By John Walker on May 3rd, 2012 at 9:00 pm.
Words & Physics is so close to being a brilliant game. The concept is amazing: each screen features the challenge of getting rid of the words “REMOVE ME”, and you do this by deleting and typing new words into the level. As the title suggests, physics comes into play, meaning you can type letters that push the REMOVE ME block over an edge, or delete words making up supporting platforms so things fall. And then it gets even more interesting, with certain words behaving according to their meaning – in one level typing in “WATER” causes the word that space takes up to be occupied by water. In another, “FIRE” sets things alight. The possibilities seem incredible!
And then it doesn’t use them. In fairness, this is a short Flash game, not a professionally developed long-term project, and as such it’s a collection of ideas rather than a coherent whole. In fact, it plays like a tech demo for what might be an incredible game.
The frustration is, typing “WATER” only works in a couple of levels. Try that idea elsewhere and you’ve just got the word sat there, looking stupid. “FIRE” similarly does nothing when it’s not pre-ordained. Which means you end up imagining the game that it could have been, a sort of literary Scribblenauts, where experimenting with words to find more and more behaviours, and your own way of solving puzzles, would be the most extraordinary fun. Instead, you end up frustrated by not understanding why “MOVEUP” no longer creates a platform that drifts upward, when it’s exactly what you want to approach a particular challenge. So you have to abandon all your previously learned techniques, and try to figure out which concept it’s demoing this time.
That doesn’t stop it from being a very interesting game to play. It constantly has new, novel ideas. But oh my goodness, do I want to play the game I’ve realised it could be. The one where I could type in “EXPLOSION” and watch it detonate something, or “SLIPPERY” and have a nice, slidey platform. “GROWING” could be a word that gradually takes up more of the screen, while “BALLOON” floats and bumps around. Quickly, someone find me a development team and I’ll design it!