Haiku – a well-aged form of Japanese poetry comprised of short, but sweet three-line stanzas highlighting topics including nature and spiritualism – might not seem like the most intuitive subject to base an engaging videogame on.
But word-building puzzler Haiku Journey, coming soon from 7 Wonders of the Ancient World creator Hot Lava and publisher MumboJumbo (known for smash hits like Luxor 2), proves initial appearances can be deceiving.
Part vocabulary test, part logical mindbender, the title looks to be one of the most promising new brainteasers we’ve stumbled upon recently, with expectations duly high for its impending release.
So what’s all the fuss about? Provided the end product lives up to early impressions, the answer is simple: Great gameplay.
Ostensibly, the action here revolves around making as many three-or-more-letter words as possible. Doing so simply requires that you sequentially click the different alphabetically-bedecked lanterns that form the grids of lights adorning any given stage. Horizontal, vertical and diagonal matches are all possible, so long as the path of your cursor (letters can be clicked individually or highlighted in sequence by dragging the mouse) doesn’t overlap itself.
The more words you complete, and the longer they are, the additional points you’ll earn. Score high enough to meet a set minimum within a given time limit or number of moves (depending on whether you picked Time or Puzzle Mode) and you’ll advance to the next stage. The deeper you progress into the title, the further you’ll travel along an adventure map featuring scenic and subtly-animated Asian locales like pagodas, hills, wharfs and waterfalls. (Observant players can watch for clouds drifting in the sky or light playing subtly about the lofty peaks which serve as stage backgrounds.)
Surprise twists, however, are both plentiful and varied.
For starters, every lantern you utilize in a word-making match lights up brilliantly afterward. Illuminating all causes the screen to reset and a score-boosting multiplier to be applied, letting you reach stage goals that much faster. (Note that it’s possible to complete this process multiple times, netting accordingly larger rewards as you go…) Those who complete 5- to 7-letter words will also find point-boosting bonus lanterns, as well as special lanterns which help illuminate adjoining or randomly-placed light sources, are helpfully introduced to the grid as well.
But wait – there’s more! Haikus are additionally presented on each level, Wheel of Fortune style, with key letters missing from the words from which they’re composed. These spaces can, of course, be filled in by making word matches. The way this process works: Any missing spaces featuring the same character as the first letter in a word you’ve made using selectable lanterns will be filled in. (Spell “bear,” for instance, and all the B’s pop up.) Players can choose to solve the haiku at any time by typing in its highlighted phrases, with beaucoup bonus points the payoff for doing so.
Worth noting, however: Like featured screensaver functions – yes, the game’s quaint Far Eastern pastoral scenes can be turned into non-interactive, monitor-saving substitutes at any time – solving such puzzles is entirely optional.
As if you didn’t have plenty to process already, enthusiasts may further snag special collectibles by breezing past major landmarks on the adventure map. Grab the Book of Knowledge, and target words which be offered from time to time – which, if spelled out using the lanterns – boost score tallies even higher. Cop the Amulet of Inspiration, and, presuming you can push it to the top of the screen by removing the right letters through match-making, large portions of the haiku will be revealed.
If it all sounds a little exhausting, don’t be fooled – as time spent with a preview version reveals, various game elements already appear to gel together quite nicely. And while the program’s dictionary may be a little dodgy at the moment – it paid out for “poop,” but not “spittoon” (OK, so I’m not exactly Einstein) – we’re guessing more mature audiences won’t mind.
Long story short: Braniac or no, chances are, this one will prove irresistibly appealing to the inner English major within us all. So even if you still spell “quandary” like “laundry,” hey… There’s still hope yet.