NDS Review - 'Margot's Word Brain'

by Dustin Chadwell on March 2, 2009 @ 3:57 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: Zoo Games
Release Date: September 30, 2008

Margot's Word Brain is the latest in a swarm of word puzzle games that have found a very well-defined home on the Nintendo DS, a phenomenon that started with titles like Brain Age and slowly expanded to encompass a variety of Sudoku, crossword, and other puzzles over the past couple of years. While I can definitely see the appeal in some of these games, Margot's Word Brain comes off as a pretty cheap cash-in attempt on a fledgling genre of puzzle games, and there's not nearly enough content here to warrant even the budget price at which you can pick up this game for nowadays.

Margot's Word Brain is composed of six different word puzzles, which you can opt to play individually or together as one huge challenge. Obviously, these are all variations on standard word puzzles, but for the most part, they're different versions of word scrambles, aside from one word search and another game set up to simulate texting on a cell phone. Margot serves as the "host" of the game, and she offers up the limited tutorials and explanations for each of the games you'll play.

Unlike other puzzle or learning games, there's no real incentive to keep playing the game beyond the high score that you can achieve for each one. However, with no Wi-Fi leaderboard option, you're really only competing against yourself or whoever else might play the game on your DS, which in turn makes the competition aspect pretty moot. There are some fake scores when you begin the game, but it's easy enough to surpass those. There's also no real way to tell how well you're performing or how much you're improving aside from the high scores, with no graphs or an idea of how well you should be doing based on your age or skill level.

When the game begins, you'll be asked to flip the DS into a book-like format, similar to Brain Age, and either choose from one of the six puzzles or the challenge that has you play all six in a row. From there, you can opt to skip right ahead to the first challenge or watch the short tutorial, which says it's interactive but I never saw a prompt to get involved in the action; you only sit back and watch while the game is explained to you. It's also a little distracting to read the words from Margot that scroll quickly by on the left side of the DS while the actual gameplay takes place on the right, so you might miss something if you're not paying close attention.

Every activity you participate in is timed, usually up to two minutes. Within those two minutes, you'll need to find or create as many words as you can from memory. When you do make/find a word, you'll need to tap the checkpoint button on the screen to confirm your selection, and at this point, Margot will let you know whether the word you selected is valid or not. This game will probably be a breeze for big-time Scrabble fans, and you'll find that it's easy enough to rack up a decent score if you're able to come up with words that are longer than three or four letters at a time.

Word Search, one of the easiest games to get a grasp on, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You're presented with a small board filled with letters, where you'll need to find three separate words hidden either vertically or horizontally among the jumbled mess. The only real twist here to standard word searches is that you're shown the three words for a limited amount of time, and then forced to remember them as you search around the board for them. Clearing one set of three words unlocks the next, and you'll continue in that format until the time runs out.

Word Link takes on a traditional puzzle game format like Tetris, but with words falling and filling the screen as opposed to colored blocks. As these letters fall, you'll want to link them together into words, which will in turn clear the stage of those letters and make room for new ones. Allowing the screen to fill up means that the game is over, and out of all the puzzles provided in Margot's Word Brain, this is easily the most fun.

Hyper TXT presents you with a keypad screen that's set up to look like a cell phone. You'll be presented with a word and then asked to text that word by using the numerical keypad presented. It's not a particularly challenging mode, since it gives you the letters that correspond to the numbers on the keypad itself, so it's more a matter of how fast you can tap in the words. However, unlike actual texting, pressing the number 2 for A and then the number 3 for D, will not automatically make the cursor jump ahead, but will instead erase whatever you previously typed. This means you're forced to wait for the cursor to clear itself ahead to the next letter, which really slows down the momentum.

Word Run has you competing against the computer in trying to put together your own crossword puzzle. You can either place your words independently on the spaces provided (assuming there's some room), or you'll try to link it together with the words already available. The playing field provided is pretty tiny, so this game will be over with just a few words from either side, and the computer will often force you into a poor selection, making this one of the more frustrating games.

Word Mine is a simple take on using a scrambled word and creating as many different word combinations as possible. Out of all the games on Margot's Word Brain, this is the least inspired, and we've all played a version of this game at some point or another.

Lastly, there's the Word Safe game, which presents itself in an interesting way. You have a circular "combination lock" made up of words, with inner and outer rows that you can manipulate with the stylus by rolling it around the screen. Ideally you want to match up letters into words, but the letters must all be adjacent to each other, causing you to constantly manipulate the on-screen lock.

Altogether, the different puzzles presented by Margot's Word Brain are really short and pretty boring to play. The lack of online leaderboards or any kind of stat tracking keeps this from being something you'd want to play daily, and the lackluster design and lack of any real music or graphical flair keep it from being interesting. If you're a big fan of puzzle games, there are plenty of other, decent word titles on the DS to keep you busy, and I'd suggest avoiding this one.

Score: 4.0/10

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