How do you turn a word search, something that comes free on newspapers and cereal boxes, into something people will actually shell out money to buy? Well, the people who created Word Puzzle tried to figure this concept out, but they fell far, far short of coming up with a decent answer.
The premise of this Xbox Live Arcade title is, well, doing a word search. It really doesn’t get much more complicated than that. The puzzles range from a classic square to odd pyramid shapes to a word cube that’s rotated with the triggers. Besides this exception, you’ll only need to equip the control stick and the A button before you go on your word-hunting quest. The words you’re looking for are listed on the left of the screen, and they range in complexity from “happy” to “austere” on the same search. The middle of the screen is composed entirely of your search, while the upper-left corner handles your score and combo meter. The right side of the screen contains the round timer.
The three modes you get to choose from are essentially the same. In Arcade Mode — whose title makes the mode sound more exciting than it actually is — tasks you with finding words in quick succession to beef up a combo meter to ungodly proportions. The challenge, though, is completely dashed by all of the words’ first or last letters being signaled by white squares. At least Achievement Point whores will be happy; the three achievements in this mode will be attained in roughly five seconds.
Survival Mode, again sounding much more thrilling than it actually is, is basically the same as Arcade with the oh-so-clever addition of word bombs. Words aren’t as easy to find this time, as your helpful white squares are afraid of bombs. Some of the words on the list will have timers next to them and will be locked once the timer hits zero. The goal of Survival is to somehow amass points while defusing the word bombs. The first timer will begin countdown at roughly 30 seconds, with the three or four other bombs close behind. Given that there are roughly 30 rounds of Survival, this mode will cause more bomb-induced headaches than actual gameplay joy.
The final mode is aptly titled Free Play, where you pick the kind of puzzle you want and play at your own pace. Solo Free Play has one easy Achievement, with the rest requiring either online or local multiplayer. As with most Xbox Live Arcade games, though, online play with Word Puzzle is mostly a pipedream, as Xbox 360 owners are generally busier spending hours on Halo 3 or some other worthwhile online experience.
You’ll notice that we mentioned the Achievements in each mode. Normally, the only use for an underperforming XBLA title is quick Achievements. But even that is lost in Word Puzzle, as the few Achievements you do get won’t be worth the cash you spent to play the game. Underperforming? This game can’t even spell it.
- Score: 3
- About as much effort was put into making this game fun as was put into coming up with a creative title. Why anyone would pay for this is the real puzzle….
— John Dempsey