Bookworm Review (DSiWare)

PopCap's take on Boggle - easy as A-B-C

Bookworm Review DSiWare
21st January, 2011 By Ian Morris
Game Info // Bookworm
Bookworm Boxart
Publisher: PopCap Games
Developer: PopCap Games
Players: 1
Subtitles: Full
Available On: DS
Genre: Puzzle

It's becoming something of a trend for DS games to have shrunken, leaner versions of themselves appear on the DSi store. Appearing with a minimum of features, at a smaller price, the games are often an attractive prospect - especially when you're looking at a game by PopCap, as the games work so well in the short burst form. In fact, with Bookworm, the game's taken a slightly different path, as this time, the stripped-down DSiWare game has beaten the fully fledged cartridge based version to the shelves (the cartridge version of Bookworm isn't due until mid-March).

Bookworm is basically PopCap's take on Boggle - an interactive wordsearch game, where you simply have to spell out the longest words you possibly can, from a large grid of letters. Starting from a tile of your choice, all you have to do is move to an adjacent tile, whether it be up, down, or diagonally, in an attempt to spell out the longest word you can.

Bookworm Screenshot

Spelling a six letter word never fails to feel like an achievement - it's nice that the game defines words too - though a shame the selection's rather limited.

In a similar way to Scrabble, different letters seem to worth differing amounts of points, but there doesn't seem to be much of a way of telling what letter's worth what. What this usually leaves you doing is spelling several different variations of the same word, adding extra suffixes or prefixes as you can, in an attempt to earn the most points. However, whereas on Boggle, you could spell what was effectively the same word several times (putting an 's' or 'ed' or 'en' on the end was a favourite strategy of ours), on Bookworm, the tiles are single use only - when you've spelled a word using them, they vanish, and a number of new tiles drop down from the top. In this way, if you really know what you're doing, you can sometimes manipulate letters on the grid to let you spell some incredibly long words, by eliminating the tiles that are getting in your way, by using them in words.

And constantly pushing yourself to build bigger and better words is an important strategy to have. There's a lot more at stake than just making yourself feel clever here, as spelling long words is essential for staying in the game. If you repeatedly spell words that are less than three letters long, Bookworm's been designed to actively punish you, by rewarding your hard effort with a fire tile. Like a normal tile, these letters appear at the top of the grid, but then, on each turn you don't use them, they destroy the letter below, slowly melting their way to the bottom of the grid. If they reach the bottom, and you don't use them on your very next go, they'll destroy your library, and it'll be game over.

Bookworm Screenshot

If Everybody Plays' own Sarah played Bookworm, this is likely what her grid would look like.

Of course, it's not just through spelling short words that the game punishes you - you'll find yourself collecting fire tiles as you progress randomly, as the game tries to make the latter difficulty levels harder. On the other hand, you'll also be rewarded for spelling large words with bonus tiles, which are either green, gold, or a blue diamond. Worth an increasing amount of points (though we're never sure quite how much each tile's worth), these letters can be used to really bump up your score for a word - so much so that our best scoring word is currently only five letters long, thanks to the amount of bonus tiles we used to make it.

If we had to pick one fault, it's that, other than through your own desire to try and better your own scores, there are few reasons to keep you coming back, with no constant levelling system, nothing to unlock, and no multiplayer mode, which would have bumped it up a point at least. But for 500 points, Bookworm is a game that language lovers will find hard to pass by. While the upcoming cartridge version may have a lot more features (and truth be told, we'll probably end up getting that one too), Bookworm on the DSiWare store is perfectly suited for portable play - it's quick, simple, bite sized fun. You don't need a vocabulary the size of a small planet to play it, and while it's logical that the better your grasp of the language, the better you'll do at the game, you may well find yourself learning some new words as you play, thanks to the game's handy definition system.

Fun, educational, and cheap? It's not often you'll find a game that ticks all those boxes.

Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS

StarStarStarStarEmpty star
Bookworm (adj.) - A great downloadable game.
  • +
    Great in short bursts.
  • +
    Lots of neat features to encourage you to seek out certain words.
  • +
    Rewards you for making long words.
  • -
    And punishes you for making short 'uns.
  • -
    Nothing to really keep you coming back bar your own persistence.
  • -
    Grid tends to turn into a cluster of vowels.
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