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Xbox Live Arcade Review - 'Word Puzzle'

by Glenn "Otter" Juskiewicz on June 25, 2008 @ 1:40 a.m. PDT

Word Puzzle is a brain-busting game that features intricate 3D boards, exploding word bombs and a whole host of synapse melting challenges and special effects. With five unique game modes, Live support for up to four players and Xbox Live Vision Camera support, Word Puzzle will keep you playing with friends and family for hours.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: InterServ International
Developer: InterServ Int.
Release Date: Nov 7, 2007

Oh, Word Puzzle, what did I ever do to you? You treat me so bad, you give me headaches, and you assault my senses akin to being hit in the head with a manhole cover. Perhaps I should start from the beginning.

I love puzzles. I really do. Ever since I was a child, I've played puzzle games, word searches, cryptograms, and even drawn my own clever and difficult mazes. I love puzzles, so it's with a heavy heart and typing fingers that I say I hate Word Puzzle. All right, maybe "hate" is too strong a word, but it's at least a sad loathing or a surprised disappointment.

Absolutely true to its title, Word Puzzle is — wait for it — a word puzzle game! More accurately, it's a word search puzzle. In each level, you're given a lexicon of words, and only a small amount of words at that, and you have to find them in an ever-growing jumble of letters. There's no real variety in the type of game you'll be playing, only in the words and the puzzle presentation types. At first, the field of letters is a simple 8x8 grid, but if you actually stick with it for more than a half-hour, you'll see the full gamut of grid sizes and types. Some are cube puzzles that entail you rotating a block of letters to find your word, while others are pyramid-shaped. You'll also get a bonus for grouping synonyms and antonyms back-to-back (i.e., "hot" followed by its antonym "cold," or presumably the synonyms "awful" and "game"). That's about the extent of variety you'll see in Word Puzzle.

No, really. That's it.

Sure, there are some level progressions where the puzzle field gets bigger and the words get smaller, causing you to squint and hunt and search for the word "bug" in a 12x12 rotating cube grid, but that's about the biggest challenge this game offers. Well, that and testing how long it takes before you get a ripping headache. I sat down on three different occasions to test each mode of Word Puzzle: Arcade, Survival, and Free Play. On every single one of those hour-long plays, I developed a massive headache and a penchant for swearing. I swear at most games anyway, but the headaches made it worse.

In the Arcade mode, you're simply completing puzzles against a timer — a very forgiving and loooong timer. The mode is so easy that it'll even highlight a letter tile that corresponds to either the first or last letter of a word for which you're searching. It'll keep your attention for a good 30 minutes to an hour, but then the headache kicks in, you'll swear at the game, and that's that.

In the Survival mode, you're finding words associated with "bombs." Defuse all of the bombs, and you move on to the next puzzle. It's the same thing as Arcade mode in that the puzzles eventually get bigger and the words get smaller and thus harder to locate, but it's still the same old, same old. And again, 60 minutes in, and you'll be fighting a headache while swearing that the word you're looking for doesn't exist in that puzzle.

I honestly don't even know why Free Play is offered as an option. It's the same game but with no timers, no bombs, and no real incentive to complete anything. There is an XBLA achievement for scoring 1,000 points, and I was determined to get the seemingly easy extra 10 points, but after 30 minutes and 200 points, I stalked off to watch cartoons, which could actually challenge my brain for entertainment.

If you just happen to have a friend who as much into torture as yourself, there is even a multiplayer mode where you both play on the same board while searching for the same words. Excitement! Fun! Sarcasm!

Oh, and don't let me forget the themed music, which sounds like some kind of modern Egyptian riffs to go along with the several Egyptian and ruin-themed backdrops. After hearing the same progression of "songs" puzzle after puzzle after puzzle, I found myself muting the TV and preferring the hum of the Xbox 360 instead. It's not as bad as a child hammering away on a piano, but the constantly looping tunes were enough to make me not want to hear it ever again.

I really can't tell for whom Word Puzzle was designed. It's certainly not for the hardcore puzzle lover because there isn't enough variety or depth to capture anyone's attention for very long. At the current 800-point cost, it's not for the casual puzzle gamer either. Maybe there is a very small demographic of people who love Egyptian-themed music and are obsessive-compulsive enough to only want to play one type of puzzle endlessly. If so, then Word Puzzle was made for them. Otherwise, save your points, save your time, and save yourself the headache.

Score: 3.8/10

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