Merv Griffin’s Crosswords Review

By Joel Brodie |

For those who don’t know, according to Wikipedia, Mervyn Edward “Merv” Griffin, Jr. was an “American talk show host, game show host, entertainer, television personality and raconteur.” He also happens to be the creator of Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and several other noteworthy TV programs, including the one on which this shallow and somewhat disappointing new word game for desktop PCs is based. Bummer!

Not that we’ve got anything against the guy personally, mind you. But if you’re going to produce a title based on a game show that’s the final legacy of a recently-deceased legend, we’d at least like to see some standout TLC in terms of polish and underlying conceptual mechanics. Unfortunately, from its presentation to basic design, what you get here is merely a functional and seemingly kludged-together last-minute attempt to cash-in on the notable, but ratings-challenged broadcast series.

In a nutshell, play consists of three timed word-guessing rounds and one final puzzle-solving session. To start with, you’ll be guided by occasional (not to mention low-quality and highly repetitious) speech clips and on-screen prompts to fill in a word of X letters by answering the provided clue.

Unfortunately, all there is to see is a grid of spaces and blue backdrop occupied by unidentifiable silhouettes; otherwise, you have a scant few seconds to buzz in, guess the answer and input it before the computer fills it in for you. While hints are available during play, and more of the overall game board fills in as you go (offering additional clues to each possible answer), this is about as exciting as the action gets, save from a final round where you attempt to complete the entire puzzle.

Depending on whether you’ve answered right or wrong, you’ll receive a score boost or penalty, which reduces your overall cash winnings. (Note that responding correctly in sequence can award combo bonuses as well.) Occasionally, you’ll also stumble across “Crossword Extras” or “Spoilers” – both of which happen with annoying frequency – in which you can gamble earnings or potentially suffer extra-costly penalties.

“Crossword Getaways” – don’t ask us, we just report on them – also offer opportunities for you to win still pictures of locales like New York and Rio de Janeiro, and associated cash values. But none of it feels particularly coherent, a point exacerbated by the presence of unskippable, low-resolution video clips that serve as supporting special effects.

As for the best part, guess what’s your incentive to keep playing, since there’s only one core game mode? Try a chance to upload your overall tally to the global high score table, or use cash winnings to unlock tougher new ranks like “Puzzle Professional” or “Returning Champion.” Of course, you could try to land yourself a few hidden achievements, but it’s hardly what we’d call riveting stuff. Realistically, if you’re a crossword fiend, there’s nothing here – apart from no pressing need to keep a pencil and eraser handy, natch – that this title offers you couldn’t find in more engaging form and for less at the local bookstore.

Let’s be honest: Here at Gamezebo, we’re all for the sort of titles that engage the brain and capitalize on one of America’s most popular and longest-running puzzle-solving crazes. Still, it’s hard to recommend this particular outing, which is less spectacular or even average than plain old B-L-A-N-D.

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