Wednesday, January 21, 2015

uWordsmith (Wii U eShop) Review

I'm in a "reviewing games" kind of mindset, so here's a second review for your Wednesday afternoon. It's for another Wii U eShop game that released last Thursday in North America, uWordsmith from CHUDCHUD Industries. Does this console take on a mobile game work?

A picture is worth one word. 
Seriously. That's how this game works.

Wordsmith is a game that has been on mobile devices, and it is now making the leap onto consoles. Well, at least ONE console, with uWordsmith for the Wii U. Although the price is very attractive, you get what you pay for with a relatively small number of overall puzzles available to you. Is uWordsmith still worth it, or is the letter this word puzzle game gets is an "F"?

The dual screened relationship between the Wii U GamePad and the TV screen is a clever one, even if it doesn't feel natural 100% of the time. How it works is that a picture is shown on the TV screen while the Wii U GamePad screen shows a series of scrambled letters that must be re-positioned to spell out what the picture is trying to represent. 

The two screen implementation is smart in uWordsmith.
I say "trying" because sometimes the pictures are a bit too nebulous for their own good. For instance, the word associated with a picture of a skateboarder jumping would be nigh impossible for me to have figured out had I not played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games growing up, knowing what the word "ollie" was. There is nothing worse than not being able to complete a series of pictures and words because you can't figure out what the picture shown is supposed to represent. (Though you can cheat and see all of the words in the game by viewing the credits via the image URL sources.)

I have to admit that putting a picture on the TV screen and using the GamePad to shuffle around the letters to form a word is pretty creative, but it can sometimes be an annoyance. Hard difficulties give you precious few seconds to work with, thus making the transition between looking at the TV screen and then the GamePad screen one that can sometimes mess you over as it wastes a valuable second of time. 

That's definitely a monkey, but
there aren't enough letters!
The major single player mode in uWordsmith is Challenge Mode. This is a series of 16 different categories ranging from food to sport, vehicles to buildings. Each category has approximately 15 words associated with it and three different difficulties. The goal is to complete all of the word and picture puzzles before time runs out. 

Each difficulty in Challenge Mode presents a different... ahem... challenge to them. Easy gives you plenty of time to come up with an answer, while Medium gives you less time and has one letter already placed in the puzzle answer. Finally, Hard allows you even less time (almost ridiculously so), and it puts two letters in the puzzle. Most of the time these letters already placed in the puzzle are not in the actual solution. 

Completing all of the puzzles in a given category on a given difficulty rewards you with a star. Stars unlock new categories in Challenge Mode, and they also unlock a completely new mode for solo and multiplayer play. 

Just like doing well in third grade, if you
do well in Challenge mode, you earn a gold star!
Speaking of the latter, local multiplayer is available in both the Arcade and Mosaic modes. The first has you go through as many pictures and words as possible until you get a game over (i.e. time runs out). You are scored-- just like in every other mode-- by how quickly you solve each word. The more seconds left on the countdown timer when a word is solved, the more points you are awarded with. Once one player plays through Arcade Mode, the next gets a turn until all players have gone. The player with highest point total is the overall winner. 

Mosaic is a mode that needs to be unlocked via stars earned from Challenge mode. This presents players with a pixelated image that slowly becomes clearer over time. Like Arcade, every picture/word combination in uWordsmith is used in Mosaic, and it can be quite fun trying to guess what a word is when the picture is a bunch of incomprehensible pixels. 

Mosaic is my favorite of the three modes.
After playing uWordsmith for about an hour's time, you quickly realize the game's most fundamental flaw-- a lack of content. Challenge Mode's categories always have the same 15-18 words associated with them. Multiply that by 16 and you get how many puzzles are available in the game. It gets to a point where the challenge isn't figuring out what the picture shown on the TV screen is, but rather feverishly trying to unscramble the letters given to you on the Wii U GamePad screen. This eventually makes Challenge Mode a game about memorization and quick reflexes rather than intelligence. Sure, it makes Hard mode a lot easier, but the small amount of overall words is rather unfortunate for this type of game. It would be like if a Sudoku game only had five puzzles to it and the goal afterwards was to complete each as fast as possible. It misses the intended point of the game.

Despite the lack of a sizable amount of words and puzzles to it, uWordsmith is an entertaining romp, and it's made better with friends and family. Though the game will quickly turn from figuring out what words the game is trying to convey from a given picture to a time trial of sorts, uWordsmith is definitely worth the asking price of $1.99. That price makes the comparatively small number of puzzles sting much less. 

[SPC Says: 6.0/10]

Review copy provided by CHUDCHUD Industries.

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