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Review: CrossworDS

Title: CrossworDS
Developer/Publisher: Nuevo Retro Games
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Release Date: 05/05/08
Number of Players: one player game

I imagine I’ll likely say this often- I’m not really a gamer. Surely, it would be a sin against the video game fates if I were to call myself a capital “G” gamer. I’m much more of a casual player, preferring to leave the hard core stuff to the true geeks of the genre. That being said, this is exactly my kind of game. CrossworDS doesn’t offer high end graphic arts of wild anime fighters flipping swords the size of mack trucks to make with the oohs and aahs. It doesn’t offer button mashing combat, in depth story with dramatic plot twists or some cliffhanger ending designed to get you to blow another sixty dollars on a tale, that if we were wiser, we could watch for free on basic cable in the early afternoons, complete with a glass of Sherri and a bowl full of bon-bons. What it will give you is simple, clean fun with actual intellectual results.

The game play offers three basic sections: Crosswords, Anagrams and Word Searches. Each of these sections offer a variety of difficulty levels and unlockable content as you complete the puzzles. Let’s jump right in, shall we?


Yup, they’re crossword puzzles. Filling them in is actually why this is my favorite of any crosswords game I have tried for any system. Using your stylus, you fill in the letter into the box, just as with any regular crossword in any paper. The nice thing about this particular game’s stylus recognition is that you may use both capital and lowercase letters, as well as a basic combination of cursive. This is brilliant for me, as I tend to switch back and forth between print and cursive in my normal handwriting, and because this game easily recognizes all of these forms of writing, I don’t get frustrated with the mechanics of the game when it does not understand what letter I have tried to input. Seeing as how you are timed and graded on both the speed of the puzzle as well as the amount of errors you make, knowing that you can breeze through and simply write how you would write any other time really does take loads of frustration out of the game. I know I sound like a lunatic raving about something as mundane as stylus recognition, but as a woman who has played her fair share of digital crosswords, it truly is a thing of beauty. This was the first electronic crosswords game I didn’t want to smash with a hammer, and I can promise you that letter recognition is a huge factor in why so many crossword games get turned into fodder.

“Easy” and “Medium” are available right off the bat, with “Hard” and “Bonus” available after a percentage of play through the previously opened levels. Each Level offers around fifteen pages of puzzles, each with twenty puzzles per page. Later pages in each difficulty level are also locked, making the player work through the sections one at a time to advance into other difficulty levels.

Starting at the top of a page and working your way down as if you were reading a book gets you from the shortest to the longest puzzles for each page, with each different page having the same structure. At the bottom of each page is a special “theme” puzzle. To call it “special” is a bit of a lie- it doesn’t do anything in particular outside of being a cute puzzle to help unlock further pages in the difficulty section.

The “Easy” puzzles are… well… easy. They’re fast to work through and don’t offer much in a challenge, making them great for moments of boredom in life, such as standing in line at the bank or waiting in a doctor’s office. You can easily kill a hand full of these on a fifteen minute work break. If you make an error it will stop on the box you’ve make the mistake in and show your wrong answer in red, waiting for you to correct it. In “Easy” mode, this feature happens automatically and can not be turned off.

“Medium” gives you the choice of turning the “you messed up” notification on or not. You score a better grade if you don’t use it, but it’s nice to have that option per puzzle. The puzzles in this section get longer, and they start to play around with the layout of the puzzles, creating basic shapes and pictures rather than random crossword lines. This creates a bit of a challenge as the words are longer than you might expect.

After working through at least 33% of each of the above, you should be able to try the “Hard” mode. These puzzles are indeed hard, but not impossible. They do take much longer to complete than the other levels, and I’ve spent as much as a half an hour on a single puzzle. Fortunately, you can pause and save your game whenever you need to, so there’s no worry about being interrupted while playing or having the game itself interrupt your life. In this mode, you are not given the choice to be told about errors. You do, however, get an amount of “points” to purchase hints, including a different clue, showing a letter, or showing a whole word. Be careful though… you only get so many points per puzzle.

