Bookworm DS Review «

Popcap is the master of addictive games. The casual game publisher’s simply satisfying Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies still enter my regular gaming rotation whenever I have a moment to kill or need a break between more “serious” electronic entertainment. So I was enthused to check out their latest outing in Bookworm for Nintendo DS. I enjoy word games, and the touchscreen stylus controls seemed as though they’d lend themselves perfectly to this particular task, which as it turns out, they do.
The concept is, as always with PopCap games, simple to understand. With the DS screen held sideways like a book, you link Scrabble-like letter tiles to form words. Lex, the game’s green mascot munches on the words you form, and new tiles move in to replace the ones he eats. The longer the word, the more points Lex awards you. Also, certain word-lengths generate special bonus tiles on the letter grid, which grant additional points when used in a word. To make things tougher, like flaming red tiles that eventually burn their way through other letter tiles until they reach the bottom of the grid, ending your session (but not your overall game progress).

Click the image above to check out all Bookworm DS screens.
Though Bookworm DS is a fun, fully featured game, it’s also practically the same one that’s been on PC for years now, with few changes. The Classic mode gives you as much time as you want to think of words to spell while the Action mode focuses more on speed with its automatically moving flaming tiles. However, with every word you spell, you fill up bookshelf after bookshelf in the game’s various rooms, which in turn fills in the background image behind Lex with furniture and themed objects. The game’s single- or multi-cart multiplayer also lets you race a friend to a predetermined score.

Graphics aren’t why you play this game, but at the same time, Bookworm can sometimes be a bit underwhelming. Tiles formed into words fly into Lex’s mouth with a crunch, but the grid doesn’t ever change. As you create words, the bookshelf in each room slowly fills with furniture and various objects, but it’s all very static — you have no “Ode to Joy” moment, you simply move seamlessly to the next room without any fanfare. Some strategy is required to forestay the inevitable build-up of unusable tiles left over from making other words (like a giant cluster of “Qu” or consonants surrounding consonants/vowels surrounding vowels).

Outside of the game’s much appreciated stat tracker, which takes note of your best word and how many words of various lengths you’ve spelt, you’ll receive little motivation to spell longer words, or attempt to reach higher milestone levels before a flaming tile ends your session. Slowly but surely, you’ll be able to complete all the rooms, even if you only spelled three-letter words the entire time. Bookworm lacks a bit of the addictive magic that draws me to PopCap’s other titles, but this spelling game still offers an enjoyable distraction for wordsmithing on the go.


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