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Bookworm Adventures 2 – The Verdict

Bookworm Adventures 2 – The Verdict

Lex the worm is one of the best characters PopCap have created, clearly better than Crazy Dave and most certainly superior to any of the characters in Peggle. It is only fair that he has been given another outing in the great Bookworm Adventures series with the fittingly entitled, Bookworm Adventures 2. After a host of stories escape from Lex’s library you are thrown into the fray with an Adventure mode comprising three separate books containing ten chapters and bosses providing you with loads of enemies to do battle with.

Bookworm Whomped

When you start battle you will find that it is eerily similar to the family destroying board game Boggle, but this time the words you chose deal damage to your enemies, there is no angry slinging of letter tiles in this game! Longer words using more exotic letters like ‘X’ and ‘Y’ deal more damage and if you use a gem tile more damage is done. Different gem tiles will grant you different bonuses, they can heal Lex or even poison the baddies as the worm would say.

Tiles aren’t just there to help you, they will often hinder you. The creatures you fight against all have different abilities and you will regularly find tiles being locked from use or losing any ability to damage your opponent for a set number of turns. The system works well, the game would be entirely too easy if their only offensive moves let them hurt Lex or steal his potions. Potions are objects which you use to heal Lex, increase his strength and remove all negative effects from the board. It becomes a bit of a challenge to find strong words when you find yourself limited to a small number of tiles. I often found myself using random combinations of letters to form words like hum just so I could inflict some damage. However, if you do find yourself struggling and you have the right potion you can tidy up the board to make things a bit easier.

Bookworm Donkey

You will, at times, feel the game is unfair, especially when you are stuck with a large number of Z’s and Qu’s. This is the one major complaint I have with the game as I found that even though I could scramble the letters, the turn I would miss to do this would lead to my death. As such I generally left scramble alone and relied on my potions to clear the board of weak and locked letters.

You will generally be able to overcome most of the obstacles though with the help of the friendly characters Lex picks up along the way and the treasures you find after defeating a boss at the end of each chapter. Personally I have found the combination of Mother Goose who provides you with a healing potion every four turns, the Bovine Boosters which deal an extra quarter of damage and Mac’s Almanac which increases the power of any adjective you type. These are just a couple of the options available, there are loads of different treasures which fill defensive and offensive duties. Being the reckless fool that I am I would charge into a new chapter with my standard array of help without paying attention to the message which tells you what kind of attacks you can expect in the chapter.

It is a sad fact that Lex will die at various parts of the game, I found myself stuck against the Queen of Hearts at the end of the first book for ages. Luckily Moxie returns to handle your mini-games which you can use to stock up on potions before you head back into the fray. The old classics are still there sitting along side three new mini-games which means you have plenty to sink your teeth into between chapters and after you have completed adventure mode.

Bookworm Mini Game

It is the small things that make any PopCap game that extra bit special, things like the loading bar making puns about the cake in Portal and trying to divide by zero to Santa not being a word mean there are plenty of smalls things to be amused by. The comments from Lex if you leave the game for a few minutes without doing anything a great, he will pipe up with things like ‘wake up sleepy head’ in his cute little voice. If you don’t like his comments you can just make him sneeze, though I won’t tell you how to do that, it is just one of several secrets in the game.

Bookworm Adventures 2 is another example of the classy casual games PopCap are producing now, it is a really well refined game full of character and fun. This latest entry in the Bookworm Adventures takes what made the first games so good and expands on it. A great game.

PopCap have done it again, this game rocks.
PopCap have done it again, this game rocks.
Games on Facebook

Games on Facebook

Tick Tock

Facebook is one of the most popular websites on the web, it brings together a diverse group of people, young and old, male and female, it is an ideal site for companies that want to get their name out to a massive audience. It should come as no surprise then that game developers are starting to move onto Facebook with Ubisoft being the latest company to do so. It is not just Ubisoft who are moving onto Facebook, PopCap have long had a presence on the social networking site with Bejeweled Blitz becoming a firm favourite amongst my friends. You can also find the EA/Positech mashup, SimSocial on the site.

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Plants Vs Zombies – The Verdict

Plants Vs Zombies – The Verdict

Repeater joined the army as soon as he could. His parents didn't understand, but he didn't expect them to.

To clarify; this is not a review. It is a warning. Yes, Plants Vs Zombies is worth your money. No, it’s not worth the death of your social and gaming lives. It’s the kind of risk/reward that has you thinking whether installing it is really that much of a good idea. What’s the worst that could happen? As bottles of Indian alcohol say, ‘Loss of Friends, Family and Life may result.’ So, you really have to ask yourself; How much do you really want to stop the zombie apocalypse with naught but a shrubbery of badass plants with hilarious backstories? I’m really not all that good at this warning malarkey, am I?

