Sunday, July 20, 2008

XBLA review: Coffeetime Crosswords (4/10)

Yeah, they're back. I have too many projects. I figure someday I can get zreviews to a point where it's worth seeing, but for now maybe I can toss out little ones to satisfy my nonexistent gaming audience.

Coffeetime Crosswords is another bone for those of us who are begging for XBLA content other than first-person shooters. The idea is pretty good, and there's certainly no competition (I mean, other than Buku Sudoku, there's really no paper-style puzzles at all on XBLA). But maybe that's the problem.

If there were another crossword puzzle game, it might have a reasonable control scheme (or at least a customizable one), and then the programmers for this game could have said "Hey, you know I think we might need to change this up a little." See, the basic idea is all right – a ring with A-M, use LB and RB to move and A to select, between A and M is something that flips it to N-Z (and vice versa) – but there's a teeny problem with it. With 14 spots on the wheel, frequently you're a ways away from the switch, so you want a button that will flip the wheel. Sure, here it is: LB/RB. At the same time.

The problem is that the sensitivity is very high, so most of the time, instead of flipping the wheel, you just bounce back and forth between adjacent letters. Sometimes it happens several times in a row. (Good thing this game isn't timed. Oh wait.)

There are other problems, too. The wheel tries to stay out of the way by moving to an adjacent quadrant of the screen when your selection moves. Unfortunately, this can happen while you are entering a word, so all of a sudden, the ring blinks out and reappears in a different place. Again, very disorienting and not conducive to good times.

Furthermore, the ring automatically disappears any time you complete a word. Sounds like a good deal, except that when you are entering a word horizontally that also completes several vertical words, the ring disappears after every. single. word. you. complete. What's the point of indicating that you're filling in the horizontal word when the game stops for the vertical ones too?

The achievements are mostly decent, although they insisted on throwing in a co-op one (because who wouldn't want to play co-op crosswords?), and at least you can use a USB keyboard, but even that's messed up: your selection doesn't advance after you type a letter.

It does save correct words, so you don't have to worry about overwriting a letter you've already confirmed, but I suppose that could have been an option, too (like in Buku Sudoku). Oh well. It's obvious we weren't getting much with this game.

If you really, really like crossword puzzles, and you insist on playing them on your 360, well hey! This is the game for you. Otherwise, I'd recommend getting one of those old things. You know, a magazine. They're awfully cheap these days.

zlionsfan's rating: a four-letter word for ten across.

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