You know the type. Frequently seen with the morning paper tucked folded under their arm, with the day's crossword halfway completed. Known to awkwardly insert uncommon terms into conversations, finding joy in the confused looks cast their way by others. Currently schooling you in fifteen simultaneous on-going sessions of Facebook Scrabulous. They are the vocabulary addicts. They are the word nerds.
And they're also often DS owners, a fact that's been exploited by several publishers, including Nintendo itself, in the past -- first-party efforts appealing to this audience have previously included the brain-training series of mental exercise games, and this past spring's Crosswords DS
. Margot's Word Brain is the latest title to hit Nintendo's portable and attempt to capitalize on that same lexicon-crazed crowd. And it does so by closely copying the conventions created by those same Nintendo games, along with several other past word-based puzzlers.
First, the similarities to Brain Age
. Like that popular 2006 title, Margot's Word Brain begins by having you turn your DS system on its side, to hold it in "book style" mode. Also like Brain Age, this game features a smiling, helpful instructor character (the titular Margot) who explains each game's rules, and offers encouragement and score assessments after each session. And, also like Brain Age, the substance of Word Brain's gameplay is made up of timed, mind-exercising activities that are meant to test your mental agility more than your hand-eye coordination.
The content of those activities, though, is where the Brain Age comparison ends -- and where the Crosswords DS comparison begins. Each Word Brain game is themed on word recognition and vocabulary, just like the modes included in the first-party Crosswords DS package from earlier this year. A couple of the activities are eerily similar to those seen there, too -- Word Brain has its own Word Search, of course, as well as an analog for Anagrams. There are six activities, all together. Let's take a quick tour of each one.
Word Search is what you'd expect, with a twist -- Margot offers you a handful of vocabulary words, you're given a few seconds to memorize them, and then a box of jumbled letters appears in which lie hidden the same handful of words. You have to track them down and tap the first and last letter in each one to tell the game you've found it -- not as elegant an interface as Crosswords DS, but it's functional. (Though random tapping could be used to cheat.)
Word Mine is the clone of Crosswords DS Anagrams, as you're given a set of six letters and tasked to make as many three-, four-, five- and six-letter words out of them as you can, as fast as you can. It's straightforward and works well, even if doesn't have a lot of depth.
Word Run is where the game starts to move away from aping Nintendo's titles, but then just as quickly begins to look a lot like word-based games that have come from other publishers -- it's a design very similar to Scrabble
, where you alternate back and forth with the Margot A.I. and try to build a crossword puzzle from scratch. It's a bit more space-constricted than its board game inspiration, though-- if you can run Margot out of room to fit any more words on the 6 x 6 game board, you'll win the round.
Word Link is a clone of Bookworm
, the popular PopCap flash game where tiles fall down onto the screen, you match them up into words like you'd match up like-colored gems in Bejeweled
, and the tiles disappear from the stack as more letters fall down from above to take their place.
Hyper TXT isn't a knock-off of any past video game, but that doesn't mean you haven't already played it -- it's a re-creation of cell phone texting turned into a playable game challenge. Words appear on the left screen and you have to text them as quickly as you can -- meaning that you have to press "2" on the touch screen number pad once to make an A, twice for a B, three times for a C and so on. If your brain has been trained to do this already through your hours of practice on your Motorola RAZR, you'll easily rack up high scores here. But that's not to say that it's very fun.
And, finally, Word Safe -- which probably also has some previously-published free online version somewhere, but I haven't played it if it does. In it, rings of letters are arranged on the touch screen and you'll once again form words by linking up adjacent letters to one another. If the letter you need isn't adjacent, though, you can spin each ring of letters around to re-position it and get it to where it is. This one was the most challenging of the six, and also the most unique.
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