When I first heard about Nintendo’s Crosswords DS, I was looking forward to give it a try. I thought a game such as this one might help me and others beginners get a better hang of it, while providing some solid amusement.
The game breaks down into three sections: crosswords, word searches and anagrams. With over 1500 puzzles it claims to be perfect for everyone regardless of age or experience. However, what I discovered was an oversimplified word game, which will leave avid crossword enthusiasts hungry for a greater challenge. Read More...
The crosswords section offers four difficulty levels, two of which are locked until you advance further into the game. You start by accessing easy and medium modes, which are both quite basic. You can flip though 15 pages of 20 puzzles, which begin with simple 4x4 boards, and gradually expand to look like typical crosswords.
Having tried various puzzles in both difficulty levels, I found them to be disappointingly easy. I am not particularly strong at these types of puzzles, yet I was able to finish them all rather quickly even without using the hint system. While this may be a positive aspect for some, I also found many of the clues to be repetitive and uninspired. I wanted to try my hand at harder puzzles to see if these would provide an actual challenge, but was unable to unlock the mode during my over four hours of game play.
This led me to think that anyone who appreciates a New York Times crossword or similar would be bored to tears getting through these first puzzles, all in the hopes of someday getting to the juicy stuff.
If, on the other hand, you happen to find some of these puzzles difficult, there is always the possibility of using the clue system, which Nintendo touts as one of the games high points. For each puzzle, you receive a number of clue points, which you spend each time you use one of the hints. But using the hints will cost you time as well. For every additional clue you add one minute to your clock time, for a free letter it is three minutes and to reveal the entire word, five minutes. Obviously, the goal is to complete the puzzle in the least amount of time, so you may be better off using trial and error, rather than clues, as it may cost you less time in the end.
The word search category was a bit less disappointing, although it had problems of its own. This time, there are three difficulty levels, two of which are unlocked from the start, small and large. Each puzzle relates to a different theme. I found the small puzzles rather amusing; however, the problem lies with the larger puzzles. Due to the size limitations of the DS screen, scrolling vertically and horizontally is required to get around the board to find words. This rapidly became annoying as it made it much harder to spot the hidden words with this limited perspective.
The anagrams are decent enough and range between short, medium and long word difficulties. These go from three to six letter answers. It is pretty straight forward and the only issue I had was the lack of hint system. It would have been a perfect occasion to use the system, but instead, when you get stuck your only options are to use trial and error with every letter combination or to give up. Needless to say, this can be quite frustrating.
The game plays with the DS held sideways, like a book. The limited options menu does allow selecting the orientation, for left and right handed individuals. The text recognition is pretty accurate, and works whether you write with small letters or caps. I even tried using cursive, which it recognized for the most part. The game mostly had difficulty with “i”, “j” and “n”. Like most portable games, you are free to save and quit a puzzle at any time, and continue it later.
Crosswords DS’ graphics are average, but uninventive. Not much more there other than the puzzles themselves, no images to brighten things up. The credits are also straight text, which shows how little creativity went into game presentation. The audio was a bit more interesting, featuring loungy-jazz-elevator tunes, which sounded pretty good coming from the DS’ tiny speakers.
In retrospect, Crosswords DS left much to desire. With a $20 price tag, crossword fanatics may be sorely disappointed. However, it may be more adequate for a child who needs to widen his vocabulary. But contrary to what I initially believed, a wiser way to spend your time and money would be to pick up a good old-fashioned puzzle book.
+ Over 1500 puzzles
+ Hint system for crosswords
+ Relatively cheap
- Overly simple
- Repetitive clues
- Uninspired presentation
Game Forward score: 3/5