Review | Bookworm Adventures Volume 2
Format: PC | Genre: Casual | Publisher: PopCap | Developer: PopCap | Release Date: 31/07/09 | RRP: £14.95
By Lewis Denby
Sometimes, Bookworm Adventures Volume 2 isn’t about spelling the longest word and emerging victorious as quickly as possible. Sometimes, it’s worth taking the time to really analyse the letters at your disposal, take a risk, and create your own entertainment.
Me? I’ve taken to unleashing comic-style onomatopoeia (which, ironically, I still can’t spell) at my opponents wherever possible, whether it’ll win me the battle or not. Managing to get ‘Kapow’ was a particular highlight of mine, the conclusion of days of hard work trying to attain something so brilliant. You? You might just enjoy spelling out naughty words.
Not all of them will register, naturally. Bookworm Adventures Volume 2 is, of course, fun for all the family. While that’s always been PopCap’s route to success, and it’s frequently no different here, it’s also occasionally to the detriment of this gorgeously silly sequel. Many of the issues come down to the awkward difficulty, which often sits in the problematic zone of being too difficult for the kids yet too easy for any seasoned anagram hunters. There are no difficulty settings, meaning you’ll have to run with whatever’s presented to you. So straight away, there’s two core markets who might find themselves a little put out by this otherwise lovely game.
//To the max!
I’ve heard someone describe it, rather splendidly, as “Boggle to the max!” That’s pretty much it. Cosmetically, it’s not dissimilar from traditional, turn-based, Japanese role-playing games, with each character boshing the other over the head with whatever tools are at their disposal. Only here, you mount your attack by spelling words with the letters provided at the start of each turn. Spell the longest, the most appropriate, or the one with the most special letters, and you’ll launch your most powerful attack. Spell a short, unimpressive word, and you’ll barely cause a scratch.
Immediate sticking point: as before, enemies are exempt from the actual core of the game. They’ll strike a randomly generated attack without having to pick a letter at all, and while the AI clunking would likely be the same either way, it would have been nice to see your foes struggling with the same letter-crunching as yourself. It’s a basic presentational issue that, in its unfixed state, means the game often feels unfair, even when you’re winning. The computer simply isn’t playing by the same rules.
Outside of the impressively lengthy main game, which takes place over a series of books and weighs in at somewhere well over the ten-hour mark, there’s a collection of mini-games to unlock. Often, these prove to be more enjoyable than the bulk of the experience, with imposed time limits and other such gubbins adding to the challenge and variety of options on offer. Indeed, though often delightful, the main game struggles to remain captivating by its final stages, and with a couple of steep difficulty ramps in what is mechanically identical to what’s come before, it starts to get a little wearying by the end point. It’s perfect, perhaps, for a number of quick plays over a longer period, rather than a single mad dash for the finish line.
Predictably, the real star here is the sheer amount of cute, barmy humour, overflowing from every inch of the game. One-liners delivered by enemy characters are superb, and elements of the gloriously silly story are truly inspired. It’s absolutely, unmistakably a PopCap game. It’s just that it’s not quite PopCap at their best.