Genre: Word Puzzle
Publisher: UTV Ignition Games
Release Date: 01/25/12
Word games are perhaps the oldest form of gaming to exist, and when done right can be one of the more addicting types of games to play. Don’t believe me? Check out how many people play crossword puzzles, play Words With Friends (which is a near identical clone of Scrabble which has been played for decades), and so on. Hell, one of the fellow DHGF writers Chuck Platt turned me onto W.E.L.D.E.R., which is word game crack. As one of the oldest forms of gaming it is hard to really find a new spin on the word puzzle genre. Quarrel, which was originally released on the iOS market a year ago, comes to Xbox Live and tries to provide a new kind of word game experience for console players.
In a sea of action games, Quarrel is a bright, colorful game that has a lot of smartly designed game mechanics. The main theme of Quarrel is to create anagrams. Anagrams, to put it simply for those reading this that may not be aware, are when you take letters and form different words out of an assortment of letters. Think Boggle, kind of. Quarrel takes anagrams and mixes it together with a strategy game. When beginning a game, there will be a layout of different grids. Two to four players are given different marked of sections of the grid as their territory, which shares the same color as the player that controls that space. Little guys are dropped into these sectioned off spaces. Each of these troops represent a letter that you can use to make a word. Throughout the game of Quarrel you will move your guys onto adjacent squares, and vice versa, to invade those areas to control more spaces on the game board.
For example, if I have four guys on my space, and I invade a neighboring space which has three guys, then we both will be given 8 letters. I can make a word up to four letters in length since I have four guys, and the other player can only make a word using three. The letters are all assigned point values, like you might see in Scrabble, so the point is not to just make a word quickly, but to also try and make a word that will give you more points than the other player. With this even the person who has the fewer guys is not always at a disadvantage if they can spell a higher point word. If the other player manages to spell a higher word on defense then they keep their territory and might even take a prisoner from your crew. There is a time limit going on throughout so you might end up spelling nothing, or tie. In case of a tie, the game awards the fastest answer with the win.
After each turn the game awards another guy to every square, and you do not always need to attack another player. You can choose to build up reinforcements on a square, or transfer guys from one block you own to another block you own. There is a surprising amount of strategy involved in deciding when, where, and how you choose to invade another players square. For games of more than two players there are times when it is best to hold back and build up your reinforcements and let the other two players wipe each other out and then steamroll the map. One nice thing about the game is that during games of three to four players you are always active. When two other players are battling for the best word, the game gives you all the letters and a chance while they play to try and make the anagram. Spelling any word will add to a meter which will let you call in an extra reinforcement during battle, and solving the anagram will automatically get you an extra guy for back up.
Quarrel has a number of AI parters to play with, each with their own unique personalities. They’ve done a great job with their AI. Part of playing the game is learning the other player, if they are fast or slow with spelling words, how well they use the letters to create complex words or not, and if they’re aggressive or defensive when it comes to taking over territory. It’s weird to be playing a game feel like you are learning the personality of the AI players, but that is the way it feels in Quarrel.
In a great addition to the Xbox Live version is the ability to play online. On the iOS version of the game there is no multiplayer, a feature that seems noticeable for its absence as the game seems like a natural game to play with other people. However I was unable to test this out as on three separate occasions I tried to find either a Player or Ranked match, I could not find one. There is no offline split-screen multiplayer, which I was disappointed in. I think it would work for the game as the time limits prevent having enough time to really look at what the other player is spelling. This is exactly the kind of game I could play with my wife, and we were both unhappy to see that local multi was not an option.
Aside from the multiplayer, there are a number of differences between this and the iOS version. For example the game contains the same Quick Match, which as titled lets you set up a quick match, with the biggest difference is that there is no time limit to creating a word. You can create your own match, plus there’s the Domination mode, which is times and sees you conquer each board against specific computer AI. On the console version there is also a Showdown mode, which pits you against each computer AI, beginning from the lower word IQ ones to the extremely tough computer AI. The AI is really good in the game and the tougher computer players certainly will give you a challenge, Quarrel is probably the one game I’ve ever actually rage quit. Meaning the computer spelled the same word as me, only a second faster, in a win or die situation, and it caused me to yell profanities and turn the console off. Then I turned it right back on and started playing again.
Speaking of profanities, you can use them and also slang words in the single player game. Oddly there are some words, including swear words but also others that seem really out of place, that you can’t use online. This can be confusing when you know it works playing the computer.
There is also a Challenge mode, which essentially works like puzzles. The game challenges you to meet specific win conditions with certain obstacles places in your path. You still have to be good at the anagram part, but this really focuses on using efficient strategy with your troops and the board itself. This mode exists on the iOS as well as a daily challenge mode, however there are a specific number of challenges in the console version, I do not know if they plan on updating it like they do with the daily challenges. There are bronze, silver and gold medals which are given out depending on how well you do, what words you spell, and the time it took to do so, which makes replaying the game worthwhile.
Graphically the game looks great. Vibrant cartoon graphics that aren’t going to blow you away, but fit well with the setting. All of the little guys look like pirates, or Scotsmen, or aliens, and so on. On the iOS you can choose what guys you use, strangely I did not have this option in the Xbox version (unless I somehow completely missed it, it’s not under the options screen for sure).
As far as audio goes the background music works well, and the noises the troops make are cute and appropriate to how they look (the pirates say Yarr). There is a minor hitch in the sound, the sound effects and music kind of stuffer when there is too much going on. Especially the noise for when you get treasure or the end of every game when the screen floods with troops the sound becomes really choppy. This only lasts a second, but considering it happens every game I’m amazed that they didn’t catch it.
The game is very addictive. After playing this on the Xbox 360 I purchased the iOS version so that I could play it when I’m not at home. While it may not be the most original game since it is a version of the iOS game, the addition of multiplayer and a few modes are strong additions to the game. After playing both I can say that the controls work just fine on the console, in fact I don’t have to worry about my fingers accidentally touching the wrong letter. The cute graphics, easy to pick up and play controls, and easy to grasp game mechanics make it a game that anyone can enjoy. Younger players may not have an easy time spelling the words, but like Scribblenauts, it is a great way for a younger player to learn language skills.
Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Classic
FINAL SCORE: Great Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
The game is $5 on Xbox Live Arcade. It’s a good time. Buy it. Go on, I’ll wait.