As the famous song goes, Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away. In the context of video games, last Christmas, Lightwood Games gave us Crossovers by POWGI, a game that worked well on a big screen with family members chipping in. This year, to save me from tears, they have given us another offering around Christmas time. It may not have an immediate appeal to having others helping out, but it still manages to combine two other puzzlers into a unique experience.
Wordsweeper by POWGI brings together the classic crossword with something unusual. Whereas a traditional crossword has clues for the words going down and across, there are none here. Instead, the black squares that normally represent where not to place letters each have a series of letters within them. By using these, you can work out which letter goes where.
For example, if a black square is touching two white squares – either adjacent or diagonally – and has the letters L and S within, you can already work out they must go into those two white squares. You then need to use the other black squares around these white squares to figure out which letter goes where. If another black square touching either of these two white squares does not contain an L or an S, then that letter doesn’t go in that square.
It all sounds complicated when written down but it will quickly become apparent. The letters within the black squares channels Minesweeper, for those of us who actually played it properly back in the day. In Minesweeper, the numbers would indicate how many mines were touching that particular square. That premise has just been applied to solving crosswords. After just a few tries, it quickly becomes second nature.
There are four difficulty modes to try: Beginner, Easy, Medium and Hard. Each difficulty has thirty puzzles within, making a grand total of 120 altogether. Play them in order and you’ll feel that there is a natural difficulty curve running through Wordsweeper by POWGI. Feel free to skip to the hard ones if you are feeling brave though.
You will soon figure out as well that many of the letters – when starting off a word – are only to help guide you to the answer. By that I mean that you will know all the words in the crossword, so you will be able to work them out even if you are not using the black squares for every letter. They will provide you with a good starting point – either the beginning or end of a word – but just by looking at the letters remaining, you can easily work out what the majority of words will be without having to ‘solve’ each white square.
Initially, I thought this was a cheap workaround to what is a unique word puzzler. But over time, I think that it is meant this way. Similar to a standard crossword, you can sometimes take an educated guess at a word if you have filled in some of the squares already. This is the exact same thing, taking an educated guess from what is present on the grid already. If nothing else, it can help shave off some extra seconds on completion times.
Those extra seconds will come in handy as well – this is another ‘by POWGI’ game that comes with easy achievements. Once again, it’s another easy completion but there is one to note. This list does come with an achievement for completing all 120 puzzles, which may take a few hours if you want to earn it properly.
And also for those who have played a POWGI game before, then you should know what else to expect. Namely plinky music, the same easy to grasp UI and the beloved puns. If you are new to the POWGI games, well, you can expect all that alongside some solid word puzzling.
Sadly though, if you have also played a POWGI game before and don’t like any of the above, then there is nothing new here. By my count, there are now eighteen POWGI games on the Xbox Store, and each and every one has the same UI and music. Granted, these are far more about the puzzles within, and not to mention these games are a few years old on other platforms, but it does feel like the time is now for a bit of a facelift. Keep the puns though, please.
Wordsweeper by POWGI doesn’t feel quite as social as some of the other POWGI games when it comes to playing along at Christmas. However, if you are a little Scrooge like myself, then you may find it very rewarding to play through a few of these in one sitting on your own.
But, regardless of social playability, Wordsweeper by POWGI is another good entry. Combining two previously uncombinable games – crosswords and minesweeper – together, it creates a unique experience that works very well. And even if you are not using every clue available to you, you don’t need to. The old grey matter will still be getting a good enough work out.