Word ladder puzzle games were invented by none other than Lewis Carroll in the 19th Century which – considering the poet/author also wrote Jabberwocky and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – make these word puzzles one of the saner things he dreamt up.
In truth though, it is a very simple concept; a ‘ladder’ has a word at the top and bottom of it, and through changing one letter at a time, the objective is to transform the top word into the bottom word.
Ladders by POWGI features 150 of these brain teasers, with the words themselves ranging from three-to-five letters in length. The ladders start relatively easy but towards the end can require some thinking. There is a difficulty curve in a ‘by POWGI’ game, that typically just puts the levels in any old order.
For reference, there are 26 three letter puzzles, 72 four letter ones and 52 with the maximum five letters. Difficulty comes not only in the additional letters, but in how vastly different the words you are given can be. There will be a connection between the two words, but you are only given a set number of rungs by which to achieve your goal. Though, you are not penalised if you manage to complete the transformation in fewer steps than given.
Unlike other POWGI games though, there is no hint option to help you out here. But then again, should you find yourself stuck on any, all of the ladders are open to you from the very beginning so you can simply move on to a new one.
If you have ever played one of the games on offer from Lightwood Games, you will notice various trends that are identical across them. Ladders by POWGI is no different again. It has the exact same UI and music – and the accompanying issues surrounding them such as the same unlikable soundtrack and difficult to navigate UI – the same sense of humour with the good/bad dad jokes and the same attitude towards its achievements. The UI still has you scrolling through page after page of puzzles; it isn’t too bad this time as one page will show 30 puzzles at once, but if you miss one out the main menu will always default to this one when you return, rather than the one proceeding whichever ladder you just completed.
In Ladders by POWGI, there are 42 achievements to unlock, the most so far in a POWGI game on Xbox. That doesn’t mean they are any more difficult than those games which have preceded it however, as 26 of them are based on the alphabet and creating new words by changing one of each letter in it. You may struggle to find a Q, X or Z word, but they are in there. The remaining 16 achievements are for completing the ladders in a variety of ways, completing the various word lengths, spelling a rude word – the same rude word as featured in Roundout by POWGI – and completing 50 puzzles in total. This is another super easy list of achievements that shouldn’t take you longer than an hour.
And of course, there are the dad jokes, which I am a sucker for. Complete a puzzle and you will be greeted with a cheesy one-liner related to the words you have just been manipulating. And you know what, I can’t help but smile when they appear; they’re cleverer puns than they are given credit for. Some will make you roll your eyes, but some you’ll remember and tell people the next day in passing.
Xbox Series X|S owners will also be pleased to know that Ladders by POWGI is optimised for the new consoles. Load times are instantaneous, and the ladders and letters are visible in 4K and 60FPS. Load times will probably be identical on last-gen consoles as well – these are hardly memory intensive games after all – but it’s a nice touch from Lightwood Games that both generations of consoles are thought of and being looked after. And as mentioned before, all subsequent games will be releasing alongside other consoles; keep them coming I say!
Ladders by POWGI on Xbox may not subvert existing puzzle tropes like Word Sudoku by POWGI or One Word by POWGI have, but the simplistic charm of word ladders has stood the test of time over the years, so if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The difference between the easiest and most difficult puzzles is definitely noticeable, something that was missing from Crypto by POWGI, so a bit of a difficulty curve makes a welcome return here. Of course, there will be plenty of people just buying these games for the easy achievements, but if you want more brain teasing goodness, Ladders by POWGI offers a suitable challenge.