I suck at Scrabble. I love my word games, but for some reason I suck at Scrabble.
Bookworm, for the uninitiated, is a simple concept: You're given a screen filled to the brim with letters, and you cobble words out of the madness, making sure all of the letters in the word are touching each other. That's really all there is to it. Popcap, builders of beautiful simplicity, have ported what once was a PC game (whether in a pop-out window or the full download game) to the little handheld that could. And with it being a game full'a words, holding the DS in small-paper-back fashion is entirely fitting.
[image1]There are only two single-player modes – Classic and Action – which can be either slow-paced or nice and quick (and by “quick” I mean "Olympic speed skater sliding over tar-covered ice" quick), whatever you're in the mood for. Both are essentially the same; the only difference is that the Action has more red tiles, which end the game when they reach the bottom of the screen.
It's a real shame that these are the only two modes, but as enjoyable as they are, I would've liked something a bit... more. And if you think that “something more” might be the Multiplayer mode, it isn't. Multiplayer is just the game with a score goal, no matter how you slice it. But the single-pack play has to be singled out for being a total joke: After a minute or two of downloading the game, there's only one game to play... and after it's finished, the player without the pack has to shut down completely, and re-download it if they want to play again.
C'mon, Popcap! You can do SO much better than that!
[image2]Even though there are “bonuses” and goals throughout, like filling up each library by earning a certain score and unlocking books with themes for extra points, this is a true “high score” game. As opposed to something like the original Puzzle Quest (or even better, Bookworm Adventures for the PC), this really is a game designed to be a fun time-waster instead of something to be played for hours on end and against friends. There just isn't much here to get excited about, especially since I can play the thing – for free – in a web browser, and a cleaner version (i.e. free from ads). It just doesn't seem worth the trouble and cost to play a slightly faster version of the exact same game, skin and all.
Don't get me wrong, them Popcap people are amazingly good at taking a simple game concept and making it the crack-cocaine of casual/non-gamers alike (as well as being the leading cause of low office productivity), but come on now – and I can't stress this enough – it's available to play for free through a web browser. It's a Flash game. Cute as that little worm might be, and as big and adorable as his glasses are (worms wearing glasses, sounds like a smart medical condition, doesn't it?), it doesn't negate the fact that he's trying his damnedest to talk you into plunking down twenty bucks for a Flash game originally released nearly seven years ago.
But, if you need to take it off-line and on the road (and you don't own an iPhone or iPod Touch, as it's a quarter of the price there... less if it's on sale that week), you could do worse than to pick up a word game that's been popular and notable for years now. For the airport terminal and the back pew in church, this'll do you just fine... just have a good back-up game when you feel like your dictionary's gotten enough of a workout. Shouldn't take long.