I would like to thank PopCap Games for making my job as a reviewer particularly easy. At this point, I can basically just reuse the same review over and over again, swapping out game titles and character names as needed, because no matter what game it is, it always has the same trademark PopCap qualities: addictiveness, fun, replayability, polish, and a great sense of humor. PopCap's latest offering, Bookworm Adventures 2 sticks with the program, offering the same high quality we've come to expect from the king of casual games.
Bookworm Adventures 2's Lex is the Gordon Freeman of the word game world. He's an ordinary guy, up against seemingly insurmountable odds, armed only with his wits and a really snazzy pair of glasses. Some characters have escaped from the books in his beloved library, so he ventures off into the world to set things right, traveling through three storybook lands. The gameplay of BWA2 isn't terribly different from the first Bookworm Adventures, so if you enjoyed that game, you know pretty much what to expect.
The combat of BWA2 is a cross between Scrabble and Street Fighter 2. You spell words by selecting letter tiles from a grid; the longer the word, the more damage your attack does. There's no timer, and the letters don't have to touch each other, so the action isn't as frantic or as frustrating as some other similar word games. Using gem tiles in your words adds effects to your attack: Red tiles deal fire damage, blue tiles freeze your opponent for a turn, green tiles replenish your health, and so on. If you're stuck with no options at all, you can always scramble the tiles and hope for something better.
Lex travels through each book, defeating increasingly difficult enemies before facing down each chapter's final boss. Defeating a boss earns you a powerup item, such as boots that dish out extra damage or an almanac that gives you a bonus for spelling out verbs, and you'll meet sidekicks along the way who can help you in their own special ways. In the end, though, it's up to you, your brain, and your ability to force a chaotic jumble of letters into a series of nice, orderly words. BWA2's difficult ramps up gently enough that you can practically feel your gray matter becoming more flexible as you play. You may not be able to find more than "dog" or "fart" in those first few grids, but it won't belong before you're pulling out "estuary" or "sartorial".
In between bouts of letter-slinging violence, take a moment to appreciate how cleverly ridiculous your opponents are. Not only will you face off against enemies like space monkeys and smoke salmon (not to be confused with smoked salmon, of course), you'll find yourself at the mercy of special attacks like "King's Taxes" and "Objection!". It's all very, very silly, but then again, so is the idea of fighting via spelling.
Once you've finished off the 30 chapters of Adventure Mode, you can replay it to score points and earn badges, which is both entertaining and oddly satisfying. If you're looking for something a bit more fast-paced, try the Arena, where you'll face all of the bosses you defeated in the main story, but this time you'll need to make words as fast as you can to stay alive. If neither of those are to your liking, you can always play through the minigames that you unlocked throughout your travels. Though you can only play one at a time during the main Adventure, once you've finished the game, you can try them all as much as you'd like. They're variations on the "spell as fast as you can" theme, and good practice if you feel a little lacking in the vocabulary department.
Bookworm Adventures 2 doesn't do much to reinvent itself, instead simply offering more of the solid Bookworm gameplay that we enjoyed in its predecessor. It's funny, charming, and delightfully refreshing when you feel like you need a break from killing zombies, Nazis, or zombie Nazis.
Bottom Line: If you're not a fan of word games, Bookworm Adventures 2 probably won't change your mind, but if you've ever dreamed of playing a Z on a triple letter score, this is the game for you.
Recommendation: Give the demo a shot. If you're not enchanted by the time it's done, you're better off letting Lex soldier on without you.
Susan Arendt had no idea that "blee" was a word until she accidentally misspelled "flee".