BOOKWORM / Popcap / Gameboy Advance
 
 
In the midst of Popcap's "throw clones of every single old arcade puzzle game at the wall and see what sticks" blizzard of the early 2000s came this anomaly. It's actually a pretty creative take on word jumble puzzles with a bit of Puyo Puyo mixed in.

You start out with a screen full of letter tiles and are tasked with stringing words together out of tiles that are adjacent. Once a word is created, the tiles used to create it disappear, and new tiles fall in from the top of the screen to take their place. Words have to be 3 letters or longer; there's plenty of 3-letter words laying about at any given time, but make more than 2 or so in a row and you're penalized with a red tile. If any red tiles manage to reach the bottom of the screen, it's game over, but you can wipe them out by incorporating them in a word. String together words of five letters or more and you might be rewarded with a special colored tile, which gives you a points multiplier when you work it into a word.
 


I'm impressed with Bookworm's vocabulary. It doesn't allow people or place names (for the most part), but I've yet to encounter a word that you can find in the dictionary that the game doesn't recognize. On top of that, it recognizes a whole bunch of slang as well, and even some archaic English words.

What I'm not impressed with is that this GBA port is as barebones as the freely available version on Popcap's website. In the paid PC version and the more robust ports, there's an additional mode of play called "Action" mode that continuously drops new tiles into the playfield rather than giving you turns with infinite time. Once you get used to the game, there's really no challenge to the "Classic" turn-based mode here, as it's easy to constantly find 4-letter+ words and never get a red tile dropped on you. So "Action" mode is basically mandatory if you want any longevity out of the game, but it's missing in this port. Music in this port is pretty atrocious too, might as well just turn the sound off. And there's really nothing to play for other than to beat your previous high score.

If you want a handheld version of Bookworm, it was ported to the DS and pretty much every type of smartphone ever made, so maybe look to one of those versions instead. It's really a pretty fun little casual pick-up-and-play game, it's just that this particular port is kind of lame.
 
 
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