Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers Review

Two from the top, and four from the bottom please, Carol

Pocket Pack Words & Numbers Review
2nd July, 2010 By Ian Morris
Game Info // Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers
Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers Boxart
Publisher: Mere Mortals
Developer: Mere Mortals
Players (local wireless): 1 - 6
Subtitles: Full
Available On: DS
Genre: Puzzle

When we first picked up Pocket Pack: Words and Numbers, we have to admit that we were a bit disappointed by the distinct lack of a real single player mode - even taking into account that it's only a 500 point (or around a fiver) DSiWare game. While you could happily sit there and take on puzzles in any one of the modes, from a choice of Sudoku, Anagrams, Kokoru, Word Cubes, and Word Guess (a bit like hangman - but more on these later), there seemed to be a worrying lack of any real incentive to keep playing. There were no levels to play through (which would have added a nice, gradually increasing difficulty level to the Sudokus, etc), and no real sense of progression, with the game instead throwing a random puzzle at you each time you play, making the only real incentive to keep playing your love of puzzles.

Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers Screenshot

Sudoku - a game made for the DS. Saves on paper, and makes your mistakes untraceable too.

So, it was when faced with deciding what to play on the way home from London, after a tiring, throat-tenderising day at a recent press event, that we decided to give Pocket Pack: Words and Numbers a go. And so, as soon as we'd bagsied ourselves a pair of seats on the train, and whipped out our DSs, we started playing.

"Just one or two games," we thought, as we set off from Marylebone. But seemingly, no sooner had we started playing than we rolled into our local station, two hours later, having spent practically the entire journey playing the game.

When you're playing in multiplayer, then, Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers is a game that really comes into its own. Against an equal mind, or someone who can give you a good run for your money when it comes to puzzles, it's so, so easy to sink hours into it without even noticing - as we so aptly proved during the aforementioned train journey. And even if you're not playing competitively, it's interesting to compare the words your friend manages to find in certain games, as far too often, you're left sitting open mouthed, thinking "how did I not see that one?"

Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers Screenshot

Kokoru - like a hardcore version of Sudoku

The modes on offer, as you may have guessed from the title, are a selection of word and number puzzle games. On the maths side of things, you've got the standard Sudoku, and the far more exotic looking Kokoru, whilst the words team's made out of, ironically, the slightly awkwardly worded Word Guess, Word Cubes, and Anagrams.

Of all the modes, the words ones are probably the ones that need the most explanation. Anagrams, is, strangely, not what you'd expect - rather than just giving you a countdown style conundrum, the game instead just wants you to form as many random words as you can, from a selection of 8, 10, or 12 letters. This took us a while to realise, so while we were there trying to work out how to make a word with two Fs and three Ys, our opponent was busy racking up a massive score simply by making three or four letter words.

Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers Screenshot

If we put a H on the end, will it count as an expression of anger? And if only that 'I' wasn't in the way. Then we could have had "Argony" - either a) something with similar properties to Argon, or b) someone saying 'Agony' with a strange accent.

Word Cubes is a similar concept, but one that has a lot in common with Boggle. Instead of just being able to pick letters from anywhere on the grid, as you can in Anagrams, in Word Cubes, you have to create words by basically forming a string. Starting from any letter, you have to move to any adjacent square, until you've eventually constructed a word. It's a challenging premise, and one that works a bit like a crazy, any direction free-for-all word-search, especially as you often find yourself wishing the "S" had been just one square closer...

Word Guess is, for all intents and purposes, Hangman - you'll be given a random word, and it's up to you to guess what it is, by guessing at letters to fill in the blanks. Somewhat illogically, however, rather than give you a blanks box that's the same length as the word you're trying to guess, there'll always be eight boxes at the top of the screen - but its only the ones that have question marks in that you'll need to try and guess.

Its a decent selection of modes, especially when you take the price into account, which are bound to keep you playing for a while - especially if you've got someone to play against in multiplayer. Thankfully, you won't be forced to try and find someone who also owns a copy of the game in order to play in multiplayer, either, as luckily, the developers have included a download play option, which lets anyone with a DS in range download a temporary copy of the game, ready to play against you.

Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers Screenshot

You'll be seeing this confused bookworm a few more times than you could hope.

The only problem is that while, for the most part, the in game dictionary of allowed words is up to the task, there are a few glaring omissions. It wouldn't let us have "life" or "hell", for example, which seems a bit strange - and any word which may have a slightly rude connotation isn't included, either. While we can understand words that have alternative meanings, we're pretty sure "life" isn't slang for something awful.

And while we still maintain that the single player mode is a bit disappointing, there has at least been some effort to give the game some sort of appeal for lone rangers. As you play through the game, you'll be awarded "trophies" for completing certain challenges - such as spelling an 8 or more letter word in Anagrams ("Psychics" was ours), which, while it doesn't replace a proper, level based single player mode, certainly goes some way to creating some lasting appeal if you don't have anyone to play with.

For the price you're paying though, it's hard to complain, especially when you think it's less than £1 per mode - making it quite a bit cheaper than other game like this, such as Family Game Night. While a more robust single player mode would be nice, and it would be good if your friend didn't have to reset their DS every time they've played a game with you if they're using download play, Pocket Pack: Words & Numbers is still a great investment if you've got a friend who'll entertain you for a while - and even if you haven't, there are much worse ways to kill time than with a sneaky go on Sudoku, or Word Cubes.

Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS

StarStarStarHalf starEmpty star
Entertaining enough if you've got a friend, but a bit limited if you're on your own.
  • +
    Incredibly moreish in multiplayer
  • +
    Five games for 500 points makes it great value for money.
  • +
    Download play lets your friends play against you - even if they have original DSs, or DS Lites.
  • -
    Lack of real single player mode.
  • -
    Having to turn your friends DS off every time you've finished a game in download play.
  • -
    Some of the design seems a bit illogical, and the dictionary can be a bit suspect.
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