Review by SuperPhilly32
"Down, 5 letters: Not just good, but _____ !"
The Touch Generations line of games-- Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, Flash Focus, Planet Puzzle League, Tetris DS, etc-- have done a great job of introducing casual players into gaming with its wide catalog of non-intimidating games. Not only this, but these games have found a niche with core gamers as well. Crosswords DS is the next entry into the Touch Generations catalog of titles. For $20 bucks is this title worth your money, or are these types of games better suited for your morning paper?
You start Crosswords DS by setting up one of four profiles meaning up to four players can individually track their own progress without sharing the same puzzles. Nifty! Despite its name, Crosswords DS actually has three types of games in it-- the standard crossword puzzles, word searches, and anagram puzzles. The crossword section makes up the meat of the game with the most content and puzzles available. There's four difficulties of puzzles from the beginning easy and normal, and two other difficulties that must be unlocked from play. Easy has 210 puzzles with 15 pages of puzzles. Once the last set of pages has been unlocked, you can play through any puzzle in any order you wish-- just like in any standard puzzle book. The first row of puzzles (there's twenty-one per page-- the 21st puzzle, a themed puzzle, is opened up after all the crosswords on that page have been finished) are relatively small. They're 4x4. As you progress down the numbered puzzles and page, there will be larger puzzles to solve.
Crosswords DS is played open-book style, and depending on which is your dominant hand, you'll be playing either on the left or right screen (you just flip the DS upside-down if you're left-handed, for instance). When starting a puzzle, you point to a square on the puzzle, and you'll receive two clues on the left hand side of the screen, one across clue and one down clue. Hit the square again to be able to begin writing in a letter. Pending what box you check on the bottom right corner of the screen, either across or down, the game will automatically shift right or down so you don't have to move around yourself. However, you can use the directional pad to move around alternatively. I preferred to utilize a combination of both techniques for faster puzzle-solving. Easy assist is required on the easy difficulty, and it can be turned off on normal and hard. This function tells you if you've written down an incorrect letter.
Thankfully, the letter recognition software used in Crosswords DS is much better than in Brain Age and other earlier titles, so writing down an incorrect letter unintentionally won't be as much of a problem-- though it's still there. My handwriting is by no means perfect, but I've had multiple instances where lowercase is were perceived by the game as lowercase J's and uppercase N's were mistaken for uppercase H's. Regardless, those are the only problems I've encountered regarding writing letters. I just wish that once I've written down a letter the game would swiftly shift over to the next square so I could quickly write down my answer. It's a little slower than I would like, but still, I'm just an impatient person.
If you get stumped during a puzzle, you can ask for a hint. However, there's only a finite number of hints available, and these will penalize your final time. Yep, each puzzle you do is timed, and finish a puzzle and you'll be rewarded with a letter ranking-- 'A' being the best. Crossword are the only puzzles that give out grades from speed. The puzzles aren't overly challenging either, and I've come across instances where the same clues/words are given for different puzzles--even puzzle right next to another. There's also some liberties given to make the puzzles work. Silly clues like "I am ti___ (sleepy)". Regardless, it's a small complaint.
The other puzzles, word searches and anagrams, are just as fun. Word searches are split up in three difficulties: small, large, and a difficulty that needs to be unlocked. You have the words located on one side of the screen and the actual word search on the other. Simply draw lines on the hidden words to have them highlighted and marked off. The larger puzzles are a little more challenging as you have to move the camera around to see the entire puzzle, so you don't have the whole puzzle in front of you like you do with the small puzzles. There's five pages of puzzles for each difficulty of twenty puzzles per page. Each puzzle is themed-- animals, cities, sports, and so on.
Rounding out the package are anagrams. These puzzles are divided up into three types: short, medium, and long. As soon as you select a type, you jump right into the puzzle. You're given a group of letters, and it's your goal to try to arrange the letters into as many 3-letter, 4-letter, 5-letter (etc) words as possible. This mode has a seemingly endless number of puzzles, and for each one you solve, the game will keep track of how many anagram puzzles you've completed in the various lengths.
Another cool feature of this game is that you can save your progress at any time, and then you can dive right into the puzzle where you left off. Only three progress saves can be recorded at one time-- a crossword save, a word search save, and an anagram save. This feature might seem a given, but some titles of the same brevity lack such a feature. It's perfect for the pick-up-and-play aspect that the Touch Generations line of games is known for.
A simple game really needs nothing but a simple interface. There's no neon lights, explosions, or voice clips here. It's just bare bones all around, and it really doesn't need anything more. The only music will play as you navigate the menus or give you a chime as you begin or give up a puzzle. The gameplay is silent save for a sparse sampling of sound effects. This might seem like a negative, but no, it actually works.
Crosswords DS is decidedly not for everyone. Those yearning for action, eye-catching graphics, and an epic adventure will need to look elsewhere. However, those who need something to do while they wait for the bus, train, or to just kill a few minutes before the big ballgame's on will be covered. It's fun to play, and it's great to just pass a few minutes with or even a few hours. And for just twenty bucks you get over 1,000 different puzzles that will last you quite a long time. Greatly recommend for those who love these types of word puzzles.
Graphics: Bare-bones presentation, but for what it is it works all the same.
Gameplay: Take your pick from an abundant array of crosswords, word searches, and anagrams.
Sound: There's only 1-2 music tracks, but interactive sound effects help save the experience from being too boring for some.
Replay Value: Incredibly high. Few will finish the game's 1000+ puzzles unless they have a lot of time on their hands.
Overall: 8.25/10 - Great, but obviously not for everyone. At $20.00, it's a steal!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/13/08
Game Release: CrossworDS (US, 05/05/08)
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