Sunday, August 26, 2007

Words Kingdom Review

Words Kingdom, developed and published by MagicIndie Softworks.
The Good: Large board, campaign mode, random layouts increases replay value
The Not So Good: No keyboard input, limited game modes and no multiplayer, basic graphics
What say you? This Boggle game just doesn’t have the extras to compete with more refined titles: 4/8

Words are important: without them, we would have to communicate in a series of grunts and nobody wants that (well, maybe Tim Allen). Not surprisingly, games have cashed in on the word extravaganza, from classic games like Scrabble and Boggle to modern computer software like Bookworm Adventures. The next entrant in this genre is Words Kingdom, where you must connect adjacent letters to form words. How will this game advance the genre to new realms of wordiness?

Words Kingdom is one of the more visually boring games I’ve played. While I like the level of quality in the 2-D art of the introductory movie and backgrounds, the rest of the game is very underwhelming. It’s just like someone stuck Scrabble letters up on the screen, as the game lacks any real special effects. The background and soldier positioned to the left of the game board are both static and, as a result, there is no liveliness in the game normally associated with this genre. It is a very utilitarian approach and Words Kingdom just doesn’t take full advantage of the PC platform. The background music is good, but, like the graphics, the rest of the sound effects are very basic. In all, the graphics and sound of Words Kingdom are disappointing and below the level of quality typical for puzzle games.

Words Kingdom features both a campaign and single play modes with three minute time limits where you try to make as many words as possible. Letters must be adjacent, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Each level in the campaign mode has a minimum score required to advance to the next level and it gives you something to shoot for rather than an arbitrary high score list: a nice feature. Words Kingdom does inject some replay value due to random layouts each time you play (difficulty increases by making you shoot for a higher score in successive levels), but the game doesn’t offer anything beyond the old Boggle board game. There are no special game modes and no multiplayer. Words Kingdom even uses the same time limit as Boggle. You do get higher points for using more difficult letters (like Scrabble) and there is a bonus system that will grant extra points for making a word of a specified length every once on a while, but these additions are minor. Words Kingdom even lacks keyboard input, as you must click on each letter in order to form the words. Most games allow you to start typing and it will figure out the connections automatically, but Words Kingdom resorts to tedious clicking instead of speedy computer assistance. This is basic computer gaming: something that might have worked as a free inclusion with Microsoft Windows 3.1, but not in today’s more advanced environment.

As you can tell from the length of this review, there isn’t much to Words Kingdom. It’s Boggle, which is fine, but the game doesn’t really add anything new. The features in the game are quite lacking: while I like the campaign with ever-increasing score requirements and the random boards, Words Kingdom is missing several key features like multiple bonus types, multiplayer, and different game modes. I don’t even mind the outdated graphics (I never put emphasis on the visuals, rather on the gameplay), but the gameplay is old and Words Kingdom doesn’t bring anything new to the table. This looks and feels like a game from ten years ago, and the rest of the word puzzle genre has passed Words Kingdom by. The foundation is solid and the game has the potential to be expanded into a better product, but as it stands now Words Kingdom lacks the features to compete against more developed games.