Feed the bookworm, your mind

First impressions

We can’t even remember how we first got turned onto this game. It might have even been that we were looking to download Bejeweled and got this by mistake (both are produced by PopCap), but it didn’t take us long to be absolutely hooked.

We had always been interested in words, their spelling, their definitions … which probably explains why we’re considered such riveting company at parties. Regardless, our Scrabble-like personalities were absolutely drawn in by this game that awards high scores for long words, and after a number of levels, ups the challenge by setting some letter tiles on fire. Who would have thought that spelling could be such a heart-thumping experience?

How it works

Installation takes no time at all, and suddenly you are face to face with the main menu screen. You can choose the classic game or the timed version. Classic is the good way to start to get used to it. You can always get into the timed option once you’re more comfortable.

You will be faced with a hungry bookworm up in the top left-hand corner of the screen getting ready to eat some words, and columns of letters in a grid. Now you have to construct words by using adjoining tiles; backward, forward … it doesn’t matter, so long as they are adjoined. The longer the words, the higher the points you’ll receive.

If you get some real humdingers (which would be a great word, by the way) you’ll start to see shiny diamond-like tiles popping up in such colours as green, blue and yellow. Use them in a word and you’ll be getting some serious points. Each level requires that you get a certain score to complete it before you move onto the next one, and you’ll receive a goodly number of statistics at the end of each one. You’ll see your score, the longest word you managed and the highest number of points you got for one single word.

As you move up through the levels, some more chances for extra points come up in the form of bonus words you have to complete, but beware the burning tiles. Once they start appearing you’ll want to use them and fast, because as they burn a fiery trail to the bottom of your screen, they are threatening to set fire to your library and end your game. They are inevitable as you advance further and further, but you can keep them to a minimum by creating long words. Short words will bring on more of them. Watch the trap of ending up with loads of difficult letters bunched together in certain areas. This is covered in “When we played.”

When we played

We fancied we were pretty terrific at this whole word construction thing, and at the beginning found it a piece of cake. We were being a bit lazy at the start, going with “are” and “tab” and “dogs” which were really no challenge. After a while, however, we learned how to manipulate columns by using up letters in them so we could get others and make bigger words. We became pretty keen on those shiny tiles that meant big point payoffs. When the burning tiles first began to rear their ugly heads, we thought nothing of them. They were only showing up from time to time, so we’d quickly get rid of them in short words and go back to concentrating on bonus words. We were fools flying too close to the sun on wings of chocolate. After a while groups of burning tiles were appearing, and as we had not focused on the fact that we had a crazy amount of “Qu”, “Z”, “U” and “Y” tiles at the bottom of our screen, we found ourselves in a nasty situation where we simply could not make words fast enough to get rid of all the burning tiles. The result was a fried library and paradise lost. When we began the next time from scratch, we resolved to keep an eye on things and learned not to use up more familiar consonants and vowels in a manner that would leave us with a bunch of drek on the ground floor.

Final thoughts

This is an absolutely brilliant game for anyone who has a fascination with crosswords, Scrabble or anything similar. It will give the definition for a majority of the words, will let you know if you’ve constructed a word that doesn’t exist, and introduces you to words you never knew existed until you were desperate (thank GOODNESS for “Qua”!) It can be a teaching tool for teens, or just fun for teens and adults. Super duper fun.

Pros: Highly addictive. Great learning tool but fun as well. No need for Internet connection. In certain versions you can get new tiles, but it’ll cost you in some extra burning tiles.

Cons: There is no way to save earlier versions of your game as you go, so once that library burns you have to start from scratch again.

BOOKWORM

Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)

Seller: PopCap

Cost: Free and up. $2.99 as an app

Devices: Windows-based machines, Apple machines, Androids, iOS devices

Four stars

Who would have thought that spelling could be such a heart-thumping experience?