I like words. I even go so far to fancy myself as one of those indomitable writer types, wielding a pen for all things mighty and righteous and incredibly nerdy. It is with great reluctance that I write this particular column, however, for one simple fact: I suck at WordJong.
It's a simple game: clean interface, smooth gameplay, and a surprisingly entertaining mixture of classics Mahjong and Scrabble. The unholy union of these two titles brought about a gem of a game largely ignored by the DS-playing populace, though its relative obscurity might prove to be an advantage. It makes WordJong easier for all of you to track down, for one, but it also provides fewer people to compare my pathetic scores with. And that, my friends, is sweet.
Interested? Grab your handy dictionary and come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go, wherein this columnist's crippling shame manifests itself in an overabundance of big words.
The best way to describe WordJong is to talk instead about everyone's two favorite games: Scrabble and Mahjong. Take the latter and imagine the American approach to the game, with a series of tiles stacked atop one another in a variety of intricate patterns. Replace those tiles' designs with all of the letters of the English alphabet and suddenly you have a fun take on Scrabble, where you can only make words using the tiles at the top of each stack.
And that's it! Sure, there's some variety here and there with green-colored tiles, butterflies, and the ever-popular bombs, but the core gameplay revolves around making the biggest and most fanciful words you can with whatever letters you have available. Thankfully, WordJong comes with three different modes that offer fun twists on the formula, all of which are brilliant ways to spend a few minutes each day.
One such mode is appropriately labeled the Daily Puzzle, which offers a single WordJong puzzle for your enjoyment each day. It also comes packed with a high score to beat, providing two separate challenges for the same puzzle: clearing the board or racking up the points. Neither are as simple as they seem, so that daily dose of entertainment should come with a suitable level of challenge, too. Another nice touch is the ability to go back and play any daily puzzles you missed for this month or any of the previous ones, meaning latecomers to the nerd word party will still have plenty of material to work through.
If a puzzle a day simply won't suffice, you can always check out the Battle mode, which pits you against a variety of colorful animal characters in a serene Asian-themed setting. The gameplay doesn't change much, though you'll now take turns working on the same puzzle while trying to score more points than your foe. The difficulty jumps up with each new animal you unlock, providing an increasing challenge appropriate to your skill progression. Each match against one of your cuddly combatants lasts two rounds, so you shouldn't spend more than a few minutes in each battle. You have unlimited time to choose your next move, however, so feel free to take your time and rack up the points.
In fact, none of the game modes impose any kind of time limit on your turn, giving you all the seconds in the world to squander at your will. On one hand, so much free time turns each match into a calm, relaxing adventure, taking the Wordjong experience into pleasant territories. On the other, no pressure to think quickly means some matches can take much longer than they probably should, so you might have to exercise a little self-control when playing. You could always do what I do, of course, and pull together the smallest word possible whenever I'm having trouble stringing together something long and glorious. Here's a tip: poo is not in their dictionary. You'll be surprised at how many times it pops up.
A third option exists in the Temple Challenge mode, which pits you against a sequential series of puzzles. The gameplay doesn't change, though you now have experience points to contend with, as you'll gain them with every word you create. Those points pool into a ranking system, with the ultimate goal being to rise through the rankings and achieve Wordjong master status. It's a lot cooler than it sounds. Promise.
No matter what mode you play, however, you're in for a good time. Wordjong is an excellent representation of what Gaming to Go is all about: fun and fast gaming, the kind of title you can bring along for a quick burst of entertainment. It's a shame the game seemingly never reached the critical status of some of its puzzler peers, but now is as good a time as any to get in on the vocabulary action. If nothing else, Wordjong's pleasant marriage of Scrabble and Mahjong make it worth picking up, provided you love words as much as I do.
Stat time! These numbers I can give out. Seriously, don't ask about my scores.
Sleep time: Closing the lid doesn't bring up the pause screen or anything like that....not that it needs to. This isn't an action-packed game, folks.
Load time: It should take around twenty-five seconds to get into a Daily Puzzle.
Play time: A typical puzzle shouldn't run longer than five minutes, though it does depend on how long you want to devote to making big words.
Tick tock of the clock ringing in your ears? Tell your timepiece to shove it! We live busy lives, but remember this: there's always time to game. Check back with Gaming to Go every week for the latest and greatest titles you should spend your precious few minutes with.