3, 2, 1... Words Up!
DSiWare | EnjoyUp Games / CoderChild | 1 Player | Out Now | 200 Nintendo Points
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12th July 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Words Up has you entering four-to-seven-letter word combinations as a countdown clock winds down, trying to stay in the game for as long as you can. Let's say you get the following seven letters: B, M, U, L, E, T, R. Putting them together to spell "rule", a four-letter word, will add one extra second to the timer. If you grow the combination into a five-letter word like "lemur", that'll be five seconds added. Finally, six-letter words like "tumble" will add 10, and seven-letter words, the hardest ones to come by, will add 15. If you get stuck, you can press the refresh button to move your letters around as you would in a game of Scrabble. After going at it for a while and coming up with an unstated number of words, the game will grant you the ability to switch to a new set of letters. In Blitz Mode, the same standard rules apply except that your time limit is now three minutes instead of two, you don't have the ability to add to it, and every 30 seconds that go by will automatically switch to a new set of letters.
The main point of interest here is the fact that the top screen is used to list all manner of possible word combinations with at least one letter given as a hint. Words are listed in such a way that slight variations are grouped together, so "nets" will come after "nest", "sets" after "sent", "tees" after "teen", and so on. This system keeps things moving at a nice pace and mostly prevents players from struggling to come up with something as all the easy stuff is named off. Other than that, Words Up hardly needs any more explaining as it really is a simple and no-frills activity.
With the way the game is presented, Words Up doesn't give off a strong impression. A basic background image is used on the top screen to give you something to look at when participating in both modes, but there are no real changes to be seen like, say, a slideshow. Chirping sounds are used to try to make the experience more relaxing, but the music they have it set against is pretty dull and not at all soothing. Between that and the basic interface, there really isn't much else to say about the game's presentation other than it's adequate.
In considering how this game could have been improved, I happen to think that Classic Mode should've gone on for a bit longer. The two-minute time limit they have players working with in this mode means that gameplay is over very quickly. Understanding the rationale of the development team, when you look at the fact that word combinations can add to your timer as well as the unlockable ability to change your set of letters, there's this expectation that players will keep the momentum going so the original two-minute time is close to doubled by the time you put all your words together.
As fair as that may sound, this isn't how it all plays out in practice, and I'd say it's a slight oversight on their part due to having the whole dictionary of terms at their disclosure. What really ends up happening is five-, six-, and even seven-letter word combinations being thought of a little too late. As you suddenly realize what was there in front of you the whole time and say, "Oh, hey! I can spell silent, and tinsel...", and before you can add "listen" to that list, (ring!) the timer goes off. This happened so many times over the time I spent with this game, and it occurred to me that with this realistic setting likely being consistent with others, a leaderboard score in the 60,000 range seems totally out of reach for the average player. Unless, that is, they memorize all possible word combinations.
Actually, when you think about it, Words Up makes it easier for you to do just that, even though that's probably not your intention or goal. I don't mean with respect to the possibilities being listed on the top screen, although that does help; more that the letter sets appearing in the different sessions you involve yourself are repeated not too far down the road. Because of this, there were times where I didn't feel as challenged as I could have been because I was resorting to the same words that I had used just a few sessions ago. It should also be noted that I did enter at least two words that weren't picked up by the system but should have counted. So to me, they could've done a better job in those areas.
I will say, though, that I felt inclined to come back to this game more than I thought I would. The clue system does play a part in this as players will feel somewhat encouraged to think up words in ways that don't always amount to guesswork and jumbling letters together. If you're fluent in or at least familiar with other languages, you can switch the vocabulary from English to French, Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese. But even still, I can only see other people playing this once in a blue moon after they've seen a few rounds. Despite there being, as they say, "unlimited" opportunities to enjoy this game, the repeated letter sets and short time frame minimize the level to which the average player will want to get involved on the long-term. Not to mention, too, the game is light on content, and it doesn't take long before you feel like moving on and playing something else. Just as a side-note, actually, I do want to point out that the lack of an endless mode is somewhat understandable when you consider that the word possibilities aren't as extensive as they could have been.
There should be no surprises here: if you enjoy searches, crosswords, scrambles and any other word-related activities, more than likely you'll find something to like about 3, 2, 1... Words Up. While I don't think the game is a great success and it does lack certain measures of appeal, it mostly accomplishes what it sets out to do and serves as a decent offering for wordsmiths and developing vocabulary experts to check out in their spare time.
18/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 7/10 - A straightforward activity, listing of words to provide clues makes a difference, a few oversights with repeated sets and the time frame
Presentation 6/10 - Basic music and look and with no variety, tried to go for a relaxing approach but instead comes across as dull
Enjoyment 3/5 - Encouraged to keep the momentum going, word listings help create a pace, fairly quickly gets to a point where you want to move on
Extra Content 2/5 - Two modes but still light on content, lacks extended appeal, support for additional languages, most will only go to it once in a while
Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System