Cute graphics? Low system requirements? Addictive “Just one
more….” gameplay? Yup, it’s a new PopCap game. In Bookworm
Adventures Volume 2, you once again control Lex, the bespectacled
worm, as he travels from one literary locale to the next, spelling
out words from a collection of random letters and defeating foes
such as Papa Bear and Puss In Boots.
Bookworm Adventures Volume 2 isn’t a simple spelling game with
some graphics bolted on, though. As with its predecessor, Bookworm
Adventures 2 adds in elements from role-playing games. You win
magic items and potions as you travel, your Health Bar expands, and
you gain more tactical options. You also face foes with more
Gameplay in Bookworm Adventures is very straightforward, and no
reflexes are required, a blessing for the slowly graying gamer. On
one side of the screen is you; on the other, your foe. Down below
is a grid containing letters. Click some letters to spell out a
word, and then press “Attack!” Your word flies across the screen,
smacking the enemy. The longer your word and the more unusual
letters (such as X) it uses, the more damage you do. (For you
Warcraft players, think of “dog” as a green item, and “taxonomy” as
a purple epic. Got it? Good.) In addition, various magic items
change the value of a word. If you have Farmer Mac’s Almanac, for
example, adjectives do bonus damage. You are allowed only a small
set of magic items on each level (though you never lose those you
win and can swap them out between stages), so choose wisely!
The monsters you face will do things like stunning you (so you
miss a turn), or, worse, messing with your tiles. They will cause
some to be locked, some to deal no damage if you lose them, and
worse. They may even change your tiles randomly, so that great word
you almost had the letters for vanishes and you’re left with
nothing but a mix of “g,” “c,” and “k.”
Complaints? A few. Popcap has a very distinctive style, and
there’s a point at which you really begin to suffer from cuteness
overload. Bookworm Adventures teeters on that fine edge between
“Cute” and “Cloying.” More serious, at least to me, is that the
game is not very challenging–or, to be fair, the first hour of
gameplay isn’t. I made it to the final boss of the third chapter of
the first world with a full shelf of health potions and having not
died once during the prior game. Playing beyond the initial demo, I
finally died in a boss battle in the second “World.” It may get
harder yet–I know the Penny Arcade guys love this game, and
they’re “133t”–but it would be nice to feel a bit more stress
early on. Constantly losing is no fun–but constantly winning isn’t
a whole lot more fun. Popcap makes casual games and aims for an
audience with a low tolerance for frustration, and that’s fine, but
a difficulty slider would be nice.
This aside, any gamer who likes word games such as Boggle and
Scrabble will probably love Bookworm Adventures Volume 2.
Note: This trial version works for one hour of gameplay.
After that, you’ll have to buy the game to keep playing.