It’s hard to say a bad word about it. It’s more addictive than Peggle, and for the weeks after you buy it, you’ll do little else than partake in aggressive botany and culling of the undead. Plants Vs Zombies is easily one of the most accessible games I’ve ever played, and at the same time it possesses a depth that’s enough to keep even the most ardent RTS fan coming back, days after they’ve all but finished everything it has to offer, just to water some plants, or, y’know, kill some more zombies. How you spend your free time says a lot about you.

When it boils down to it I’ve spent at least 40 hours doing what my whole family sniggers at my grandfather for doing with his spare time. Growing vegetables shouldn’t be entertaining, and it definitely shouldn’t be satisfying to place a nut on the ground knowing that now at least your sunflowers are safe, all the while worrying if your mushrooms are going to be able to deal with the ladders in time. It’s tempting to call Plants Vs Zombies a perversion of tower defense games, but really, it belongs to no genre I can think of. Defense is the main aspect, but instead of defending a road or base, you’re defending grass. And, sometimes, a pool.

The humour definitely adds a good deal to endearing the game to you. Plants like Wall-nuts, Peashooters and Cabbage-pults all illicit a chuckle, and playing off the stupidity of zombies in creating ever more ridiculous enemies never really gets old. Really, though, the variety of ways to defend the lawn is what will prove to be the final time sink. The main adventure is excellently paced, starting you off with the bare essentials, and awarding you one new plant each level, until you’ve got such a selection the choice isn’t how to survive but how to dispose of the zombies. Similarly, the zombies themselves diversify, with bungee zombies, dolphin zombies, screen-door zombies and old man zombies all throwing a spanner in the works. By the time you get to the roof, each level is a challenge to adapt to the different tactics that you never feel like you’re being given a free ride, while at the same time never becoming so difficult you feel cheated. For the completists among you, the game issues you with a silver trophy when you complete the main adventure, slyly informing you that to get gold, you need to get a trophy in all of the other game modes. Simple, you think. Then you have a look at just how much extra content lies beyond the main story.

They're like mice; they get everywhere!

You unlock three distinct modes; Puzzle, Mini-game and Survival. The latter is obvious, and allows you to live out all of those fantasies that you had during the main campaign of just continuing to elaborate your defenses until nothing could get past. It’s the perfect antidote to the feeling you get in the adventure mode that you’re always on the back foot, unable to get a proper grip on things. Here you can create a solid foundation, and then with each level increasing in difficulty you get to swap out plants for more powerful versions, and defend against the more complicated of zombies. You don’t ever feel as though it’s easy, but it’s certainly a different style of play to the adventure mode, no matter how similar it looks.

Puzzle and Mini-games, on the other hand, provide a far more unique set of diversions. The Mini-games are a collection of novelties like wall-nut bowling, a bejewled clone that becomes even more addictive than the original due to the fact you’re still defending the lawn from zombies, adding a layer of strategy on maneuvering your plants around trying to find matches, and Zombotany, where the zombies have their heads replaced with plants, and can shoot back, proving visually funny and fiendishly difficult, encouraging an entirely new kind of playstyle. Puzzle is a little more simple, providing the brilliantly named I, Zombie, where you control the zombies and try to get into the house, and Vasebreaker, which is similar to Minefield, if the mines were replaced with zombies. The fact is, these are just a few highlights; the game itself contains so many ingenious variations that you’re bound to find something that you find brilliant, even if you don’t much like the main game.

There is also the Zen Garden, which provides an alternate source of income that has nothing to do with the zombies at all. It’s a moment of calm amid the many attacks, and mainly involves watering plants, playing them music and feeding them fertilizer. The level of compulsion that is present even here is almost sickening, with the insistent drop of water hanging over the icon in the main menu enough to drag you away from the main game to tend to the plants.

Then there’s the almanac, something that is almost entirely unnecessary, and completely hilarious. It contains descriptions of each zombie type, and every flower. All of them are enough to make you laugh, while at the same time creating small back stories behind everything in the game. Superfluous and brilliant, it’s perhaps the best demonstration of the game’s charm. It’s a game about using plants to defeat a zombie apocalypse; if it didn’t embrace the funny then what would be the point?

Popcap are famous for ruling the casual market, and for creating some of the most addictive games available. Plants Vs Zombies doesn’t feel like a casual game, but it’s accessible enough that anyone can play, and enjoy, it. It has enough depth to keep even the most hardcore gamer happy, while at the same time never being too overwhelming. Some of the mini-games lean towards the difficult side of things, but there’s more than enough content to charge triple what it costs and still feel like you got a good deal. Problem is, it’s the largest time-sink I’ve come across, and unless you’ve got the willpower to ignore it, or the gaps in your timetable to accommodate it, this game is going to be a pretty large inconvenience.

A Pretty Bloody Good Game
A Pretty Bloody Good Game

And, as an aside, here’s the wonderful song that they made for the game: