hasn’t really changed up the formula this time around; the game still offers a bevy of crosswords, word searches, and anagram puzzles to work through. But despite the amount of content the game offers, Crosswords Plus is missing a few elements that prevent it from being the standout puzzle game that it (frankly) should have been.
Of course, the game’s biggest draw is the wide selection of puzzles. There are over 1,000 crossword puzzles to complete, which vary in size and difficulty as you progress from easy to medium, hard, and so on. Unfortunately, the game’s easiest puzzles are ridiculously short and shallow, and you are forced to complete them in order to unlock more challenging ones. This level structure applies to the entire game, with entire modes being locked out until a couple of days have passed.
The developers use the same touch-screen interface from past games, and it’s intuitive enough to pick up and learn within a few minutes. You’re able to zoom in and out of a puzzle with a simple tap of a button, allowing you to focus on specific sections or the entire puzzle. The handwriting recognition software works fairly well, though a few quirks pop up every so often (you’ll want to make sure to close the loops on ‘R’s). For those who need it, there is an in-game hint system, which can provide you with an additional clue to help solve a word, or automatically fill in letters and words if you see fit.
If you grow tired with the selection of crosswords, you can always try a hand at word search and anagram puzzles. Word searches work as you would expect them to, with each puzzle having a specific theme. Anagrams have you unscrambling letters into words, which controls easily enough with the stylus. While the anagrams provide more challenge than word searches, the game includes some rather archaic words as part of each puzzle, which can make things tricky. An additional mode comes in the form of Word of the Day puzzles, which are insultingly easy. You’re tasked with coming up with words that start with a letter from the previous word, which offers little to no challenge.
Unfortunately, the game’s biggest issue is with its presentation and design. While one wouldn’t expect much from a crossword game, the graphics and music leave much to be desired. The 3D effect in menus is worthless, and the game doesn’t do much to add any flair to the stale visual experience. The music doesn’t fare any better, with only a handful of repetitive tracks to keep you company.
Unlike other Nintendo titles such as Pushmo and Picross 3D, there is a noticeable absence when it comes to past franchises. You won’t be solving any Mario or Zelda-themed puzzles, and there is no option to create or share any of your own. While there are downloadable puzzles offered through SpotPass and StreetPass, they don’t stand out from the thousands that are already included from the start.
Crosswords Plus’ biggest flaw is that it sticks too close to the formula that was hammered out by its predecessor. While the core gameplay is as solid as ever, the lack of additions and improvements make for a game that gets old very quickly. It’s a by-the-numbers experience, and feels like one that should have been a budget eShop title, as opposed to a retail title that costs more than its virtually identical predecessor. Crossword fans might find some value, but those who aren’t dead set on word-based head-scratchers can do a lot better, for far cheaper.