Bookworm in Review: Casual Gaming Classic
Ask me about word puzzle games for the PC/Mac and I would have to point to Bookworm as the definitive game for the genre. Taking its cue from a popular expression for a book lover, the custodian of the library, Lex the Bookwarm is an adorable cartoony worm with spectacles, keeping watch over a crazy assortment of tiled letters that must be formed into words to keep Lex happy.
Bookworm took its sweet time before porting from the PC to the iPhone in mid-2009. In the meantime, a dizzying slew of word games have come out specifically on the iPhone platform – some original and some just variants of Bookworm – making competition quite stiff even for the casual game juggernaut PopCap Games.
There are two game modes – classic and timed; the former ideal for the casual player or newbie while the timed one is for the more experienced Bookworm player. Playing Bookworm is quite simple and easy to learn. Form words from the 7X7 grid of random letters – the minimum is three letters – but if you have a sharp eye and do a little planning, you can form longer words for more points. There’s another good reason for forming the longest words you possibly can – use too many short words in succession and you invite the wrath of the burning tiles. Burning tiles eat the other letters below within seconds. Failure to use them to form words pronto before they hit the bottom and it’s game over for you. At the same time, there are special green and yellow tiles that provide a neat multiplier for racking up more points to advance to the next level. If you run out of words or just panicking, you can shake your iPhone/iPod Touch to shuffle the tiles – at a price, though, since you get more burning tiles as penalty. Form certain words and you get to unlock collections (e.g. animals, food,etc.) – a nice touch to enhance the game’s replay value.
The PC game was likable and incredibly addictive – to an extent, this port delivers largely the same experience but customized for the iDevice. Instead of frantically typing words while beating the burning tiles, words can be tapped successively or traced along a path with the finger and tapping sends them to the library for points. Here’s where I had some problems – the tiles are too small and it’s hard to form words precision. It’s quite a challenge to undo misspelled words, especially when there are burning tiles left and right. The additional step of confirming the word by tapping it before sending it, while necessary, sometimes results in tapping another letter – requiring an undo, and so on.
While the game provides a collection of personal bests, it would be nice to see online scoreboard and social media integration especially since this game enjoys a huge following.
Amid a large and diverse offering of word puzzle games, Bookworm is and will always be a pleasure to play on any platform. Nothing beats this word puzzle classic, and at a friendly price you get tons of replay value and wordsmithing pleasure.