Super-powered spiders have invaded a quaint suburban home and only you can come to the rescue in all-new addictive brainteaser WordWeb Deluxe, sure to challenge players’ wits and vocabulary.
And while the above may sound like simple marketing hype (it isn’t – we really do dig the title that much), truthfully, unless you’ve got arachnophobia, it’s hard to see who wouldn’t enjoy this happy-faced head-scratcher.
For starters, the tale – divided into two modes, House Cleaning and Survival, the former a solo campaign option and latter an endless challenge that gets harder the further you go – practically radiates personality. Thank a storyline filled with stunningly-modeled, Saturday morning kids TV special-type characters, crotchety cartoon enemies and beautiful backdrops that burst with color. A constant barrage of cheerfully mischievous tunes that speed up the deeper in danger you get and catchy sound effects, e.g. bonuses that all produce different noises when selected, don’t hurt either.
But hey… we’re getting ahead of ourselves. To rewind for a moment: As the story opens, three innocent siblings are goofing off around the house, when big sis’s science experiment goes wrong, spilling glowing goop on 10 spiders, thereby gifting them with amazing intelligence. Unfortunately, the pesky, multi-legged horrors – some costumed as mechanics, others dressed like snooty waiters – proceed to take over their home, which must be reclaimed (and cleansed) one area at a time from basement to roof.
Each location you’ll visit is divided into separate stages consisting of playfields filled with hexagonal tiles, all bearing a different letter of the alphabet. The basic game mechanic is as follows: Click on a series of letters in sequence until you’ve formed a word from three or more of them, which – when submitted with another click or press of a button – instantly disappear from play, awarding you points for your troubles. These letters are then randomly replaced, and the game continues until you’ve met a set, level-specific quota of 3-, 4-, 5-, 6- and even 10-letter words.
Nothing’s ever that easy, though, right?
Just a few of the many things you’ll have to worry about in addition to finding large enough combinations of letters to meet fixed minimums as the action progresses:
- Webbing which glues certain tiles, thereby making them inaccessible.
- Hexes covered in cobwebs that, if left unattended too long (instead of being cleaned off by being used in a match), will summon spiders who wrap their strands around adjoining tiles.
- Tiles bearing the kids’ likenesses that you must protect from being surrounded and overtaken by webbing, lest you suffer an early game-ending setback.
- Options to swap out any letter with one of your own choosing, or randomly reshuffle the board, using a limited supply of tokens.
- Power-up tiles that award bonus points or extra tokens when used in forming words, or can be employed in place of any letter.
- Bonus words you can spell to earn bombs that help clear areas of webbing.
- Spider eggs that must be avoided at all costs.
- Collectible badges – awarded for earning 100,000 points, making 16-letter words and other notable achievements – doled out during the course of play.
Given its overall depth (every few levels a new twist appears, e.g. iron tiles, which never lose their lettering) and production values (talking heads offer word definitions via nifty speech bubbles, even the loading screen is animated), the outing proves predictably appealing.
Therefore, while there’s no time limited attached to featured antics, lessening the game’s underlying challenge level, and some more engaging boss fights would’ve been welcome – as is, you mostly just face slightly tougher boards, such as ones featuring webbing that requires multiple matches to remove – we’re in no position to complain.
While WordWeb Deluxe isn’t big on offering hints or overwhelming you with crisis-inducing moments, meaning the adventure’s hardly as speedy or enjoyable as it could be, beginners and younger gamers alike will surely appreciate the gesture. That being said, jaded old sods or no, even we do to some degree: For the record, more than enough to want to see at least one more sequel that skillfully builds on the brilliant concepts and great presentation featured here.