About halfway through Bookworm Adventures: Volume 2, the gloves come off. Until then, you’re able to happily amble through its pretty world, enjoying the funny characters, defeating great literary baddies by making words like PIG or THIS from your arsenal of 16 Scrabble tiles, and compensating for any weak letters with the help of RPG-style magic potions.
Then it starts getting serious. Unlike most games, it’s not just that it gets harder – although you can still win with little effort if you want to, at least for most of the adventure – but that it stops being much fun unless you personally step up your game. Enemies don’t magically start being able to trash you in the turn-based battles - they just make it so that being cheap is no longer an enjoyable use of your time.
They become resistant to the obvious attacks and hit back harder when their turn comes round, forcing you to raise your standards – like holding on to get SOLIDARITY instead of simply deploying SOLID. Or, more impressively, saving a power-up so that JEOPARDIZED doesn’t simply kick the Queen of Hearts in the tarts, but explodes into a screen-shaking, one-hit kill that’s all the more satisfying for the fact that you never wussed out with JADE or PERIOD or, god forbid, DAD. Three-letter words. Just say no.
While most casual games are built around giving you more options, Bookworm’s challenge comes from steadily giving you fewer. The further you get into it, the more the enemies are able to screw with your plans, such as altering your tiles just when you’re about to deploy a particularly good word and making you focus on finding the perfect attack in the letters you’ve already got, not slowly building up something from scratch. The RPG elements also become more relevant, letting you take two Treasures (such as a pen that boosts the damage from word-related words) and one companion into each battle. They never get close to the RPG bits of even games like Puzzle Quest though, being largely restricted to stockpiling potions and picking the right treasures.
Vol 2 is a great little game – not vastly different to the first BWA, just more polished, balanced and varied, with new types of tiles, extra minigames to play between rounds, and three more books (fantasy, sci-fi and Asian mythology) to explore. There’s nothing better for stretching your wordiness and y’know, stuff, the only real problem being that at times, you really have to force yourself not to cheat with an online anagram server. Don’t. You’re only cheating yourself, you know.
Aug 11, 2009