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About Brad Hilderbrand

I've been covering the various facets of gaming for the past five years and have been permanently indentured to WorthPlaying since I borrowed $20K from Rainier to pay off the Russian mob. When I'm not furiously writing reviews, I enjoy RPGs, rhythm games and casual titles that no one else on staff is willing to play. I'm also a staunch supporter of the PS3.

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Wii Review - 'Margot's Word Brain'

by Brad Hilderbrand on Jan. 16, 2009 @ 2:23 a.m. PST

Margot has devised a set of six fiendish and compelling word based puzzles to test your vocabulary, spelling, and general vocabulary skills. No two games will ever be the same as you wrack your brain against the clock to create words from randomly generated letters in order to score maximum points!

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Zoo Games
Developer: Slam!
Release Date: September 26, 2008

Vocabulary is one of the things that every writer values and is constantly striving to improve. We wordsmiths delight in learning new ways to say simple things in complex ways so our inferiority-wracked brains can delight in believing that we're smarter than the plebian masses who don't even know what "plebian" means. Therefore, a game that promises to build vocabulary and teach you lots of new ways to say the same old thing sounds like a lot of fun. Unfortunately for Margot's Word Brain, all that fun is thrown out the window as soon as you start playing the game.

The first and most important thing you need to know about Margot's Word Brain is that it was originally a Nintendo DS game, and this fact colors the rest of the experience. For example, Margot's giant head and pencil neck take up half of the game screen on the Wii version, and that is because that in the DS game, the top screen (or left, since the DS was held like a book to play) was devoted solely to Margot and her disproportionate cranium. Further proving that this game is a port of its handheld twin in the simplest form, you can't even move the on-screen cursor onto the left half of the screen; it's as though there is some magical force preventing you from moving beyond the halfway marker. On the DS, this magical barrier was called the plastic casing that separates the screens, but on the Wii, it's simply known as lazy work.

The sloppy port work is also prevalent in the title's biggest failing: its point-and-click control scheme. Again, the game was built with the DS stylus in mind, so all the exercises centered themselves on tapping or dragging on the screen. Of course, this doesn't work on the Wii so instead, you'll have to take your cursor and carefully point at boxes and letters on a board much too small with input that will likely be ignored or misread more often than it works. Make no mistake; this is a clumsy, sloppy game that never should have made the jump from handhelds to consoles.

With that being said, the mini-games found in Margot's Word Brain are quite fun, even if most of them are highly derivative of other games. There are six different challenges to tackle, and each provides a fair amount of enjoyment during its time in the spotlight.

First up is Word Link, which will look instantly familiar to anyone who's played the Flash game, Bookworm. Random letters are dropped into a series of six columns, and it is the player's task to find as many three- to six-letter words as possible using adjacent letters before the clock runs out. Whenever a letter is used, it disappears from play and new ones drop in, meaning that there is a fresh supply of consonants and vowels to keep the words flowing.

Next is Word Mine, the game for anagram lovers. Just like TextTwist or any of its various clones, Word Mine gives you six letters and asks you to make as many words as possible with this jumbled set. The game tells you how many three- to six-letter words are contained within the mixed-up mass, and you have 90 seconds to sort out as many as possible. Again, it's been done before, but it's still just as fun as ever.

Of course you can't make a copycat word game without including a Scrabble knockoff, and Margot's Word Brain does just that with Word Run. In this mode, you and Margot take turns placing words on the grid, and whoever gets stuck unable to place another word loses the round. You'll keep going until time runs out, but most rounds never last beyond the third or fourth word simply because space is at a premium and the boxes fill up fast.

In her last two games, Margot finally comes up with some fresh ideas, and if she had been doing this all along, then the title may have actually been worth playing instead of existing as a waste of everyone's time. Of these two worthwhile games, the first is Word Search, which doesn't sound at all creative until you hear about the twist. Instead of giving you a list of words to find within the grid, Word Search is broken into 20-second rounds where Margot flashes a few words on the screen for a few seconds, and then you have to memorize and find those words in the ensuing puzzle because she won't show them to you again. It's pretty easy at first, but as you progress and get more and more words of varying length with less and less time to memorize them, it becomes quite taxing on the old noodle.

Perhaps the cleverest game is Word Safe, which gives players letters set in rings and then asks them to once again find as many words as possible within the time limit. The fun part comes in the fact that if you want to make a certain word but the letters don't line up, you can spin the rings around so the letters you need are adjacent. It's definitely a neat trick and can lead to some really creative thinking as you attempt to maximize your score.

Gamers who really want to take a run at it can play all six games in a row in the Word Brain mode, and at the end, Margot tallies up your score and determines how "bright" you are by displaying your results via a light bulb that registers your brain power from zero to 100 watts. Now you can finally see exactly what a "dim bulb" looks like when your less word-savvy buddies try out the title and realize that not all words are four letters long and cannot be said in mixed company.

There isn't much to discuss on the game when it comes to issues of graphics and sound, largely because they are both utterly unremarkable. The game screen consists of Margot's aforementioned tremendous noggin and whatever game board you are playing on, so no one will be blown away by the amazing production values. Sound design is similarly yawn-inducing, with each game being introduced by a horrid sing-song jingle that I'd almost think was a parody if I didn't know any better. The games themselves feature only the sound of a ticking clock, which really doesn't do much for helping one concentrate and put forth his or her best effort. I imagine that if we had all been forced to take the SATs with the game's annoying tic-tock, tic-tock in the background, there would be a lot fewer college students out there. In short, the title is technically forgettable in every way, so there's nothing in the design that will keep you coming back for more.

As a DS game, Margot's Word Brain is fun, even if it is a bit derivative and stale. As a Wii game, however, it really struggles to be any good at all, largely because the interface just doesn't work. With more space to type and tighter input recognition, this one may have been able to take its place alongside Brain Age and some of the other heavy hitters, but unfortunately, there just really aren't any major incentives for even trying out this game. As it is, this title is what we fancy and educated people like to call a "disappointment."

Score: 5.5/10

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