By Adam Smith on July 30th, 2014 at 9:00 am.
The screenshot shows the precise moment when I gave up for the night. You may be reading this on Wednesday morning but I wrote it late on Tuesday night. The first time I played Lexicopolis, which is free and browser-based, I abandoned my civic duties after a couple of turns but the picture above shows decent progress. Lexicopolis is Urban Scrabble, in that it’s a word game that’s also about building cities. The terrain has a grid of letters and bonus tiles scattered across it and placing a building captures the tiles beneath its foundations. Using the collected words, you must spell new buildings into existence, aiming for a high score. It’s simple but very well executed. But I’ve given up the majoral medallion for now.
Look at the picture again. Do you see the lack of imagination? Two sets of two red cross buildings in the same area (two ‘hospitals’, one ‘clinic’, one ‘doctors’), and the two apartment blocks (one a ‘tenement’, the other a ‘hotel’). There are two universities as well, side by side, which I justified in my head by referring to them as separate campuses of the same institution.
The game rewards variety, halving the score of each repeated word, but there are also bonus points available for careful placement on top of numbered tiles, and balancing leisure, residential and employment structures. That adds some depth to the scoring but I struggled to find enough residential building types and didn’t have any use for my high-scoring ‘x’ tiles.
Go on. Embarass me. List buildings with an ‘x’ in their name. You don’t want to know how many zoos I built.
Lexicopolis is the seed of something magnificent though – or the foundation stone, I should say. Perhaps even the blueprint. The frustration is that so many words, like my ‘Hellmouth’, leave the game drawing a blank. And even those with obvious functions, such as a hospital or fire station, only have points as their purpose.
A Scribblenauts building game though? That would be something. As someone who has always liked the idea of Scribblenauts more than the execution, Lexicopolis seems like a step in a direction I’d like to see that series take. Management rather than clunky side-scrolling interactions. Imagine if these buildings produced goods and people, if they performed basic actions in the world and the city hummed like a machine.
It doesn’t. But Lexicopolis is an entertaining browser game and I hope it grows from a settlement into a city.
Via Games We Care About.