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Scruzzleword mixes crossword clues with letter rearrangement to create a kind of alphabetical sudoku that has the potential to challenge even word game experts. While, in the end, I feel that it's not as satisfying as it is demanding, it certainly offers a diverting and novel experience.
I must confess that it's been somewhat difficult preparing a review this week. The simple reason for this is that my wife has discovered that she too rather likes some of the games on my Touch, and as a result it's been tough for me to find it both unoccupied and carrying any charge. However, in the brief stints of play that I have been able to steal, I have been mostly playing this oddly-named word game which has left me with mixed feelings.
Scruzzleword presents its investigator with a series of puzzles that are part crossword, part jigsaw, requiring a grid of letters to be rearranged to form words running both vertically and horizontally. Touching on a letter highlighted gold, of which four are present at the start of each puzzle, reveals crossword style clues for the two words (down and across) of which that letter is a part. The idea is to swap the correct letters into the correct places, and in so doing reveal more clues. All of this happens against the clock.
As a big fan of crosswords, Scrabble and word games like the cube-shaking classic Boggle, the appeal came of little to no surprise.
The first few times I played Scruzzleword (I still can't quite reconcile myself to the name I'm afraid - what were they thinking?) I found myself drawn in quite rapidly. However, as a big fan of crosswords, Scrabble and word games like the cube-shaking classic Boggle, the appeal came of little to no surprise. What I was slightly unprepared for was how quickly the novelty seemed to wear off.
One major problem is the pool of words. I had only done three puzzles before I encountered a repeated answer (same word and same clue). Attempts to conclude that I had suffered at the hands of a statistically unlikely event were thwarted when I confronted another repeat two puzzles later, and then two repeats five puzzles after that. Seemingly counter-logically, the majority of the repeats that I've encountered are with three letter words, which I assume would have a much more densely populated pool of potential options than those with, say, eight or nine letters.
After boring relatively rapidly with attempts to better my best time (an uneasy comparison anyway considering that there are fifty different types of puzzle), I stepped up from Beginner to Challenge Mode. Somewhat surprisingly, considering it differs for its easier cousin by only one small rule, presented an almost completely different game.
In Challenge Mode, only gold letters that have no other golds adjacent to them will yield their clues. Yeah that sounded like a pretty insignificant different to me when I first read it too. In actual fact thought it makes all the difference. For a start, you obviously cannot continue to simply rearrange and fix the letters as soon as you solve a clue, but instead must choose a few tactical correct rearrangements and then remember which letters will eventually go elsewhere.
The puzzles in Challenge Mode are consistently challenging and feel like a serious investment of time.
Furthermore, this twist also serves to seriously counteract the other major weakness with Beginner Mode, namely that even if you are stuck with regard to the clues (which is frankly unlikely), you can simply swap letters at random to see if you throw up any new matches. In fact, in Challenge Mode you must be as aware of the location of the letter that you are swapping ‘out' as you are of the one you are focussed on swapping ‘in'.
Whereas I found beginner mode to be samey and bordering on pointlessly easy within a dozen or so games (of around 3 minutes each), the puzzles in Challenge Mode are consistently challenging and feel like a serious investment of time (9:47 is my current best time, but some have taken me over 15 minutes).
For me, the main downside is that as someone who can, when concentrating, do the cryptic crossword printed in my daily newspaper of choice (and made available online) in around quarter of an hour, I just don't get anywhere near the same level of satisfaction from a similar investment of time and mental energy in a Scruzzleword puzzle.
In an attempt to get you all some value out of my wife's currently extensive amount of Touch-time, I suggested a few days ago that she too tackle some Scruzzleword puzzles and give me some feedback. Alas, right now, she is far too into Peggle to care about anything else. I'm just hoping she doesn't discover the Toy Bot Diaries games, I may never see my Touch again.
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