It's word game meets RPG in the excellent release from PopCap, Bookworm Adventures Volume 2! Mother Goose leaps from the pages of her book when the Big Bad Wolf comes a-knockin', and our bespectacled hero Lex is the only one who can help. Spell words to damage each enemy as you work your way through 30 chapters, gaining levels and earning unique trophies along the way. It's everything the original Bookworm Adventures was with a little extra oomph.
The structure of Bookworm Adventures 2 is so utterly casual, you can't help but get the hang of it immediately. Each chapter is a series of one-on-one battles with fairy tale characters gone awry (and other creatures later in the game). You'll start to get suspicious when you defeat a gingerbread house, and when a tea party attacks you, things get downright odd. Dealing damage is a matter of spelling words using the grid of letters below. The longer the word and the more difficult the letters are to use, the more damage you deal. After defeating a handful of underlings you'll take on the chapter's final boss before trekking to another mixed-up fairy tale world.
In true RPG fashion, you'll encounter status ailments that affect you, your letter grid, and your foes, special letter gems that grant bonuses when used in a word, and potions to help Lex when he really needs a hand. Also, some enemies are vulnerable to certain categories of words. The smoke creatures you encounter in a later chapter, for example, are vulnerable to color words (blue, black, green, etc.), while a certain underwater foe really hates fire-related words.
After felling each chapter's boss you'll earn a brand new trophy. Trophies grant you abilities when carried into battle, such as increasing damage dealt by your attacks, lessening the length of status ailments, etc. You can only equip a few of these for each chapter, so finding the right combination for your playing style is a crucial strategy for the game. Bookworm Adventures 2 also introduces companions who tag along and assist Lex by creating healing potions, removing status effects, and performing other handy tasks. Select your companion in-between chapters, just like the trophies.
Analysis: In the early days of gaming, amassing points was both the driving force and main reward for your time and effort. Nabbing that high score in Asteroids and entering your initials on the leader board (there must have been a ton of Alan Sloan Smiths out there) made you Mr./Ms. Awesome. Now, however, game creators are making these rewards more tangible. Bookworm Adventures 2 is a prime of example of this. Instead of just tossing you a few points for words you spell, your actions are organically applied to the game world. Now, when I spell GLUTEN, I don't get meaningless points, I get real results in the form of damage dealt to my enemy, bonus gems appearing below, and more. That oh-so-important risk-rewards loop video game theorists love to talk about is put into high gear, and the real result is you want to play for hours on end.
Building casual puzzle games laced with RPG elements is the new "in" thing to do, and the original Bookworm Adventures was one of the titles that helped popularize the hybrid genre. Bookworm Adventures 2 stands on its predecessor's legs and accessorizes like any good sequel should, adding a big bow here, a few frills there, and some sparkling jewelry to finish the look. When it struts out on the runway you'll see improved background art and animation, the new companion system, and the same sense of humor evident in every text description and enemy character you meet.
Bookworm Adventures 2 has plenty of content to keep you spelling for days on end, though it takes an hour or two before the linearity loosens up and you really get in to the game. Even after you finish the lengthy story mode you'll have fast-paced arena battles and infinite replay mode to keep you busy. There's also a mini-games tent that pops up from time to time, offering a handful of unique word-based games as a pleasant break from the main quest.
The only real down side to Bookworm Adventures 2 is that it made me want more. More enemies to defeat, more unique ways to fight them, more trophies to equip, and more companions to adventure with. The game isn't short in any of these areas, but I always felt like I was just getting a taste of the unique experience this game could offer. For example, I spelled the word "BEAR" when I was fighting a bear. Nothing special happened, and I really wanted it to! How cool would it be if there were hundreds (or thousands) of enemy-specific bonuses included throughout the game? Think Scribblenauts meets Bookworm Adventures and you'll start to get really excited. Hear that, PopCap? There's your inspiration for Bookworm Adventures 3.
It's PopCap. It's Bookworm Adventures. There's so much to love about the game you won't know where to start!