Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ten naughty incy wincy spiders

WordWeb Deluxe
Game Category: Casual, Word, Kids
Developer / Distributor: GamesCafe.com
Release Date: 12 Nov 2007 
Rating: ESRB - Everyone

Introduction
Word games like Scrabble and Boggle have probably been in our lives at one time or another. There's a certain quality of fun when playing these enriching games; you get to plumb the depths of your mind for the obscure words that nets you as many points as possible against your opponents.

GamesCafe.com, a five year old developer based in Calgary AB, Canada has given the world a new type of word game - WordWeb Deluxe (WWD). This is a (single player only) game that uses hexagonal tiles placed together to form unique layouts.

The story in WWD is pretty straightforward - three kids must cleanse their house of ten nasty spiders who have grown super intelligent after a home chemistry experiment gone terribly wrong. The spiders' only wish is to take over the entire house for themselves. WWD may be aimed at kids since it features cute "Pixar like graphics". However, even adults can have a go at this game since it comes equipped with a 175,000 Princeton/Res dictionary, so you can rest assured that even your 16 letter words should be legitimately recognized by it.

What a tangled web we weave...
Game Play
There are two modes to the game - House Cleaning and Survival. House Cleaning is where you will go through a quest comprising 60 game boards. Survival is sort of like an endless game where you keep on finding as many words as possible.

In House Cleaning mode, the game's story and game play rules graces your monitor in just a couple of screens. The story tells us of how three siblings who are home alone get into trouble after the youngest one bumps into elder sis and topples her potent test tube onto a cluster of ten spiders. The spiders gain intelligence and become intent on taking over their house, so it's up to the three to win back their home before it is entirely wrested from them.

Setting up for a disaster to happen
There are 10 levels to the game, each one representing a room of the house. Each room has six sub-levels, with the first five being a continuation of the previous sub-level. The last sub-level is a fight against the boss spider of that room. As you can see, you can be sure of a pretty long play time.

The game's mechanic is pretty straightforward. You will be playing on a hexgonal board filled with letters. At least one of the three kids will appear on the board. Your objective is not to let the webs claim the hexagon that a kid is occupying. This is easier said than done though. You need to remove webs by forming words over hexagons. Some webs are stronger, so you must form words over those hexagons twice before the webs are cleaned out.

Rules of the game
At the start of every level, you are given a number of coins. You will also notice a bank of green tiles at the left side of the screen; these tiles are there to help you. You drag green tiles from the bank to a hexagon of your choice on the board to replace that letter. Doing this action decreases the number of coins you have by one. This way, you can form long words that scores you lots of points as well as more coins.

There is a bonus word that appears on the upper right side of the screen after you have been in the game for a while. If you form the bonus word you will get... well, I'll let you find that out for yourself.

I have let the webs spread until it's almost game over  

You are presented with three targets shown at the bottom center of the screen. To win the board, you must meet these three targets. The screenshot below shows a typical example - form 2 three-letter words, 2 four-letter words, and 2 five-letter words to complete the current game. The most important thing to note though is that there is no timer, so you don't have to feel pressured at all.

Sometimes after forming a word, you will see an exclamation mark next to the word you have formed. You can click on the icon and the meaning of the word is shown to you. It's like having a handy dictionary right by your side.

This first game board is a cinch!
You form words by traversing on the hexagonal board in any of 6 directions. Once a tile is used, it cannot be re-used. After forming a word, the letters on these hexagons are removed and new ones replace them. Much later on in the game, you will encounter common two letter combinations - for example "QU", "TH", "ED", "ES", and so on).

WWD comes with four types of special hexagons. You will be introduced to them gradually, so don't worry too much about it. A box will pop up to explain what these hexagons will do. They are:
  • Gemstones - A gemstone acts sort of like a bonus hexagon. There are five colors of gemstones and each provide different bonuses to your score.
  • Wild Tiles - Instead of a letter, you get a star symbol. This represents a joker tile and can be used to represent any letter of the alphabet.
  • Iron Tiles - The letters on these tiles never change even after you form a word using them.
  • Spider Egg Tiles - This tile penalizes you by creating spider webs on all hexagons for the entire word you have created.
Handled rather well, I'd say

The AI in the game is involved in growing the spider webs. Each room has a particular nasty looking spider who will make life difficult for you. Every few turns, certain hexagons containing spider webs will turn red. This is an indication that these spider webs will expand their reach on the next turn. Try to get rid of them before its too late.

As you form words, infected hexagons are cleaned of webs. If you eventually clean all webs, you will be awarded a token amount of coins. You will have for yourself some temporary idyllic peace from the irritating spiders. Don't let down your guard though, for new spiders will drop down anytime to attack your board again.

Hey! No fair!
To present a further sense of achievement, WWD also rewards you with a list of trophies. You can view these rewards in the trophy room and boast to your parents / friends about your achievements. There are rewards such as the 10 to 16 letter word medal / plaque, 5,000 point word medal, Clear the board of all webs 10 times, and so on.

Finally, a few words about Survival mode. Survival mode is an endless game mode that has you playing against the spiders. This is quite a fun time killer that can zap away your life as you continue playing it. Luckily, you can return to your game if you exit, as it saves the last game state for you.

My growing trophy collection

Graphics
The storyboards you see at the start of the WWD is rather nicely drawn. It does have that Pixar quality look. But I felt that there was not enough of that in the game. The interface is nicely organized and you get to see a close up of the nasty spider boss who guards the current room that you are cleaning. I did however notice the hexagonal tile board suffering from some graphical scaling issues. This to me was a minor issue.

Audio
The music is reasonably catchy and addictive humming material, so no complaints there. The sound effects are sharp and decent for a game that boasts tiles and power-ups.

Elementary my dear Watson
Pros:
  • This is a neat little game that helps you improve your vocabulary. It may seem derivative of Boggle, but you will immediately notice the differences the minute you start playing it.
  • There is the added bonus feature that allows you to see the meaning for a majority of words.
  • With absolutely no time constraints to worry about, this game is such a breath of fresh air.
  • Nice trophies to collect.
The game accepts COLOR and COLOUR

Cons:
  • Only two modes - House Cleaning and Survival. The game definitely could have benefited from more game modes.
  • No time limit equals no challenge? You decide. 
  • No hints whatsoever to help you with forming your own words, a kids mode would have helped.
  • Some tough board layouts later in the House Cleaning game. Get ready to be frustrated.
  • No way to update the dictionary with new words or modern jargon / slang. 
Not again!
Conclusion
It's not everyday that you can get to play a refreshing word game like this one. WordWeb Deluxe has given us an interesting game play mechanic that has you forming words on a hexagonal game board while trying to eliminate spider webs that only want to spoil your day.

Here's how I did for Level 5
I enjoyed playing WordWeb Deluxe and loved trying to key in long words to win me some nice trophies. Of course, the Internet helped me greatly so I don't have to rack my brains dreaming up 16 letter words like absentmindedness and zoophysiologists. I am definitely going to introduce this game to my daughter when she is old enough, and this game is going to be great with me sitting at her side teaching her to key in words to wipe out the ten naughty incy wincy spiders.

Daily PC Game Review Score: 7.5 / 10
Review Date: 8 Jun 2011

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