Review - Bookworm Adventures Volume 2

Bookworm Adventures Volume 2 is a word-puzzle game with some light role-playing elements mixed in. Using a 4x4 grid of random letter tiles the player must construct words that, depending on their lenght and the use of less common letters (think Scrabble) do varying amount of damage to an opponent that the protagonist - the titular bookworm Lex - must defeat to progress.

During the corse of the game you'll aquire magical items and abilities - like doing extra damage when spelling an adjective, or those that affect the letter tiles by increasing your chances of getting possitive effects (in the form of colored gems that do extra dammage or heal ailments) or that reduce the risk of those with negative effects (tiles that deal damage to Lex or don't do anything at all). Lex will also gain new companions that provide their own unique bonuses.

Big Words
When PopCap released the original Bookworm Adventures in November 2006 it was one of the most ambitious casual games to date - A word-puzzler with RPG elements, pleanty of humor and a fair amount of animated graphics was far more substatial than most other titles in the genre. Bookworm Adventures was a big success, much bigger than even PopCap was expecting. PopCap was now growing, both in size and their games' prodution values. The company also grew in the eyes of the so called "hardcore" gamers as well as their more traditional fans.

This does makes it more difficult to be impressed by the sequel though. Very little has changed in Adventure Mode, the games main mode, the graphical style remains the same and several assets look to have been re-used even if new enemies and environments have been added. The three mini-games from the first game: Link n' Spell, Letter Rip and Word Master also make a re-appearance. The animations are stiff and simple and some sounds are a bit grainy. The magical items and abilities that effect the tiles are of little importance - as long as you fairly consistently build long words that are worth a lot of points and avoid the tiles with negative effects the game will just role on.

Choose your Words Carefully
That however, is the main appeal of the game, the fact that it just flows - there's nothing that irritates or frustrates and you can spend as much time as you like finding that perfect word - you'll soon realize you've spent the last twenty minutes working on a single word without the slightest hint of boredom - or perhaps you instead choose to play at a higher pace, focusing more on tactics: using the gem tiles in smart combinations (for example early on you will gain the ability to combine several gems in one word to create rainbow-colored gems which act as wild cards) and choosing which magic items and which companion to bring with you on each level carefully - depending on play style and which potions you have at the moment.

In an interview with Gamezebo lead artist Tysen Henderson said of the original Bookworm Adventures "It was very important to us to make sure that none of the elements do you have to absolutely understand or pay attention to succeed at the game. If you just spelled words and that's all you wanted to do, you will succeed, regardless if you wanted to pay a whole lot of attention to everything else."

The Name of the Game
After games like Puzzle Quest where the role playing aspects play such a large part of the game, their rather shallow use in Bookworm Adventures Volume 2 feels like a missed opportunity. But irregardless your opinion of the philosophy behind the games design, there's no denying that this is a captivating and addictive game, that brings out the wordsmith in even the most apathetic student of English and you will no doubt learn a new word or two in the process. Regarding graphics, as you focus on the task at hand the actual graphics are of little importance and if I sounded harsh towards them, it's only because PopCap has set the bar so high with Peggle and Plants Vs. Zombies.

With a price tag of $19.95 you get a lot of game for your money. Adventure Mode is long, with three "story books", each made up of ten chapters and with a total of over 130 enemies it till take you quite some time to play through them all. Depending on how much time you spend puzzling on each word the total playtime may vary drastically, but expect to spend at least 30 minutes per chapter. During the course of the adventure you'll also unlock six minigames of varying merit - but you'll no doubt find at least a couple of them worth your while. Personally I found the time-based ones all too hectic, the "survival Mastermind" game Word Master on the other hand is more fun than it should be.

My Score: 8 of 10

Translated from original review on PixelPlayer.se

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