Monkwerks is a game about spelling, about taxing your vocabulary. That its title is (presumably deliberately) misspelled should tell you all you need to know before you even load it in your browser. This is an excellent example of how to take a simple, appealing concept and run it completely into the ground through fundamentally bad and lazy implementation.

It’s a dictionary game at its heart. In each round in single-player mode you’re presented with a primary letter and a limited, seemingly random assortment from the rest of the alphabet. Your task is to form as many words as possible with the collection within a time limit, all of which have to begin with that primary letter. The more words you can make the more points you can score. And written down like that the games sounds fine, a perfect little distraction to keep the brain matter ticking over during a lunch break like we used to do with crosswords back in the mists of time.

The problem is that the game cheats. Well, strictly speaking it doesn’t (most of the time), but you’ll end up feeling like it does after almost every round. The game will show you, with a collection of empty boxes, how many total possible words there are at the start of each round to help give you some idea of how well you are progressing. As you find new words the boxes fill in to remind you what you’ve come up with already and the empty ones tell you what kind of word length you should be aiming for with your next guesses. But as you eliminate the easy or obvious ones and move up through the more taxing or trickily spelled words you’ll often find plenty of blank boxes that, no matter how hard you try, you probably won’t be able to fill in.

At that point, it’s a tad frustrating. Your own vocabulary has been pushed to the limit and you just can’t find the other three or four words lurking in the jumble in front of you. Once the round ends the game fills in the gaps for you, telling you what words you missed and will even provide a dictionary definition under the guise of trying to be helpful. Except, and this is where frustration turns to rage, that’s when it starts to make words up.

I wish I was joking, but it’s true. First of all, even when it hasn’t clearly tried to invent a word, the game presents very obscure or just plain bizarre words as legitimate solutions. Words no one, not even (to pick an example totally not off the top of my head) a games writer with a Masters degree in English Literature, would be familiar with. Words like “dedans”, “pech”, “denes” or “sneap”. Look them up and you’ll see what I mean. Often times the game will fail to provide a definition at all leaving you to hunt for an explanation yourself. And then there are the words that are just fabricated, like “deads”, and it was round about the time that one popped up that I decided that the game really was trying to cheat. Trying to win then becomes about trying to spam as many different letter combinations as you can within the time limit in the hope you’ll hit these esoteric words, rather than actually trying to apply your own command of the language and vocabulary.

If you wish to inflict this kind of thing on others there’s a Challenge mode where you can match up against your friends, and one or two variations within the single player mode in a vain attempt to make it interesting. There’s also the option to “Go Pro”, which involves real money and some silly points system, but you won’t be interested in that because the game really isn’t worth your time or your money.