Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CrossworDS (Nintendo DS) Review

Everyone at one point or another has spent time playing the Crosswords that are available in our local newspaper. The Sunday New York Times is world-famous for its Crossword Puzzle and in fact released a game not to long ago on the DS that allowed people to play those famous crosswords where ever they wanted without having to carry around the large paper.

Nintendo quickly followed suit and recently released CrossworDS (or Crossword DS) through their Touch Generations series of games. Like Brain Age and Picross DS before, CrossworDS is a budget title that is geared towards the typical non-gamer. While that may be the case, it's not a game that won't appeal to those who enjoy a little distraction here or there.

CrossworDS offers three modes, the first one is Crossword Puzzles. You have unlocked from the start Easy and Medium crosswords (with the third one being unlocked following the completion of the other two). Within each difficulty mode you have 200+ crossword puzzles to solve per difficulty. Each page has a variety of sizes in the puzzles that are offered. Your first row are simple 4x4 puzzles that can be completed in a matter of moments (1-3 minutes) but then you have 11x11 (and larger) puzzles that take you quite some time. The difficulty of the puzzles also vary as the smaller ones are significantly easier than the larger ones. The game does offer you the chance to use hints (at a cost), but for the most part, the early puzzles will rarely require you to use them. If you play smart, you can eventually solve the word by just answering the questions around it. The game also has a scoring system, but you will almost always finish with an 'A' rating as long as you do not use any hints. It doesn't penalize you for writing the wrong letter, so the fact that there is a rating system seems pointless.
The puzzles are nice, but there is a lot of repetition and you will have the same answer for multiple puzzles, even with them masking that by changing the question being asked. In order to unlock the special puzzles, you have to play through all the other ones on each page, so someone looking to be challenged will have to endure some of the more mundane ones geared for youngsters. The special puzzles that you get with the completion of each page are subject specific and the best puzzles in the game.
There are also some problems with the DS' writing recognition. I had problems my 'G' and 'I' which were not being recognized by the unit. When I would write 'G' it would give me an 'O' while with my 'I's, I would get either an 'L' or 'J'. It's a bit of a pain, but that could be a problem for only left-handed people.

The second mode that is offered is Word-search. Again, very straight forward. You have your smaller, easier ones that have 14 words to find on a pretty small area. These puzzles should only take you a few minutes to complete. The large, harder ones require you to find twice as many words and on a much larger field. Larger puzzles will take you much more time to complete and while are also fun, there is a lot of necessary scrolling to find the required words. The rules here are the same as any other word search you've played, with you finding the required words which can be spelt horizontally, vertically, diagonally and backwards. I enjoyed the word-search since there were plenty of variety in the subjects of the puzzles (sports, cities, countries, clothing, Greek mythology).

The last mode are Anagrams. Depending on the size you pick, you are given some letters (4,5 or 6) and you must create words using only those letters. I didn't enjoy this mode too much considering that when I was doing this game, I was spelling words that I am pretty certain were not real words. Of the three modes, chances are you'll spend very little time playing this one. It's a interesting distraction, but there are games available online for free (eg. Text Twist), so this does feel like a late addition to this title.

In the end, I think this is a Decent game and Good considering what it has to offer. The reason I find it decent was the fact that playing the so many smaller puzzles just to get a chance of playing the better and more challenging ones was a bit of a disappointment. It's good since it does give you a lot of variety for only 20 dollars. There is plenty to unlock, but unless you are willing to spend the time to finish all the other puzzles to get to them, you might not want to spend the time answering the same words over and over again.
For most people, it's probably just better to play the Crossword in your local newspaper, but if you need something to play here and there, then you're getting your money's worth with CrossworDS.

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