I just killed a giant rabbit with the word DOILY. And that is why, no matter how much Letter Quest might be a whopping great rip-off of Bookworm Adventures, I am enjoying myself.
And how it is. The grid of lettered tiles may be 5x3 instead of 4x4, but they crack, get poisoned, turn into gems, get locked, in just the same way. You spell words to attack in just the same way. You fight cartoon monsters, equip boosting items, and progress along some half-finished story, all exactly like Popcap’s BEST game (yeah, swallow that, Peggle idiots).
Bacon Bandit Games have, in fairness, added some bits and pieces, and taken others away. Sadly what’s taken away is Bookworm’s abundant charm, but what’s added is a lot more RPG stuff that would always have been welcome in Popcap’s pair. There’s a huge array of upgrades and shops and bonuses to muck around with here, paid for by successfully completing each particular challenge – and indeed for completing each challenge multiple ways.
There are your basic upgrades, health, damage and armour, and then alongside that new weapons to unlock, potions for your inventory, special items that affect in-game bits and bobs, books that give certain word-types bonuses, aesthetic improvements to the tiles, and even different main characters to play as. And a lot of these items can themselves be levelled up as you play. It’s fair to say this aspect of the game is definitely distinct from its – cough – inspiration. (They perhaps push their luck a little far by having the book shop be run by a bespectacled worm.)
Replaying each little run of fights is nice, too. The first time through it’s just about killing all the monsters. But you can replay another three times, with different challenges. One is always managing the run in a time limit. Another will be a twist on the format, so maybe words four letters or under don’t do damage, monsters are twice as strong, or there’s a limit to how much damage you can take. That sort of thing. And then the fourth star available on any level is a super-tough gauntlet, likely something to come back to when you’ve improved your character a whole bunch more.
But, really, no matter how much is thrown at it, this is essentially Bookworm Adventures. And you know what? That’s a good thing. Because Popcap sure as shit aren’t making any more of them, since they disappeared up EA’s bum. BWA2 came out in 2009, and that seems to be that. So in the end, we’ve got a continuation of the series despite them. Good! It’s a shame that it’s a lot less charming, and it’s a bigger shame that the initial tiles appear to be in Comic Sans, but it’s solid, has a good dictionary of words and definitions, and offers some decent challenges with the more difficult stars.
I adored Bookworm Adventures, and so while there's no escaping the feeling that this is the supermarket own-brand version of the toy, when the original has been discontinued I'll take what I can get.