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RPS Advent Game-o-Calendar: December 9th

FIVE HUNDRED MILLION GOLD RINGS.

Time open page RPS-like fairtrade windowbox. What be?

Choc. Me like Fairtrade. Om nom nom nom.

You?

It’s Bookworm Adventures! The game of vocabulary.

Mortal Kombat certainly never taught you spelling.

“absolutely wonderful, the best game ever” – Smee’s Gran

Clearly when it comes to casual games, 2007 has been the year of Peggle (or one Peggle). But for me, the one PopCap game to rule them all was Bookworm Adventures. I’m not going to laboriously compare the two and make an argument for why I prefer one. I’m simply going to say why I like Bookworm Adventures so very much.

Quick technical description: You’re a worm, magicked inside of a book, fighting against literary baddies through the power of spelling. You have a 4×4 grid of letters, from which you need to spell a word. The longer the better. Unlike Boggle, the letters don’t have to be adjacent, but you can only use each once. Once that word is spelt, those used tiles disappear and are replaced by new ones. The monsters attack back without having to use words, but rather from their personal selection of attacks. These become more involved as you go on, with poisoning, freezes, and debilitating effects on the tiles. So spell!

Well, if you say so Lex, I suppose it is.

I shall begin with an interesting counter-argument to the game Kieron made. He pointed out that it’s not a videogame in the sense that you become more skilled through playing it, but instead you bring outside skills to it in order to be good. And I really rather like it for that. I love playing Scrabble, whether in actual old-fashioned real life, or on Facebook, and I’m aware that short of learning stupid two-letter words that let you form improbable scores, the real skills that apply are those you already have – your vocabulary, and ability to spell it. And Bookworm is the same. You’re not going to be better at spelling as a consequence of playing, and beyond better applying the use of gems and potions, it’s pretty much about what you bring to the table.

But that’s why it’s so great! I’m really good at anagrams and finding words, and this game lets me do that. And unlike a page in a puzzle book, doing so has the excellent effect of biffing up cartoon monsters. It’s an immediate and satisfying reward for doing something you’re good at.

Peggle is never this silly.

But importantly, you don’t need to be good at spelling. If the game has a big fault, it’s that it presents a more entertaining challenge for those more inclined to finding shorter words. I arbitrarily set myself the target of having an average word-length of 7 or more letters (you get told this at the end of a completed chapter), but this will likely mean you whomp your way past pretty much everything. The shorter your words, the more carefully you must use your defensive potions, and the more you must concentrate on using the offensive gem tiles. Which is fun. They should really add a higher difficulty option.

Rising Bookworm Adventure far above the casual crowd is the hilarity of the presentation. Monsters have excellent individual descriptions, and each encounter begins with a moment of banter between your wormy hero, Lex, and the baddy. These are different each time you play as well, which is lovely. Then there’s the words that appear on screen as you attack – they’re also superb, booming “VANQUISHED” or “DESTROYED”, often accompanied by excellent chomping sounds. That’s the sort of thing we like.

Another fantastic decision is the lack of time limits. If your turns were restricted, BA would develop an unnecessary sense of urgency, spoiling the relaxed pace and opportunity to really hunt out the ideal word.

The game doesn't even think it's a real word.

It’s just all-round superbly designed, and enormous fun to play, and even more fun to be good at. You can play it for free in the new web version, which is still enormous fun, but you will lose out on the extra between-level minigames, and the funny creature banter. The full version is well worth your pennies, bought from here.

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Hivemind

The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.

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