Letter Challenge Review
Posted by Ron DelVillano
Missing the mark
There isn’t really an interesting or unique way to introduce Letter Challenge, but that might be the point. There are plenty of word-based puzzle games available in the world, and so many of them already exist in one form or another on the Nintendo eShop, but that wasn’t enough to stop Enjoy Gaming from throwing another one together. What we have here is a collection of various word games that you’ve probably already played before, and none of them are particularly exciting.
The four games included in this package are Wordfinder, WordBlast, Pickletter, and Hangman, all of which are takes on preexisting popular word games. Wordfinder involves you guessing a four to six letter word with the game marking when you’ve selected a letter correctly. WordBlast is a virtual game of Boggle, tasking you to connect adjacent letters in a grid to form words. Pickletter involves placing random letters into a grid with the hopes of creating words horizontally, and Hangman is nothing more than a digitized version of perennial blackboard favorite. All of these activities are further explained in the game’s “Help” menu, but be careful as opening the tutorial crashed our game about 50% of the time.
If you get a kick out of word games then your interests may be piqued, but these somehow manage to be inferior versions of the games that you already love. Most use the same words over and over again, eliminating any real challenge after you’ve played each a handful of times, and the experience never feels fresh each time you come back to it. It’s also worth noting that some of the words use their British spelling rather than the North American versions, such as “humour” vs. “humor,” so the NA players will want to keep an eye out for those extra vowels.
Letter Challenge is controlled entirely using the handheld’s touchscreen, and the game is sensitive enough to work without causing any issues. The controls are limited to simply tapping on letters and spaces across all four games though, leaving little to no room for error, but it’s undeniable that it works without a hitch. The accurate controls are easily the most polished aspect of this game.
Not only is Letter Challenge’s gameplay uninspired, but it is also lacking in any form of appealing visual or audio aesthetic. The menus and game screens are boring, offering up nothing more than the barest necessary information, and everything looks grainy. Games such as Mahjong 3D and Puzzle Quest prove that you can take incredibly simple and over-used concepts and make them feel fresh by adding exciting visuals and unique elements to the gameplay, but Letter Challenge doesn’t even bother. This one instead opts to stick with the basics, only to its further detriment. Oh, and the “soundtrack” is made up of one midi track that is repeated ad nauseum. Expect to play with your console’s volume all the way down.
The one thing that sets Letter Challenge apart from the dozens of other games in its genre is its leveling system. As you complete games you also earn what amounts to experience points that allow you to level up. Unfortunately, the leveling system does absolutely nothing beyond unlocking in-game achievements. The implementation of this system feels a lot like a desperate plea to convince players to keep coming back, but it really does nothing to impress, just like the rest of the package.
Letter Challenge manages to take classic words games and turn them into boring, ugly shells of what they could and should be. The included games play fine, and they do come in handy for short bursts to fill the boredom while waiting for a bus or sitting on the pot, but the amount of true entertainment you’ll get out of them is limited. Far superior versions of these games already exist on the eShop, and it’s probably safe to assume that fans of word games already own versions of the four included here. If you’re desperate for word-based puzzles, then this one might provide a quick fix, but don’t expect to see anything new or exciting.