Review: Jumble Madness (Nintendo DS)


Jumble Madness
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: UClick
Publisher: Destineer
Release Date: 01/20/2009

Currently the Wii is considered the redefining experience for people who play video games casually. While it is true that the system has a demographic that usually wouldn’t touch a video game, to me the Nintendo DS is still has the best library of games for just about everyone. I’m not just talking about those animal simulators that end in a Z, I’m talking about portable versions of the New York Times Crosswords, and games that help teach cooking and language skills. The Nintendo DS possibly has the most diverse library of games of any system ever created.

Jumble Madness is a prime example of a game that might not appeal to all people who play video games, but it should appeal to anyone who likes anagrams or just mind puzzles to work out while on the bus or train.

Jumble Madness is a collection of anagram puzzles. These are based off of the puzzles that you can generally find in your local newspaper. The point of these games is to try to find the right word out of a jumbled set of letters.

There are three main modes and two different multiplayer modes.

Daily Jumble is a mode that will likely be the most familiar to anyone who picks up and plays the game. This is pretty much the same sort of puzzle you will find in your daily paper. Four words will be on the left side of the bottom screen. The letters of these words are mixed up, and using the stylus you put the letters in order to form the correct word. There will be specific places where the letters you place correspond to the letters that are in the final puzzle. After solving all four words the game will display a comic where the last word or words of the punchline will be made up of the specific letters of the other words you solved before. At that point it’s up to you to place the letters in the right order.

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Then there is Crossword Jumble. In Crossword Jumble the game will display a small crossword on the bottom screen and clues on the top of the screen. Underneath the clues will be the answer, except the letters will be jumbled. On the touch screen you will need to select the correct box and then in a space provided write in the letter with the stylus. Like the Daily Jumble, Crossword Jumble will present another question where the answer is made up of the letters of the previous puzzles. These aren’t puns like the Daily Jumble though; these are actually questions that are based on history.

For the last of the single player games there is Jumble Madness. This is pretty much the meat of the game. There’s a story where you are a character that travels around the world looking for items you have misplaced. There is one main puzzle and two sub-puzzles for every location. The main puzzle is always a Jumble Jong puzzle. Jumble Jong mixes the game styles of Word Soup, Mahjong, and Anagrams. There is your typical Mahjong tiles and layout, except there are letters written on each tile. Points are made by spelling out words with the available tiles. The tiles on the outside of the layout are the ones you have access to, like Mahjong, and once you’ve spelled a word they are removed, giving you access to more tiles/letters. While spelling words will give you points, the words only give you a few points overall. In Jumble Jong there will be a box with three words that are jumbled. If you can figure out what words these are, and find the right tile letters to spell these words, that will give you the most points. The sub-puzzles in Jumble Madness will mix in different Daily Jumble and Crossword Jumble puzzles, with a certain score that will need to be met in order to gain the item.

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As for multiplayer modes, there’s a version of the Jumble Jong game that’s referred to as Jumble Jong Versus. This is pretty much a race to spell the most words, clear the board or score the most points against an opponent.

Then there is Jumble Rumble. Jumble Rumble actually is comprised of two variations of the Daily Jumble puzzle. There is Word Mastery, where the goal is to spell the most words within a given time limit, and Word Racer, where there is one word given and it’s a race to unscramble the word.

The multiplayer is multi-cart multiplayer, so anyone you plan on playing the game with will need to own a version of the game. The game also lets you send a demo puzzle to another person so they can try it out.

All three of the single player modes provide quite a bit of replayability. Both Daily Jumble and Crossword Jumble include a years worth of puzzles to complete. Then there are the puzzles to do in Jumble Madness. That’s a lot of anagrams. Every game has two different types of play, there is timed mode, which is for score and the longer it takes to solve the less of a multiplier you receive, and relaxed, which has no score or time limit. Jumble Madness is purely score-based.

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Graphically everything is kept pretty simple, but in the case of this game that’s perfect. There is little that the game needs to display well other than the letters required for the puzzles and the comic, which is in black and white. In Jumble Madness the game has different generic backgrounds of various world locations, and the characters in the story part are represented using the same art style as the black and white comic portion of the game. It’s not pushing the limits of the DS by any means, but considering the nature of the game what is displayed here is functional for the purpose of solving the anagrams. It is simple and without clutter as it should be.

As far as sound goes there’s an inoffensive light soundtrack that loops in the background. It would’ve been nice if they had some more variety to the background music, except like with the graphics it really isn’t necessary for this style of game.

The game controls fairly well with a few issues. Daily Jumble and Jumble Jong control just fine since for Daily Jumble you need only to drag and drop letters, and for Jumble Jong you just need to tap them. In Crossword Jumble you need to actually write out the letter, and that is where the game has some issues. The detection system that is used in the game to try and figure out what letter you are writing is pretty flawed. This is especially frustrating if you play timed mode for score and the game constantly keeps thinking you wrote an I instead of A or G instead of I. I found in a lot of cases that the game would recognize the lower case version of the letter when it wouldn’t recognize the upper case version, but that sort of sucks when you are racing against time and the game doesn’t understand the letter you are attempting to input.

Difficulty level really depends on the person playing. If you get stuck on a question you can always use a hint. Hints subtract score in a timed game, but you can use hints to find all of the answers to the puzzles, then quit, go back to the puzzle and quickly fill it in. Of course if you are playing the game to solve anagrams, this method kind of goes against the whole reason for playing the game, but it is an option if you can’t figure out an answer no matter what.

One thing that’s a nice addition is the fact that this game has unlockable accolades. These accolades work exactly like achievements in a game for the Xbox, and while they really don’t serve any purpose, they give an additional reason to keep playing a game and it’s surprising to see more and more DS games use a reward system like this.

When it comes down to it though, it really depends on if you like anagram puzzles or not. Personally I love anagrams, they’re like some weird OCD style obsession with me. Because of that I don’t just like Jumble Madness, for a few days I was completely hooked. Jumble Madness does exactly what it advertises, provides a couple of variations to anagram puzzles in a easy to pick up and play form that’s also portable. This is a perfect game to play on the bus or train or during long car/plane trips. If you don’t like anagram puzzles, then you will not like this game.

The worst things I can say about the game is the Crossword Jumble writing recognition isn’t very precise, some of the Jumble Jong anagrams repeat too often, and while the game is $19.99 you can play these variations and others for free at Jumble.com. Of course on the site you can only play the one daily puzzle at a time, but you will have access to more types of games and it costs nothing.

Still, for $19.99, you get a good portable version of hundreds of anagram puzzles.

The Scores:
Modes: Good
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Below Average
Control/Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Great
Balance: Good
Originality: Great
Addictiveness: Incredible
Appeal: Below Average
Miscellaneous: Good

Final Score: Enjoyable Game

Short Attention Span Summary:
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