Pros: Whimsical, fun, educational
Rating: 5 out of 5
Bookworm is produced by (and downloadable from) PopCap Games
I’m addicted to PopCap games. I really am. When I need to think for a while about a creative endeavor, I start up Bookworm and think while I play. When I’m too tired to think and just want something fun I play Bejeweled 2 on Endless mode. When I want to waste a little time between other tasks I bring out Big Money. These games are all so much fun that none of them has threatened to replace the others in my affections.
The premise of Bookworm is simple: create words of at least three letters out of a board of letter-tiles. Difficult letters such as X and Z score higher, and when you make longer words you can get colored “bonus tiles”–using these tiles in words increases your score as well. Sometimes a “burning” tile enters the board when you create a word (the longer the words you create, the less likely this is), and you have to use it up before it reaches the bottom of the board or the entire library will burn down. If you run out of good options you can click on the bookworm to scramble the tiles, but this brings more burning tiles onto the board. The bookworm also assigns special words to create; if you can manage it, you get escalating bonus points. Unlike paper word puzzles of this type, you don’t have to pick out letters that are all in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line; words can bend and swerve all over the place.
In the action game version, burning tiles continually enter the board at an ever-increasing rate. The bookworm also provides definitions for many odder little words and keeps a “hall of fame” for high scores complete with your longest and best-scoring words. The game gives you ongoing hints (i.e., instructions) as you play, and you can turn these off with a click when you no longer need them (or turn them back on from the options menu).
The music for Bookworm is silly, whimsical synth–entertaining now and then, but eventually you’ll want to turn it off from the options menu (easy enough to do); I love the sound effects, but you can turn those up or down as much as you want as well. The graphics are deliberately simple and silly as well–a grid of Scrabble-like letter tiles, a bow-tied and bespectacled bookworm (whose bookshelf you fill up by completing words on the board), and so on. The bookworm encourages you in his high-pitched voice when you make particularly long words, warns you when burning tiles get too close to the bottom of the board, and (all too adorably) burps when you give him a word to eat that includes two or more burning tiles (ahh heartburn…).
The game is educational for older folks as well as young; it includes quite the varied vocabulary, and certainly some of the words I’ve “discovered” while playing have been ones I wasn’t familiar with. If you’re looking to buy this for children, it’s helpful to note that of course swear words and the like aren’t in the bookworm’s dictionary. You hardly have to be a child to enjoy this game, however; any “word nerd” or vocabulary nut could have fun with this one. It’s a lot like having a single-player game of Scrabble, only sillier and more fun!