In an attempt to better suit the subject matter at hand, we briefly considered publishing this review with fiendish word jumbles sprinkled throughout. After more than a few sloppy attempts, we'd given in to frustration and decided it was best to leave that kind of thing in more capable hands. For the verbose and the eagle-eyed alike, Word Puzzles by POWGI is a much better option for a brain cell workout. Myaeb nxet tmie...
Not too long ago we reviewed a previous release from POWGI called Word Search, and found it a little lacking when it came to variety. One slight name change later and this complimentary title shakes things up with 6 different and unique game modes to wrap your head around. This amounts to 480 separate puzzles in total, making for a pretty decent list of options to suit your preference.After a brief tutorial for each game mode, every puzzle is unlocked from the start, so there's no waiting around if a certain category catches your eye either.
Word Maze is first up, and gives the impression of a simple word search at face value. However; it challenges the player to create a continuous link between words, picking them out from the grid of letters and drawing a line all the way from the first letter to the last. Every word is grouped under a theme, such as fruit and vegetables, so you might link 'tomato' to 'orange' and so on, until you reach the end of the connected maze. It's one of the more traditional puzzles, but works really well as a result.
On the contrary, One Word actually is a standard word search, with all but a single word stripped out of the equation. Say you're looking for the word 'Boat', the entire puzzle will be made out of those four letters, with only one actual instance of the real word lost among them for you to find. These words are based off of quotes from famous writers or historical figures. Mixups is more similar to a demented game of Scrabble, where you're given a bunch of letters and asked to form three words out of them that are associated with the theme. The trick is that each letter can only be used once, so you'll often need to think carefully about what words to use.
Another game, Flowers, plays out along interconnected petals with two letters in the center. You're given a selection of letter pairings that you need to combine with these two central letters each time, filling the petals with words as you do so. It's a very visual game, which doesn't take long to click once you've solved a couple. Crossovers is a clever idea that takes the form of a tiny crossword puzzle involving only two words. Fill in the missing letter each time, and then use the missing letters at the end to solve a final clue before moving on to the next series of crossovers. Possibly our favourite of the bunch!
Finally, Circles is where we found the difficulty really took a turn. Though results will always vary from player to player, we found that these puzzles had us struggling the most to work through. A Venn Diagram is populated by sets of letters that must be unscrambled into words, but each circle is missing a crucial letter that you need to fill in. It's a real mind-bender, having to come up with letters that satisfy every jumbled word at once, but thankfully common themes do help identify potential solutions.
Any difficulty can be alleviated throughout all the puzzles by simply pressing L + R on the GamePad to activate a hint. This will usually reveal a hidden word, identify clearly what you're looking for, or help you on the right path in the case of Word Maze. The usefulness of these hints varies depending on the puzzle type, and there are a few challenges here that will have you feeling grateful that you can just skip it and move on to the next instead. Stylus controls help simulate that pencil-and-paper feeling, but we don't advise getting too annoyed and trying to rip your controller in two. It isn't actually made of newspaper.
Speaking of the GamePad; as plenty of you lovely people are no doubt aware, one of Word Puzzles' major hooks is the claim that it supports every single amiibo figurine or card ever ereleased. From Smash Bros. to Splatoon, it's time to dust off your prized collection and unlock some extra puzzles! At face value this sounds like a real treat, but in practice the effect is...underwhelming. Although the game certainly did accept every amiibo we could get our hands on, it only concerns itself with the User ID or Nickname attached to the NFC chip, and generates random puzzles based off that information. Wordsearches made entirely out of your own name is a nice ego boost, but gets old pretty quick, especially if you weren't too imaginative when naming your amiibo. The best we came across was a jumble that ended up spelling "Good Luck Bowser" - which is a message we stand by wholeheartedly.
The interface doesn't change to suit the amiibo character either, and uses the same simple, clean aesthetic found throughout the rest of the game modes. It does its job well, especially when your focus will be on solving the puzzles themselves, but doesn't earn any points for imagination. The music is similarly stock, and we quickly muted it before the audio got any more grating. The different puzzle modes are far more creative, the themes and categories are fun and surprising (they can range from Adolf Hitler to Herbs & Spices), but it's wrapped up in a distinctly basic, lifeless package that doesn't feel quite at home on the big screen.
Off-screen mode is nice of course, but a simple time-waster like this is far better suited to portable play in our books. Without any kind of multiplayer or extra features, it feels strange playing this on a home console sometimes. The good news is that cross-buy unlocks the the near-identical 3DS version straight after purchase, as long as you're using the same account. It's a great justification of a fairly steep asking price at time of writing, though it had us itching for some kind of cloud-saving so we could synchronise our progress.
If the title of this game piqued your interest, then you pretty much already know what you're getting and we doubt you'll be too disappointed. Word Puzzles by POWGI successfully scratches a very niche itch for alphabetical challenges, and some more accessible, unique game modes might even appeal to anyone who isn't typically interested in more traditional wordsearches. That being said; it isn't anything revolutionary and keeps things simple when it comes to its overall presentation, so we'd recommend it solely to anyone who wants plenty of word puzzles and not a whole lot more besides. Cross-buy with 3DS is a great bonus though, which is definitely worth taking advantage of.