Review: Bookworm By Magmic

editors-choice-small.jpgReview: Bookworm By Magmic
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9/10
Link: www.magmic.com
OTA: www.magmic.com
Cost: $9.99

From the editor: Bookworm is the first BlackBerry game to ever receive an Editors Choice Award on BerryReview. After the stellar rating Greg gave Bookworm in November and based on the review by Luciano below I think the game more than deserves the award. Now back to the review.

The Blackberry is such a productive device that we often need to wind down a little. Magmic has a good collection of productivity reduction tools :-) at very good prices (all under $10) and this is the second of a series of reviews we’ll be publishing here. As a writer, I love word games so I decided to start with Bookworm.

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The creators of this game had a good idea indeed. Bookworm is a Scrabble-meets-Tetris game where you join, or rather select adjacent letter blocks to spell out the best words you can. Words can be spelled out in any direction: left, right, up, down, round in curves etc. so long as each letter is physically connected to the next one. Every time you spell a word, you score points and the blocks are removed from the board. New ones drop from the top à la Tetris and the game goes on.

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In theory, it could go on forever. In practice, it doesn’t. After some time – quite some time, actually – “flaming” blocks begin to drop. They are dangerous: if you don’t get them out of the board, they will burn whatever block is sitting immediately underneath them. That will happen at every turn until they hit the bottom of the board. If you let that happen, they will set fire on the entire library and that’s how you get to lose the game. It soon becomes obvious that you had better get rid of these little arsonist buggers as soon as possible, even if that means sacrificing a more valuable spelling possibility.

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You can select the letters with the trackball, but I had a much better time using the QWERTY keyboard. Words must be at least three-letter long. Longer words score more points, of course. Too many short words seem to be punishable with greater occurrence of flaming blocks. Also the letters have different values. I didn’t really pay attention to that, but the letters seem to carry more or less the same value they do in Scrabble. So if you find two possible words that will use up the same letters, you may want to check which word will score the more points before you confirm which one you want. Long words award you special colored blocks that multiply the value of the words that contain them, which is also very similar to Scrabble. The points are indicated on the left. That is the bookshelf and the… erm, librarian, I guess. As you build words and score your points, a row of books on the bookshelf indicate your progress in the current level. When the bookshelf is full, you go up one level.

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I managed to play this game for almost one hour before losing in my very first attempt. Breaking the one-hour barrier then became trivial. That doesn’t mean the game is too easy therefore uninteresting. On the contrary, it is extremely addictive if you like word games. This is not an action game to be played in 5 minutes to kill some time. It is sort of a long game. You will likely want to stop during your game and resume it later quite often. The two motivations in this game simply seem to be outdo your own best score and forget your troubles while you look for all spelling possibilities, especially considering how difficult it is to spell out long and valuable words.

That part of the fun is often marred by what seems to be an oversight: the blocks are too random. So random it is often impossible to spell out anything longer than three letters. The game is aware of that. First, the player is allowed to shuffle the board most of the time. Second, there is no “Q” block. Instead, we get “Qu” blocks, because spelling anything with a Q without a U is well-nigh impossible. But we get no help whatsoever with the Zs or Xs, and the board can often be riddled with too many adjacent vowels or too many adjacent consonants. It can be very frustrating. It prevents the excitement of spotting at least a five-letter word way too often. I think that shuffling the board is no fun. Never mind the couple of flaming blocks that come with every shuffle, I think that shuffling breaks the flow of the game. Being unable to finish that six or seven-letter word I’ve been keeping an eye on because I’m up to my ears in vowels and restarting the entire board from scratch really gets under my skin. I think there should be a much better balance of vowels and consonants in the game’s algorithm. But maybe that’s just me.

Another complaint I could make of this game is that it failed to recognize a few words. I really should have written down a list, but off the cuff I can remember “Dane” and “Monday”. Another small flaw is that we can only save and resume one game at a time. I wish I could keep at least a couple of games rolling and “compete” with someone in my household.

Eventually, too many flaming blocks make getting rid of them an impossible task, but you do get a chance to postpone the mayhem over and over. It all depends a lot on how you play.

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Pros: very nice concept; very addictive.

Cons: gameplay could be better, blocks are too random; only one game can be saved and resumed.

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