By Mento 7 Comments
Or to be more precise, a blog about games that base their gameplay around creating words. There's been plenty of board games made in the past about constructing words to score points; chief among them being Scrabble and Boggle, both of which have received many video game adaptations over time. So this isn't a blog about those. Instead, I'm going to concentrate on a few examples that use words and letters in a bizarre or interesting way.
This week's a kind of short one, because I'm currently embroiled in a mighty challenge with a certain royal of interactive entertainment that I really should be getting on with. So either a "I'm so sorry" or "You'll be glad to hear" (delete as appropriate) about this bite-sized blog. Still got some comics though, don't worry.
5th Cell Media's Scribblenauts series is the current chief of this format, and one that still boggles (sorry) the mind when regarding how they managed to map a sprite to who-knows-how-many nouns in the English language that don't include alcohol for some reason. Oh Nintendo.
Scribblenauts' entire gimmick is having a situation or puzzle to solve, and having the protagonist cause items to spontaneously exist by writing their name in his notebook. Kind of like a reverse Death Note. Coupled with the "Puzzle stages" - which require very of the platforming action they purport to include and are more the thinking puzzles that the DS has always excelled at - are the "Action stages", which are literally Satan. That might sound like hyperbole or an inaccurate use of the word "literally", but Scribblenauts stages are literally the fallen angel Lucifer, cast down after his war against God to dwell for all eternity in a dark, forsaken place. I'm glad Super Scribblenauts relegated them to optional stages, but maybe for the next one they can go right ahead and delete them all together. This way they wouldn't have Abaddon in their game? Just a thought.
So PopCap makes a lot of casual puzzle games. While I'm blowing your minds, I'll quickly move onto Bookworm Adventures, one of their many products that should've grabbed the attention of the casual internet-browsing gamers before FarmVille snatched them all up. Bookworm Adventures stars a bookworm on an adventure or two, such is PopCap's pragmatic approach to naming their games. In order to get where a bookworm needs to get to, the little guy has to fight famous literary figures in a Boggle-style brawl to the death. Create words, factor in power-ups and bonuses, and take out your opponent before they do the same to you. Each enemy has their own array of special abilities, such as jumbling your grid of letters or causing poison damage over time. These enemies tend to range from ancient mythological figures right out of Homer's donut-fevered dreams about Odysseus and Hector of Troy to vampires and wolfguys out of more modern (well, 19th century more modern) classical tales of the macabre.
It's a game that might sound very familiar to anyone who enjoys Word Fighter or Dungeon Scroll (on an unrelated note, how the hell did the makers of Dungeon Scroll get that past ZeniMax's lawyers?) Layering an RPG level-building gimmick over a classic puzzle game staple might be about as overdone as adding cutscene QTE takedowns or horribly priced glowy gun DLC to your game, but all the same still manages to sound more enticing than the usual dry word games like those listed at the top of this article that rhyme with "Babble" or "Scrobble". For instance.
Base Jumpers is a goofy little platformer-slash-competitive multiplayer game for the old Atari ST and Amiga home computer systems which very few people on Giant Bomb will have ever played. Not in a "this is me being an elitist playing games no-one's heard of" way, but a "this game had a target audience of hundreds" kind of way. If you need proof, go to its wiki page and note how long and detailed the description of the game is. I know right? But back in the land of relevance, Base Jumpers has a completely arbitrary bonus point system based on madly catching loose letters that drop out of defeated enemies and smashed containers. Because it is a very fast-paced game, these letters tend to disappear quickly and players won't really be paying attention to them anyway as they have a vertically auto-scrolling screen to escape from.
Now, a lot of older action and platformer games have collectible letters. For the most part they simply spell out something related to the game and grant the player an extra life or continue (see KONG in any DKC game). But what stuck with me about Base Jumpers is that if the player collected three letters that just so happened to create a word, things would get crazy. Points, lives, bonus damage, bonus time, and all sorts of advantageous, disadvantageous and completely ineffectual special effects occur. Couple this with the already frantic and desperate gameplay - this is also simultaneous four-player - and you have something akin to Dead Island's notorious Truck Wars: Completely batshit. It's a wonderfully pointless feature that must've required a lot of work just to enhance a game's chaotic atmosphere. I'd love to see it reappear in other party games and competitive multiplayers, especially the ones that depend on that sort of manic insanity. It's not something you notice until it flashes on-screen closely followed by something completely unexpected.
Star Fox 64 3D
Deus Ex (With Bonus Alternate Ending Action)