Is the pen really mightier than the sword? Bacon Bandit Games, a small Canadian indie studio, aims to prove that they are with Letter Quest Remastered: Grimm’s Journey! In Letter Quest you get to play as one of two cute little Grim Reaper’s, Grimm or Rose, fighting ghosts, wolves and dust bunnies, all with just the power of words.
The game was originally released in February 2014 on mobiles and later in the same year on PC. In 2015 Bacon Bandit’s released a ‘remastered’ version for PC with a new soundtrack and an Endless mode. The game has finally made its way over to the PS Vita and what a treat it is. Visually the game is a cartoony delight; it’s bright, vibrant and cute. There are lots of different enemies and they all have bags of charm with silly names and amusing descriptions.
The gameplay is fairly simple to understand, battles are turn-based and you’re given a random mix of 15 letters and have to make a word out of them. The longer the word and the rarer the letters you use the more damage your little Reaper does to the enemies. Each letter tile has a bronze, silver or gold symbol in the corner to depict how rare they are and therefore how much damage they can cause to the enemy.
Enemies have their own nifty little tricks up their sleeves and will attack you back. Some of them will have special skills which can create negative effects on the letter tiles. For example, using a poisoned or spiked tile will cause you damage, whirlwind tiles will change letter every turn and cracked tiles won’t cause any damage if used in a word.
The game has two modes for you to play through; Story and Endless.
The story mode has 40 different levels and each level has four different stages to play through. The first stage is just normal difficulty, the second stage is a time trial, the third is a special challenge level and the fourth is a hard mode. The special challenges can be anything from finishing the level by using less than a specified number of words to only using words with a certain number of letters. Only by completing the first three stages will you unlock the fourth stage. The fourth stage of a level is usually the toughest, enemies are stronger and have more health, not only that but they also have special conditions; some enemies only take damage if you use two or more letters from the bottom row of the letter grid or only words which begin with a vowel will cause damage.
When you first begin Letter Quest you’ll probably find the fourth stages too hard to complete, this is where Letter Quest‘s RPG elements come into play. Defeated monsters will drop gems and with these you can buy lots of different upgrades such as more health, better defence and different weapons. You can also purchase books which, when equipped, will have various effects like giving you more time in time trials. You can also buy health potions which are very handy to use in some of the tougher levels!
Occasionally you’ll also come across a hangman-style minigame where you have a certain number of guesses to try to figure out what the word is. This is a fun little game which if you do manage to solve rewards you with bonuses such as shields and health potions. I do wish that there were more of these kind of minigames throughout as it was a nice change in pace. I think it was a bit of a missed opportunity and that there should have been many different types of minigames as this would have added some more variety to the gameplay.
The RPG elements work really well in this game, it feels great to play through levels, earn gems and then use these to get stronger. It gives you a reason to keep playing through levels without them ever feeling tedious. It’s actually quite addictive to keep earning gems and buy all the upgrades, which is great as you really will need them in the harder levels! The RPG elements are also really good for if you’re playing through with younger players with a smaller vocabulary. Instead of not being able to get through levels as they don’t know enough long difficult words, with a bit of perseverance, they can level up enough to get through some of the harder levels. Another great thing is that you can see the definitions of the words that you spell out, which is particularly handy when you’ve just randomly put together some letters and by luck happen to have made an actual word but have no clue what it means.
The game’s dictionary doesn’t seem to allow any swearwords but I will admit that I had great fun seeing what words it would allow…like poo and fart…yes, I am aware that I have the sense of humour of a six year old…
The actual story of this mode feels a bit pointless, it’s told in comic book style frames and while it looks pretty I don’t really get what the point of it was. It’s just a few frames showing Grimm going out to pick up a pizza and travelling through various environments to get one. I wasn’t exactly expecting a Shakespearian epic but when the story is this lame you wonder why they bothered at all, it’s not like the game needed a storyline to make it worthwhile playing through.
There are two difficulties available in Story mode; Normal & Expert. In expert the enemies are much tougher with more health and stronger attacks. It’s much more challenging and buying upgrades is essential so you will having to grind the easier levels to make sure you can survive the harder levels. Expert is definitely intended more for people who are very good at word games or who want to feel really challenged all of the time they’re playing.
Endless mode as the name suggests is endless. It is just one long continuous level where your goal is to try to see how far you can get before you’re defeated. It plays the same as story mode but instead of being able to level up between each level you have to wait until you come across a merchant and buy upgrades with whatever gems you’ve managed to get from defeated enemies. It’s tough but great fun to keep playing through and try to beat your score.
Letter Quest Remastered: Grimm’s Journey is the kind of game which is great to have on your PS Vita, it’s great to play when you only have a little bit of time to spare and is also addictive enough that you will keep coming back to it. There’s a lot of content to play through and it will take you a fair amount of time to complete all levels and upgrade everything. It would have been nice if there was slightly more variety in the gameplay and maybe a few different types of minigames to play but overall it is an enjoyable and intellectual delight.