REVIEW: CrossworDS (Nintendo DS)

crosswordsdsboxart In 2006, Nintendo launched Touch Generations, a new line of games for the still relatively young (at the time) Nintendo DS that was designed to have a broader appeal to casual and non-gamers.  As many know, it was a whopping success.  Topping the list of success stories were the Brain Age and Nintendogs games which both sold millions and millions of copies and played a huge part in leading the charge in making the Nintendo DS the most successful handheld gaming system ever.  In 2008, Nuevo Retro Games and NST released CrossworDS as part of the Touch Generations line.  As the name suggests, it’s a game full of crosswords puzzles!  But is it any good?  Keep reading to find out. CrossworDS has three modes: Crosswords, Word Searches, and Anagrams.  Plus a training mode. The whole game is played in book form format (you turn the DS system on its side so it opens and closes like a book), and you use the touchscreen almost exclusively in all modes.  So have your stylus ready.  You’re going to need it. Crosswords mode has an easy, medium, hard, and bonus mode.  However, the hard and bonus modes have to be unlocked by beating the easy and medium modes first.  This may come as an annoyance to some who don’t find the easy and medium difficulties challenging enough.  There are a lot of puzzles to beat in those first two modes.  The puzzles play like standard crossword puzzles, with your hints on the left screen and you physically writing in the letters on the right screen.  The game has letter recognition technology that works pretty well, but not perfectly.  Having a different letter appearing than what you wrote happens frequently enough that it gets mildly annoying at times, so you have to make sure you write clearly.  It works fine most of the time though, so you shouldn’t have much of a problem with it. You’re timed and graded for each puzzle you play through.  You’re graded according to how much help you need from the game to complete the puzzle.  In-game help comes in the form of hints and audio cues. In the medium and hard modes, before each puzzle, you’re given the option of having the game give you an audio cue if you enter in a wrong letter.  If you choose not to use the audio cue, you’re given a higher grade when you complete the puzzle.  The only way to get a perfect A++ rating on a puzzle is to complete it with zero help from the game.  Easy mode gives you the audio cue by default which you’re not given the option of opting out of. Most of the clues in each puzzle are random, but one puzzle per page will have a theme such as entertainment, fashion, sports, etc. Some of the clues appear in more than one puzzle, which is a little disappointing, but not a big deal.  All modes included, there are around 1000 crosswords to complete. There’s no shortage of content here.

Crossword puzzles on the DS. Hand, meet glove.

Crossword puzzles on the DS. Hand, meet glove.

Word Search mode doesn’t have as many puzzles as Crosswords mode does, but there is still plenty of content.  You can choose between small and large puzzles, with an unlockable bonus mode.  All the word searches are themed and you’re timed on every puzzle, but there is no grading system like in Crosswords mode.  It just shows that you completed the puzzle and on what day you completed it. When you find a word, you just run your stylus over the length of the word, backward or forward.  It’s simple and works great.  Easy mode puzzles are small and fit nicely on the DS screen without having to scroll the screen to see the whole puzzle.  However, the larger puzzles in the other modes are much bigger and do require you to scroll the screen frequently.  This is where the developers made a significant design blunder which is my biggest complaint with CrossworDS:

Like I mentioned earlier, the whole game is played in book form format, which means whenever you’re playing CrossworDS in any mode, your thumb is most likely sitting right between the hinge of the DS and the d-pad.  In essence, your thumb is practically sitting right on top of the d-pad at all times while playing, by default.  So, you would think it would make an infinite amount of sense to use the d-pad to do the one thing you’re doing most while playing through a big word search puzzle, which is……scrolling the screen!  NST and Nuevo Retro thought otherwise apparently because instead of going with what could have been a simple, elegant, easy-to-use control interface, they decided to put four red arrows on the touch screen which you have to use to scroll the screen around which clutter the already small playing area.  While it does technically work, it is clumsy and not nearly as good of an interface as what should have been an obvious design decision in using the d-pad.  Not only do the red arrows clutter the screen, your hand is also semi-blocking the screen when you’re scrolling and trying to find your next word.  I have no idea what NST was thinking on this one.  Or maybe they weren’t.  Or maybe they were just rushed, I don’t know.  It’s functional, but clumsy and could’ve been done so much better with only a slight alteration.

A small crossword puzzle. Fits nicely on the screen.

A small crossword puzzle. Fits nicely on the screen.

So the question you might have is, what is the d-pad used for then?  I’m glad you asked!  It’s used to scroll the word list up and down on the left screen.  OK great, at least the d-pad is being used for something, right?  Well yeah, kinda.  The problem is that you can already do that with the two yellow buttons that are on the top right of the touch screen.  So while it is easier to scroll the word list with the d-pad, it’s performing a double function.  This may seem like a small thing, but this is so unlike Nintendo who is usually very good with interface issues like this, it really boggles my mind.  It doesn’t kill the the fun of the Word Search mode, but it does make it less fun.  At the very least, having something in the options menu to choose which control scheme you like best would have been really welcome.  Unfortunate, but not a deal-breaker.  The word searches are still enjoyable to play through.

In Anagram mode, you’re given six letters to make as many words as you can and you’re given a set number of words that you have to find with the six letters you’re given.  You use the stylus to move the letters where you want them in the slots provided to try and create a word.  It’s simple and works great. Or you can double-tap a letter and it will move into the first available slot.  Works even better  There are three difficulties: short, medium, and long.  You’re timed on each puzzle, but there there is no grading system of any kind or set number of puzzles to play through.  The game merely keeps track of how many puzzles you’ve completed in each difficulty mode.  Anagram mode is a fun diversion, but can get difficult quickly and probably doesn’t have as much to offer as the crosswords and word searches.

Don't try creating dirty words either! Nintendo has them all censored!

Don’t try creating dirty words either! Nintendo has them all censored!

And that’s it for CrossworDS.  Overall, for the asking price, this is a great pickup if you’re on the fence about it.  There is a lot of content here and you won’t finish this quickly most likely. CrossworDS is a solid pick-up-and-play addition to your DS collection.

8/10 GREAT


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