Fans of Mahjong Solitaire and Scrabble will find addictive fun in this budget priced DS word based puzzle game.
WordJong is a pretty straight forward game: make words out of individually lettered tiles. The longer the word, the more points earned. While this rule set may sound simple, it can initially be a bit confusing as there is no tutorial of any kind. The game just assumes that you already know how to play and throws you right into the mix without any explanation. Yes, you can look in the instruction book that comes bundled with the game or you can read the in-game instruction manual through the options screen, but a turn-by-turn tutorial would have been a much welcomed feature.
After you play a few rounds of WordJong, the player should have figured out all the rules of gameplay. The main thing to remember is the fact that the player cannot play with any tile on the board. Only tiles that are isolated and only touching another tile on one side can be used. But the game displays this by highlighting playable tiles and simply shading all the remaining ones.
The gameplay might be addicting but there are definitely some problems with it. First, the player is not penalized for lifting tiles off the grid. This means that a player can essentially tap any highlighted tile, forming a word that does not exist, just to see what lies deeper into the stack. For example, say the player wanted use the letter “k” to spell a long word that would harbor huge points but did not see one on the board. This means that it would be perfectly acceptable for this player to randomly click around until this letter “k” tile is spotted. Then, the player can simply tap the “undo” button to re-initialize everything and form a strategy to have that letter “k” tile to be revealed. While this can be seen as a form of cheating, it can also be seen as making players smarter because it causes players to concoct words on the fly, and important feature when playing multiplayer.
Even though this game retails for a cheaper price of $19.99, there are many multiplayer modes to keep this game in your DS game slot. This game offers single card link mode, pass the system hot-seat style, and Nintendo WiFi connection. Unfortunately, finding an opponent online took some time simply because no one was playing the game. But hopefully this problem will find a remedy as more and more people pick it up.
To keep gameplay a little more interesting, bombs and Wild tiles are added into the mix. If there comes a time when you just cannot figure out a word, then these tiles will be a life saver, especially since there is no in game hint system; which is my next gripe. There are times when the player will draw a blank and not see any possible word on the game board. However, you know there is still some sort of possible combination because the game did not display the Game Over screen. This becomes especially difficult when the player is left with only a handful of tiles. Just like a tutorial mode, a hint system that deducts a point penalty for each use would have been a welcomed addition.
And besides multiplayer, the game contains a pretty well developed ranking system. Taking a note from Xbox Live, the player can earn medals for achieving certain accomplishments such as spelling a really long word. The game will even keep track of the date when you earned this achievement. There is an additional ranking system where the goal is to increase your point value, but this only becomes available if you clear the board with no tiles left over…a difficult accomplishment (especially with no hint system).
With a nod to the Brain Age games, WordJong features a daily puzzle mode. Here, the player can participate in a puzzle unique to that day, another reason to keep this game card close by.
Graphically, the game is not really anything special but it definitely gets the job done. With an eastern presentation (you actually compete against eastern animals like a panda and dragon) the game never loses sight of its original heritage. But unlike some recent DS games, this game’s soundtrack is somewhat hypnotic. The music is good enough to be kept on, but don’t be afraid to listen to your Mp3 player either.
Overall, WordJong is a pretty addictive game. And even though it is a budget title, there is plenty here to keep players word-smithing for a long time. As good as this game is, it would have been better with an optional tutorial to get players up to speed, and an in-game hint mode would have alleviated some of the game’s mild frustration. Slight flaws aside, WordJong is a great game to casual and puzzle gamers pleased.