Writer Rumble is the first game that GameFly, the video game version of Netflix, has produced. The premise of the game is very simple: choose a character and get ready to play Boggle (or Scramble With Friends) as a variety of monsters make their approach. Sticks and stones won’t break their bones, but words do have the power to destroy them. As you quickly search for words in the board area, keep an eye up top as well where the “action” is taking place, and make sure you’re keeping pace with all the ghouls headed your way.
Publisher: GameFly Games
Developer: Feel Every Yummy
Genre: Boggle of the Dead
Release Date: December 19, 2012
iTunes App Rating: 9+
Writer Rumble is an all-ages affair, and as such, mostly has an appeal suitable for children. The characters – or, rather, the writers – are cute cartoon versions of classic literary favorites including Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, The Brothers Grimm, Jane Austen, Homer, and H.P. Lovecraft (complete with Cthulhu!). The monsters and ghosts are also very cutesy, not scary or gross, and slowly advance upon the writer with mostly enough time to fling words at them and take them down. The monsters range from small to large, starting with little gremlin-looking things with giant teeth and long, pointy tongues called imps, then flying demon books, then a pretty bespeckled female ghost with long flowing hair and shroud, who looks like a stereotypical librarian (albeit young and modern), then a big round blob covered with eyes that requires either more words or longer words to destroy.
The levels are very short; they’re like mini-levels with only a few monsters per round. Each level begins with a very Mortal Kombat-esque “Fight!” – in almost the same ninja-styled font, too – and at the end of each, declares “Level Complete.”
There are two modes of play, “Survive With Words” which has you play on your own against the “onslaught” of ghouls, and “Fight With Words” which boasts “local and online multiplayer.” In Fight with Words, players can opt for a Quick Match against a random opponent online (although sometimes it fails to find a match for you), Friend Match where you can play with a friend online, or Local Match that lets you play over Bluetooth with other mobile devices. You can also search for players, and invite friends and followers via Twitter and Facebook.
In “Survive With Words,” you choose your character and then up to three powers that you can use against the ghouls; in Fight with Words, each writer comes with its own set of powers that are unchangeable. While some of the writers’ powers overlap, no group of three powers is the same as the others. Edgar Allan Poe utilizes Scramble (the power to rearrange the letters on the board), Blackout (which hides three letters from your opponent’s board), and Double Damage (which doubles the point value of the next word you make). Agatha Christie uses Letter Switch (switching two adjacent tiles on your board), Reverse Speller (which forces opponent to spell their words backwards), and Upside Down (which flips your opponent’s letters upside down). The Brothers Grimm can do Double Damage, Scramble, and Resist Damage (lowers damage done to you by half). Jane Austen has the Scramble, Double Damage, and Triple Damage (three times point value for next word) powers. Homer’s powers include Scramble, Resist Damage, and Letter Switch. And finally, the powers of H.P. Lovecraft (whom they call Howard) are Upside Down, Scramble, and Health (regenerates your health with the next word).
When you select the Fight option, while you’re being matched with a random opponent, the waiting screen has a different quote from a famous author like Sun Tzu, Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain (“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t”), Oscar Wilde (“A man who does not think for himself does not think at all”), as well as the writers featured in the game. Just a little literary something for you while you wait, I guess.
I was disappointed when I first started the game. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this, and it didn’t live up to my phantom expectations. For one, I didn’t expect it to be quite so “all ages,” which I found to be kind of boring. In that respect, I guess I thought I was in for “Mortal Kombat: Famous Authors,” or “Typing of the Dead: Mobile Version.” This game would probably be better for younger players and those not as versed in spelling speedily like you have to in games like Scramble With Friends. It’s a much slower pace as the monsters amble out in the beginning and you have a few seconds to choose and hold onto your word before flinging it at them (if you let it go before something comes on screen, in effect, it’s wasted as a weapon but is still counted so that you can’t use that word again). This slower pace can be kind of boring at first, but as the levels go on, the ghouls suddenly become overwhelming and you can’t make as many new words from your board. You have the same board throughout all the levels, so as the numbers of ghouls increase, your arsenal of words remains cumulatively depleted. It takes some practice to use all your special powers to assist you. One of the most challenging aspects of the game is that your eyes are constantly all over the screen, from the board, to the top and then the side bar where your powers are. This may be second-nature for some gamers, but if you’re expecting “just a word game,” it’s going to be difficult to adjust to. Those of you looking for a combination of word game and “action,” this might totally be what you want… it’s just not what I wanted. It’s a sloppy attempt at merging both these game concepts.
Another thing I should mention is that the letter tiles are rather small, owing to the busyness of the screen that makes your board have to be scaled down slightly. Not to keep comparing it to Scramble With Friends (but hey, you’ve probably played it so it’s a great frame of reference), but they are definitely smaller than those tiles. It’s alright for my delicate lady fingers, although just barely, and not so much now that my nails grew out a little (which means the tip of my finger can’t touch the screen, only the pad part which means I often hit the wrong letters). But it’s almost unplayable for my husband, whose normal-sized fingertips end up hitting the wrong tiles, making it harder to create words in an efficient manner. Perhaps on an iPad or iPad Mini they would be easier to touch, but on the iPod Touch (4th gen), it’s an issue.
My verdict is that this would be a decent pick for kids and young’uns, and stoners of all ages, and those with bony fingers and no nails. My personal recommendation is to go out and find Typing of the Dead and play that to your heart’s content, as long as it’s not a mobile game you’re looking for. If you are… well, I don’t know. Take a gamble? Certainly try it if you think you might enjoy it, even after reading this, but keep in mind, this will not be for everyone. At the very low price of $0.99, I feel like I wasted money, and now that I’m finally done reviewing it, I’m going to delete it from my device and never look back. Sorry, GameFly, game over.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Writer Rumble was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.