Review: Bookworm Deluxe

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Everyone
Genre: Word Puzzle
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2003
Reviewed Version: 1.13
Review Published On: August 27th, 2016
Played on: Martha

Available from:

No longer available :(

Save System:

Each player has their own profile, and when you leave the game, your current session is saved. However, if you don't resume it when you come back, that instance is lost forever.

Summary of
Major Issues:

As this game is more of an edutainment title than a puzzle game, things are kept very clean and wholesome. There's nothing to worry about here.

Screenshots

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A typical game

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Lex defines a term

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Dealing with burning tiles



Game Overview

Bookworm was one of Popcap's more famous games, and while it didn't receive a direct sequel like Bejeweled did, it did get a spiritual successor in the Bookworm Adventures spinoff series.

The basic idea is quite simple: you just spell words out of the tiles in the game's grid. The only catch is that the letters need to be next to each other, forming a chain. Once you've spelled a word, the tiles will be sent over to Lex, the titular Bookworm, who will promptly eat them. More letters will fill the grid from above, and the cycle continues.

As time goes on, some of the new tiles will be on fire. These dangerous tiles will burn away the tiles below them over time, and if they reach the library floor everything will be burned away and the game ends.

In the meantime, making longer words clears more of the grid, scores more points and can cause special gem tiles to appear. Gem tiles don't burn as quickly as normal tiles, which can help you manage the burning tiles that will eventually threaten the library. If you really get into trouble, you can replace the grid with new letters by clicking on Lex. This also causes burning tiles to appear, so don't overuse this ability.

On the whole, this is sort of a hit and miss title. Some players will enjoy it, but others will end up looking for something more engaging after a while. The only goal is to earn a high score, and these days that's just not enough.

Unfortunately, the entire Bookworm franchise has been removed from online retailers like Origin and Steam. Last I heard, there was a dispute over the series' intellectual property, which is why it was pulled from stores. If you still want to find this title, you might be able to find a physical copy on CD via Ebay or Amazon. In the meantime, various other games have appeared based on the same premises.

Points of Interest

Two ways to play
There are two ways to play Bookworm: an Action mode and a Classic mode. In an Action game, the burning tiles continue to burn through everything as time goes on, while the Classic game only has them advance when you make a move. Thus, you can plan your moves more carefully in the Classic games.
Lex has a voice
The famous little bookworm has a number of quotes that are actually said aloud with lip syncing. These mostly include a salutation welcoming you to the game and a few comments on the gameplay, but it's a nice touch for an otherwise featureless game.
The better you are at spelling, the better your score
Longer words are worth more points, clear more of the grid and seem to reduce the chances of burning tiles appearing. Continually coming up with large words isn't very easy, but it can be fairly rewarding. On the other hand, small words help clear the clutter that will inevitably build up, allowing the game to continue for longer periods. It really helps to have a large vocabulary when playing this game.
It's rather repetitive
Other than beating a high score, there's not much else to do. While some people can enjoy playing for higher and higher scores, many others will grow bored of it pretty fast. There's no story, no feeling of progression, no awards; just a lot of spelling. That's just not enough for kids to stay interested.

Concerns and Issues

Swearing gets you nowhere
Lex knows a lot of words, but he either chooses not to accept or won't recognize foul language. The only time you can submit an offensive word is when there's an inoffensive meaning for it. For example, "fag" is an acceptable word because it's slang for a cigarette.
This game improves spelling and language skills
In order to be good at playing Bookworm, you need to be good at spelling, or at least good at guessing letter combinations and discovering new words. Every so often, Lex will also explain what a word means after he eats it. He tends to do this for unusual or obscure words, but sometimes it seems like he'll recite the definition of anything. This also means that playing this game often can teach you some new words and improve your overall language skills.