A fun crosswords game with a sad (and mildly controversial) story behind it.
Word-guessing games have been lacking originality for a very long time now, so it’s nice to see games like Wordington trying to steer the boat. While this game is not extremely different from the plethora of puzzle games that merge with home-building mechanics, it does come with some tricks up its sleeve and a few twists and turns.
The game appears to be a mixture of Gardenscapes and Wordscapes. The visuals are very comparable to those of Gardenscapes, almost as if they were made with the same graphics engine. The animations are likewise highly polished, though sometimes you’ll wish they’d be faster (or non-existent, even) as they add some unnecessary padding to the experience.
Conversely, at least on a surface level, this game has a more fleshed-out story than that of its counterparts, though it might raise some eyebrows from concerned parents (it’s not exactly “G-rated” material if you “naw meen”.) In all honesty, the story has its share of memorable moments. Some scenes genuinely moved me, especially those in which Emma recalls her fond memories with her granddad. It’s not necessarily Pixar-tier stuff, but I nevertheless liked them.
The story goes as follows: Emma catches her boyfriend cheating on her (nice start) and that’s when it clicked on her that she needed to “find piece” and a new life. What better way of doing so than by moving into her dead granddad’s house? Seems actually very plausible.
Next, she arrives at the manor only to find it in utter shambles. Throughout the length of the game, you must help her renovate the manor by (you guessed it) guessing some words! (No pun intended.)
If the latest attempts at creating crossword games with stories are any indication, you might already expect some gameplay/story dissonance here. Your expectations will be met as there is not much sense to the word-guessing, instead it being just an excuse for advancing the story. The only thing that might signal gameplay/story integration is Emma’s assertion that her grandfather loved riddles. That’s basically it.
It doesn’t help that the story, while enjoying a decent start, later turns into a mishmash of disjointed events with some questionable behavior on the part of Emma, even by today’s standards! It could be fitting for a game marketed for a more mature audience, but for an E (for Everyone) game it undoubtedly raises some spiny questions on how people should manage their love life.
Eventually, the story stops being all that important. It all ends up being just about the home designing aspect and not much about unveiling and building up your character.
It’s truly a shame since I was starting to grow fond of Emma during the initial scenes. I guess that’s the problem when you try to be so many things at once. Jack of all trades, master of none, so goes the saying.
It’s also obvious that WeAreQiiwi initially intended for some characters (like Alice or David) to have more prominent roles but then decided to scrap those ideas midway. Likewise, the dog (Max) is cute but he’s heavily underused, even though he was clearly supposed to have more involvement within the plot and the gameplay.
The word-guessing mechanics are not bad, but nothing we’ve never seen before. It’s a shallow Scrabble wannabe, though a serviceable one. Then there’s the home-building facet, which leaves a bit to be desired as it’s fraught with some continuity problems. In addition, you will ultimately need to grind a lot in order to get anything done after completing a few areas and you’ll feel forced to watch more ads than usual in order to get boosters and progress faster.
The game does have some good things going for it. The music is nice and soothing, though some of it may sound a bit generic. The music that plays during certain cutscenes is almost unexpectedly heart-warming. What’s more, I can’t overstate how good-looking this game is, and the sound design helps enhance the visuals tremendously. It only saddens me more considering how the game underdelivered in most of the other areas.
In a nutshell, Wordington is a good game that failed to reach its true potential. The increasing grind wall and the awkward story moments pull this game down a notch, though you may be able to enjoy some of the gameplay if you’re willing to forgive these drawbacks.
Have you played Wordington yet? Let me know in the comments below.
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