As many a great philosopher will have once said (we imagine), “words are the world’s most powerful weapon”. Taking that statement rather literally, Letter Quest Remastered is a game that is built around using words and spelling to dish out damage to opponents – longer words with rarer characters within them can net you bigger success (à la Scrabble) but things actually go much deeper than that. We really enjoyed this game when it first appeared on Wii U and are happy to report that it still feels just as fun as it ever was now that it's on the Switch.
Like a beautiful amalgamation of a hardcore, dungeon-crawling RPG and the world’s most intense spelling bee competition, Letter Quest Remastered sees you slaying monsters, ghosts, and particularly nasty bunnies with your knowledge of language and efficient purchasing of skill upgrades. Levels play out as turn-based battles; you’ll spell a word to deal damage to your opponent, then they’ll hit back and take a chunk out of your health bar. Most levels contain anywhere from one to six-or-so enemies and you’ll have to defeat all of them to progress.
Things get much more complex rather quickly, however - enemies can attack your spelling tiles as well as your health (sometimes restricting their use or even causing you damage if you need to use them); some opponents will have specific requirements such as ‘only takes damage from four letter words’, or ‘takes double damage from words containing two vowels’; and there is a whole shop containing various skills and upgrades that you’ll need to purchase and equip to stand any chance of winning. The game’s harder levels will make you really think seriously about the words you are using and, on certain occasions, you might find yourself needing to save certain available letters for enemies that are coming up next.
The in-game shop we just mentioned can provide you with the skills and attributes you need to progress through the increasingly difficult levels. You can buy upgrades for your starting health, base damage, base defence, chance of dodging enemy attacks, and so on, as well as one-use items such as healing potions that you can take into a level as a safety net. There are also skills that level up with experience that can be equipped or unequipped at will such as ‘regain a small amount of health when the letter ‘E’ is used’, and you can also choose between a wealth of different weapons that contain different bonus qualities.
It is an odd blend of genres and activities but it all comes together really nicely. The game is made up of 40 levels that need to be beaten four times each (with different end-goals and rules in place) totalling 160 in all, and the core idea remains the same throughout all of these. Luckily, though, the variety of ways in which you must defeat opponents, the inclusion of time trial rounds, and super-difficult rounds where the enemies can deal much more damage than usual help to prevent the game becoming anything less than fun. Even if you find yourself needing to grind through earlier levels to earn currency for shop upgrades when you get stuck, you’ll still be able to have a good time doing so as long as you enjoy the use of language.
In a way, this use of language might suggest that Letter Quest Remastered works as an education tool and, if you want to use it in that way, it could act like one. It never pushes that upon you, though; definitions pop up for each word you use and a strong knowledge of ‘bigger’ words would definitely give players an advantage, but you can just throw words around and work on dominating through upgrade powers if you wish. As you play through the game and start to reach the trickier stages, you’ll likely have started to get a hang of spotting potential words from the letters that begin to appear and might even find yourself relying on similar tactics that suit your specific knowledge and play-style.
If you’re wanting a break from the game’s story mode, you can also blast your way through an Endless mode (where you fight through as many monsters as you can before eventually being wiped out), or you can try to work on clearing achievements. Some achievements are in place to give you in-game rewards whilst others are purely for fun (and would have acted as trophies/achievements on other consoles).
Everything looks and sounds rather lovely, too; character models are presented in a very crisp and clear cartoon-like design and the letter tiles stand out nicely (and can be changed should you want to). You actually have the option to choose between two soundtracks for the game – the Remastered version or the original game’s version. We’re partial to the Remastered one ourselves, but having the choice is a nice touch all the same.
In fact, the only thing we found to be frustrating across the entire game’s feel and aesthetics was the fact that button presses aren’t always registered when you are moving between buttons really quickly. Usually this doesn’t cause any bother, but when you are rushing through a time trial and the directional buttons aren’t making the cursor move with every rapid press, it is easy to get slightly frustrated. We should point out that this is only a very minor inconvenience and doesn’t cause issues very often at all, but we do feel it is the one disappointment in an otherwise flawless design for usability.
Letter Quest Remastered not only manages to successfully combine the wild pairing of Scrabble and RPGs, but also manages to make it incredibly fun. You’ll find yourself doing little other than furious spelling and the purchasing of skills and upgrades throughout the entire 10+ campaign, yet these things remain enjoyable and keep you interested from start to finish.
If your confidence in using the English language isn’t as strong as it could be you shouldn’t feel threatened by the idea of this game, it's worth noting that you can steadily work your way through levels at your own pace and by using the weapon upgrades provided – although we would suggest that people with a natural linguistic flair might get the most enjoyment out of it. Either way, a lot fun is waiting for you in this title and we’d urge you to give it a go.