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KrissX engages and educates with a simple word puzzle on XBLA. After the curriculum obbsessed clasroom learning, a little light haphazzard challenge is more that welcome in my book.
Let's be clear from the off, Regolith Games' Xbox Live debut, KrissX, is a word puzzle game. I know it's not for everyone, but cozying up on the sofa with a couple of chocolate digestives, a warm cup of PG, and 30 minutes of Countdown is my idea of daytime heaven. If you're anything like me, then KrissX will provide a stimulating distraction from Live's litany of soulless twin-stick shooters.
On the face of it, KrissX is a very simple game - in the same camp as Encleverment Experience on XBLA - you make your way through one crossword after another, solving the puzzles by rearranging the letters in each jumbled up word. To give players a fighting chance, little clues will pop up, hinting at each answer's meaning. Even if that doesn't help, each puzzle in the main campaign mode has a very generous time limit.
If you want it to, KrissX can provide simplistic wordplay at your own gentle pace, all to the backdrop of relaxing backgrounds like the auburn of an autumnal crop field or the silhouettes of snow-laden trees against a wintery landscape.
Whether it ends up challenging you or not depends on your own Dictionary Corner skills.
But KrissX can be more than simply serene. In fact, it quickly mixes things up to provide incentives for those looking to prove their mental agility in a number of areas. There's performances scores and ratings on offer based on how quickly you complete each puzzle. There's also colour-coded bonus spheres that appear when you complete words and puzzles. Grabbing these spheres proves to be very rewarding, offering bonus time, points, and can even help by rearranging unsolved words for you. If you're lucky, one might solve the whole puzzle with a 'special cascade', bringing in a fantastic score as well as a neat achievement.
Very young learners will get outgunned by the challenge quite quickly. As you make your way through the campaign, the puzzles get steadily tougher and the spheres steadily more useful. Whether it ends up challenging you or not depends on your own Dictionary Corner skills, although I'll immodestly admit that, even after a couple of hours worth of rearranging letters, KrissX didn't really trouble my noggin. Then again, KrissX also represents a burgeoning group of Live games that aren't just for adults, and when viewed in that perspective, it shines far more brightly.
If you get back from work a little too late for Countdown, it's certainly at least worth a look.
All the game's opening mechanics and all facets later introduced are explained with informative text and explicit video tutorials, breaking down any difficulty barriers. The inclusion of leaderboards, awards, a variety of modes, and an impressive roster of over 3,500 puzzles (with downloadable ones on the way) all provide incentive and longevity for younger players too. As does a solid, thought-out catalogue of achievements - make sure you get the kids to play on your gamertag.
Hardened puzzle fans, along with odler students, may find KrissX gets repetitive rapidly if they aren't able to restrain themselves to infrequent bites, and the allure of the colourful spheres will likely evolve into an annoying distraction from actually solving the puzzles. Nonetheless, KrissX has buckets of merit as a friendly, bright and educational Live game. If you get back from work a little too late for Countdown, it's certainly at least worth a look at a welcoming 800 points. Not that there's any replacement for Countdown, of course.
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