The game is a weird combo of word game and turn-based RPG (Final Fantasy style)! The plot is that you are a bookworm that gets sent into a book about the past to rescue someone called Cassandra; the first book is set in ancient Greece, and there are 3 books in total. Each book has around 10 levels and each level has a number of stages (enemies). You start on the left-hand side of a long horizontal level and you have to make your way to the right of the level by fighting various opponents with words. When you reach the end of the level you fight a boss and then itâ€™s onto the next level. Simple, unless, uh, you canâ€™t spell for excrementâ€¦
The top half of the screen shows your character (the green bookworm) on the left and your opponent (could be a wolf, lion, warrior, thief, mythical beast etc.) on the right. You start with three hearts of health (more can be gained later), and your opponent has a similar amount on the early levels, but later on they have *lots* more health. Underneath that is a 4×4 grid of letters (16 in total for the Windows Calc impaired). All you have to do is click on the letters to spell out a word of three letters of more and you will perform an attack on the enemy. Naturally the longer the word, and the more obscure the letters you use â€“ like x,y,z â€“ the more damage you will do to the enemy (a bit like Scrabble). Then the enemy attacks you, and you take it in turns like that. Simple as this may sound, itâ€™s very addictive, plus the graphics and sounds are brilliant and funny.
Of course there are extra game elements that make it more interesting such as health and power up potions plus special gem-like letters that boost your word power and have an effect on the enemy (like power down, poison or freeze) or that heal you. Also, as you progress your health, defence and attack capabilities get upgraded; but unlike most RPGs you canâ€™t choose what you assign your â€œlevel-upâ€ points to. Some enemies have various nasty attacks like poison, burning, bleeding, stun, petrify etc. Other enemies even crack or â€œinfectâ€ the letter tiles so that they donâ€™t add to your word power when you use them. Oh and there are even locked tiles (match-3 style). Finally, at the end of each level you obtain a special item like the golden fleece (adds an extra heart) or Poseidonâ€™s shield (reduces damage), and you can choose three of these special items to take into each level. All of this extra stuff makes the game quite tactical as well, itâ€™s not just about spelling words. For example, there is no point using up a special poisoned gem letter on an enemy that you are about to kill, and there also is no point using up a health gem letter if you have full health.
The game is extremely polished throughout; it even has animated credits like a mini cartoon! There are animated comic strips, funny dialog between the characters, 150 uniquely animated enemies, three cool mini-games, and various other unlockable extras. A couple of cool things that I liked were the funny loading text that says stuff like â€œpretending to workâ€ and â€œdividing by zeroâ€ etc. Also if you defeat an enemy who has low health with a massive word, the view zooms in and it says â€œCrushedâ€ or â€œWhompedâ€ in slow motion and you get a bonus item â€“ this is cool. Other pure polish items include a sliding map progress indicator, an enemy skills/weaknesses panel (e.g. colour or metal words cause more damage), and a panel that shows the best words youâ€™ve come up with 🙂 Iâ€™m particularly proud of some weird words like Doggish and Burgeoned, oh and also Orgasm. It wonâ€™t accept swearwords though, not even British ones like @!*. Also it doesnâ€™t seem to accept a few valid but obscure ones e.g. Amish, Romany, which is a bit disappointing, especially as my partner is a science writer and is full of weird words.
I played this game with my whole family and we really enjoyed it but it is quite hard â€“ youâ€™ve got to get some longer words to beat the harder enemies instead of lots of four and five letter ones. Apparently the gameâ€™s budget was $700,000 (seems a bit much, good as it is) and it took over 2 years to develop. It sells for $29.95, which is a higher price than most other casual games, which are $19.95. However, if you like the game, itâ€™s definitely worth it, in my opinion. Perhaps we will be seeing more big-budget downloadable games with higher prices in the near future – this one is kind of paving the wayâ€¦
I'm an Indie game developer with a couple of titles under my belt. I've been programming for 23 years on a variety of platforms. Currently I'm using BlitzMax, which is great.