I’m a huge fan of word puzzle games. I don’t hide that, though no one typically asks about these kinds of games when speaking with me. No worries, I enjoy them even without having extensive conversations with people about them. That’s why when I heard Bacon Bandit Games’ mobile game Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey was coming to Xbox One as Letter Quest Remastered: Grimm’s Journey, I knew I had to be front row and center for this experience.
The story of Letter Quest Remastered: Grimm’s Journey is short and sweet, as are most games like this. Grimm is a cute little Grim Reaper and he’s really jonesing for some pizza, so he asks his phone for directions to the nearest pizza shop. Just as Apple’s Siri is known to do, the directions it gives him seem to be off the beaten path and lead up to King Coney’s Lab. On his journey in his quest for pizza (get it?) Grimm travels through a graveyard, a forest, and some caves among other places to get to his final destination: sweet, sweet cheesy deliciousness. The problem is, he’s constantly attacked along the way.
The main hook, as you’d expect by the genre, is using letter tiles to to spell out words. “Duh…” you’d say. Ah, but here in lies the beauty of this experience, Letter Quest Remastered is a kind of mash up between Scrabble and a turn-based RPG. Sort of how Puzzle Quest did it, but with letters instead of gems. Well, this game has gems, but we’ll get into that soon enough.
When you first get into the game you’re treated to some wonderful music. The main theme is great. I’d sometimes just leave it on the menu to listen to the sort of techno-style Middle-earthy beat. I really don’t know if that’s the right phrase to describe it, it’s probably a really poor job at that. I’m not really good at describing music styles, I just know I loved it. Throughout the game there are a few moody and fitting musical pieces you hear and I loved each one. The cool thing about the music is that with this game, they created a new score. So you can switch to the original, more “game-y” music if you want to as well, and those were great, too. I think I may actually look into if there’s a soundtrack available for these tunes.
Another thing you can immediately go to before you head into the action proper is a stats screen. And… WOW. What a stats sheet they have for us!! MULTIPLE stat sheets. Over 10, in fact. If you’ve read my previous reviews or, again, know me, you know I LOVE stat sheets in games. This one? Delivers mightily. Some stats I never even thought to track, and here, they offer it. I’d love to see this kind of thing for most games.
With Story mode, you start on a map and move around kind of like classic Mario games’ world maps. Each stage has a base level that you need to win to move on to the next one. There are 40 stages in total, but don’t let that sound like a little number. Each stage has 4 stars, which are different variations to it, each successive one upping the difficulty and terms to win. The final “crystal” star is the hardest, and can be a brutal task if you aren’t prepared for it. Even better, you can come back to these extra stars whenever you like, and you can replay each star as often as you want to farm for gems, the local currency and your shiny salvation for the tough road ahead.
So, on to the game play. You’re on a 2D plane and you stop to fight monsters (ghosts, snakes, werewolves, etc.) on your way to the end of the level, which contains a pile of gems. When confronted by these enemies, a battle is started, where, as the tagline suggests, “words are your weapon”, and you choose from a random pool of letters to form words to attack with. The bigger the word, and more rare the letters used, you’ll hit your opponent for more damage. It’s a very simple process, but a fun one. Especially when you factor in that enemies can shake things up by setting traps on your letters, ranging from spikes, poison, whirlwinds, and more. It makes strategy relevant, rather than just picking the easiest words and moving on. Even more so since the enemies attack and heal themselves on their turns, too.
During some stages, you’ll get breaks from the action. These sections are either a time to buy items at a merchant to use during the current fight, or a Hang Man-like mini-game where you choose a limited amount of letters to guess a word to open a treasure chest containing an item. Kind of like Wheel of Fortune’s final winner’s round, only you keep guessing until you run out of tries. These items range from gems, defense bubbles, potions for healing, and more. It’s a nice little way to break up a stretch of battles and help or reward a player going forward.
While in a stage duking it out to get to the end, you also have quests available to you to complete in order to reward you with more gems. Think of them as side quests, but these are just given to you, whereas in traditional RPGs you search them out. There are 70 in total and range in style and difficulty. Some have you using 5 crystals in a single round (crystals are bonus titles that give you boosts or health), others have you spelling palindromes a certain amount of times. It’s a nice way to add a personal challenge to the base game while rewarding you for doing something you are already planning on doing. Hell, sometimes you won’t even be paying attention to what these quests are and you’ll suddenly complete one. It’s a good feeling.
We also have a second mode called “Endless” which is exactly as the name implies. You battle monsters until you run out of health. In this mode you’re free to use anything you’ve unlocked up to that point. Choose Heroes (there is another Reaper available to help Grimm out, too), weapons, letter title look, music, and location. There are no bonuses in this mode from the weapons or characters like in story mode, everything is just cosmetic, so you can choose your favorite without having to give up an advantage. Just like in the Story mode, you get breaks every so often to spend your coins (exclusive to this mode) on items to help you out, and spend you should, because nothing carries over. Once you die, you’re done. All your items and coins drop back to zero. It’s another fun mode to sink more time in to and to try and best your previous scores.
That’s pretty much covered the basics well enough I think, so let us move on to some other things I think the game offers that’s worth mentioning. It’s got some chuckles. Enemy names and descriptions are unique and hit the funny bone more often than not. The game is also wonderfully cute. There’s no voice or anything like that (sadly, no cute Grimm sounds), and the story is basically relegated to a single comic strip page (7 total), but what is on display, is a well designed art style that is pleasant to look at, colorful, and everything transitions to each other smoothly. Plus, load times are really quick, which is always appreciated. When you spell out a word, you get the option to view its meaning. Another nice touch. We’re also treated to being able to use more “adult” words. Some showcase different meanings than what we typically attribute them to mean in the US, but others are actually pretty well represented. Especially “FARTS” which I aimed to spell out every chance I could, even if it hurt me, because, well, I’m actually a 6 year old in this adult body.
Throughout Grimm’s journey to enjoy pizza, I had a bast playing. I spent many hours jamming out to the music and spelling out “dirty” words while trying to obtain every star I could. When I failed, I didn’t feel the kind of defeat where I wanted to stop. No, this was the kind where I NEEDED to try again. The mark of a great puzzle game in my eyes. I had many moments where I told myself it would be the last round only to keep going and find ways rearrange my day just to fit more time in. It calmed me. It sharpened me. It gave me hours upon hours of fun. And I can already guarantee that I’ll be spending even more hours having fun in this game, on my main profile, and on other XBL accounts just to be able to grab the wonderful set of 60 Achievements all over again. I haven’t got them all, yet, but I am gunning for them!! Great job with the Achievements, guys. Developers can take some notes from you. If you enjoy word games, puzzle games, RPGs, etc, this is a game right up your alley. If you don’t, I’m sorry, but I think Letter Quest Remastered is still a game you should look into buying. It’s not 100% perfect, but it’s close enough to be worth everyone’s money. I’d LOVE to see a sequel to this game on consoles, so throw my hat in the ring for that one, team. Though I’m not sure the world is ready for Mr. Ghost’s Journey Remastered just yet…
This game would have gotten an A+ from me, but because when trying to spell out the word “helvetica” it told me it wasn’t valid, I docked it. How can you justify having a famous font not be recognized in a word game?!?!
I’m just kidding. Or am I…?
Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered is out now for $9.99 on Xbox One. A code was provided by Bacon Bandit Games for the purpose of this review.