|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Nuevo Retro Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 5, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Let me start this review by saying I'm a bona fide crossword geek! When I was a kid, I would help my grandmother fill out crosswords whenever she would come to visit, and my passion for word puzzles remains strong to this day. Needless to say, when I found out about Crosswords DS I was very interested. Despite my initial excitement, I was definitely a bit skeptical as to whether Nintendo could actually pull it off.
Thankfully, the sheer quality of Crosswords DS in terms of controllability, content variety, and progressive difficulty quickly allayed my fears. This is a great title that anyone even remotely interested in puzzles or casual games should pick up! Interestingly enough, Crosswords DS is more than just crosswords. In fact, there are two other excellent offerings, including Anagrams and Wordsearch. Between the three modes of play there are over 1,000 puzzles in all. In other words, there are literally tens of hours of gameplay to be had! Anagrams mode has players create a set amount of different words from just a handful of letters. In the beginning, players will only have to deal with three and four letter words, but as they progress, the difficulty gets downright nasty! Dragging letters around the touch screen, aligning and shuffling the letters, and scrolling through the word list is as easy as can be. Indeed, the control mechanic in all three puzzle types is so intuitive, developer Nuevo Retro Games has nearly achieved perfection!
Wordsearch is a puzzle type I enjoyed as a child but never got into as an adult. However, the massive word jumbles available in this title are stellar! Each word-search will provide players with a list of 14 to 42 words they need to find. The words are nicely hidden in an eye-fooling clutter of letters. Each page of puzzles has a theme such as animals, with a list of 20 numbered tiles from which to select. Highlighting words found from the list is extremely easy and makes completing a word-search that much more enjoyable.
It's nice to know that Crosswords DS has a good deal of puzzle variety by including Anagrams and Wordsearch. However, as the name implies, the Crossword portion is the true showstopper! There are four total levels of difficulty, but initially only two are available. As a result, you will have to work your way through the Easy and Medium selections before opening up the other two. Furthermore, as you blow through the crosswords, you will open up additional pages of puzzles as well as unlock the themed mystery puzzle at the bottom of each page.
These unlockable features do foment a sense of accomplishment, but I found the initial difficulty levels to be far too easy. Consequently, I had to slog through pages of unrewarding puzzles before I was able to get to the truly good stuff. You see, the first handful of puzzles are very small, full of silly clues, and can be completed in one to ten minutes. To be sure, these puzzles won't challenge teens or adults one iota. Thankfully, Crosswords DS significantly ups the ante over time, and players will be rewarded with puzzles that begin to resemble those found in their favorite periodical. I guess my only gripe would be that it takes too long to get there!
Each crossword is both timed and graded. This provides players with serious incentive to do well! Conveniently, a pause button and save function allow you to play at your leisure. There is also a hint and help system that ensures no puzzle will go unsolved. If you so choose, Crosswords DS will highlight incorrect letters in red via the Entry Assist feature or even provide you with additional clues and hints from the appropriate tabs. This help system doesn't come without a price, however. First of all, if you use the Entry Assist, you won't be awarded with the highest grade of A+ after the puzzle's completion. Second, there are only a limited number of Hint Points that can be used in any particular puzzle. Finally, asking the computer to solve a specific letter or word will give you a stern time penalty. Consequently, relying on your own noggin is the best course of action, but having the ability to access these crutches ensures 100% completion. It also makes the game accessible to a larger demographic.
Once again, the stylus-driven control scheme works almost flawlessly. Rarely will you ever have to rewrite a letter. However, the slight pause in letter recognition does seem to slightly slow the player down. This isn't much of a problem, but due to the timed component, one can't help but feel anxious for the system to move on to the next letter. I suspect this will be perceived as a minor fault by only uber-gamers; the rest of the casual gaming crowd will be quite happy with the technical performance.