A Portable Dictionary Without An Expanded Vocabulary
by Phil Kollar on Dec 01, 2009 at 08:25 AM
Publisher: PopCap Games
Developer: Black Lantern
Rating: Everyone
Reviewed on: DS

As a young kid obsessed with words, I decided that the surest path to being a great writer was to read the dictionary. I read a full page of the thick Webster’s volume I had every day for a month or two until I got frustrated with the endeavor. I’m not bragging; if anything, it makes me sad that this nerdy effort earlier in my life doesn’t aid my Bookworm ability.

Serving as a literary masterpiece amongst a sea of eye-catching but intellectually shallow casual games, the Bookworm series has beckoned players to piece together words for points since the original game launched in 2003. Now, for the first time, the game is available in two forms for the Nintendo DS: a retail release that adds multiplayer and a trimmed down DSiWare download. The DSiWare version reduces the already-slim game to only the Classic mode. The cartridge version includes the frantic, timed Action mode and a library that keeps track of words you’ve found in the game in 20 different books ranging from “Clothing” to “Vegetables.”

Along with the new word tracking, two key features differentiate this Bookworm from the original PC version. An ad hoc multiplayer mode allows you to play against a friend, taking turns finding words on separate boards in a score race. The options for this mode are extremely limited, though, and without any online play it’s unlikely that you’ll spend a ton of time with it.

What will consume many hours of your time is the new house building meta-game. Whether you’re playing in Classic or Action mode, every word you find will slowly fill up bookshelves that in turn unlock rooms and decorations in your house. As your home grows in size, subsequent renovations require more time and better words. With 18 rooms to unlock in total, word freaks have extra motivation pulling them through weeks of play. Unfortunately, the rooms don’t do anything special besides providing different backgrounds for the upper screen.

In the end, playing Bookworm on DS is sort of the video game equivalent of reading a dictionary. The experience may stimulate your brain, but you can probably find better ways to get what you’re looking for. Let’s hope PopCap has a DS port of the far superior Bookworm Adventures games in the works as well.

Bookworm cover

PopCap's addictive word game arrives for the DS.

Game Informer's Review System
Concept A port of the PC version with some minor additions
Graphics Cute character and room design, but graphics aren’t the point
Sound Bookworm’s high-pitched voiceover will inevitably annoy you, as will the repetitive music
Playability As easy to play and addictive as any proper PopCap game
Entertainment It’s fun for the occasional session, but don’t bother going for the unlockables
Replay Moderate