“Bonus” puzzles are just a smattering of all levels and are purely for fun. You can turn hints on and off, and it really just offers you more puzzles, just in case the hundreds already available weren’t enough. :)


Okee, I’m horrible at these. I mean I’m really, really bad. Like “epic fail”. The secret to unlocking anagrams with any regularity, speed or efficiency is word recall, and my memory recall is a terrible thing. Which, I must say, is probably why I play these as often as I do. Sure, I don’t really do well with them, but they get my brain to work on areas that I have problems with. That can’t possibly be a bad thing.

There are three different sections of anagrams to pick from: “Short”, “Medium” and “Long”. In so far as I can tell, they are not graded as the crosswords are, and simply say “finished” when you complete one. Of course, this may only be because I am as slow at them as I am. Short anagrams are about two pages, medium have two or three, and long anagrams can have up to six pages of words. I’ve noticed a few minor issues here, with the game not accepting some words that are actually words. The dictionary of the game can work against a fast acting brain flying through the words in an effort to speed demon the round.

Word Searches

Admittedly, I’m not an enormous fan of word searches, but these are actually fairly fun. Each search grid is themed around a central concept (camping, art, cars, etc.) and are structured into “small” and “large” searches. In all honesty, I recommend simply staying in the “small” section. It’s not that the larger searches offer a higher level of vocabulary, but rather simply that the search grid is larger. Larger to the point where you have to scroll with your stylus to see other areas of the grid. This irked my brains out, and I didn’t bother with it. It’s hard enough to search over little letters in a little screen without having to scroll around the grid. The word searches are the only area that I actually avoid playing anymore. After a time, it tires out your eyes due to the small print in the grids.

The good news is that the vocabulary of the searches is not boring. Categories offer a wide variety of words not commonly found in general use today, such as cities in ancient Greece, Latin root words and a plethora of other uncommon words. Still, though… not really worth the burning eye pain.

On the whole, this is a game I continue to play again and again. I’ve still not worked through all of the puzzles, and because the anagrams are not a list of things to do such as the crosswords and the word searches are, you’ll never truly run out of randomly generated anagrams to keep you occupied. You don’t have to have the music turned on to play, but the sounds and background music are not annoying. The graphics are smooth, offering a soft zoom when entering into specific forms or shuffling around letter blocks. I take this game everywhere with me!

The Review

I love this game, and continue to love this game. It keeps me occupied both when I am bored and want something mindlessly fun, as well as when I am looking for more of a challenge. There are no irritating bosses to beat, buttons to mash or cut scenes you can’t pause during. The three sections of game play offer a wide variety of things to do, and with the randomly generated anagrams, the game never really ends.


In the long long ago and the far away, the Grandfather of all crossword puzzles waved his boxy hands to the sky and… okee, fine, I’ll stop. Obviously there is no story in this game.


Overall, this game was very well done, and aptly titled. The true beauty of the game is right there in the title, and you could purchase this game solely for the crossword puzzles. The stylus recognition is the best I have found to date in regards to crosswords, and I was so satisfied with this that I actually got rid of my other electronic crossword games. The word searches and the anagrams are also fine, but like I said- you could purchase this game only for the crosswords and be totally satisfied.


The subtle sounds in this game are actually rather soothing. When filling out forms in the crosswords section, your stylus makes a soft “pencil on paper” scratching sound that is a pleasant white noise. Completing full words in any of the three categories gets you a happy little chime and the menu and completion screens also offer music. It’s well thought out in that it’s subtle, soft and soothing, keeping the relaxing nature of these word games in mind.


I was happy with the thought that went into the transitions of word box forms. They zoom gently, but quickly, giving you the speed you need without jarring your eyes. Almost all of the movement in the game, regardless of what section you are in, is soft, yet quick. Even the confetti that falls in the background of your winning screen is gentle. I feel like the designers put a lot of thought into keeping this game visually calming.

The Good:

Nearly endless puzzles offering a wide variety of difficulty levels and time commitments? Fabulous! The game makes you think and relaxes you at the same time. It can improve your vocabulary and your memory recall without feeling like you’re sitting in a school room, and there’s something that is just… indescribably fun about the play of the games.

The Bad:

Having the dictionary in the anagram section leave out some common three letter words is irritating.

The Ugly:

My only major complaint is the larger word grids in the word searches. Scrolling around like that is a true pain. The small font in the word searches is also a bit disappointing.


In short, I would recommend this game for everyone, just as the rating suggests. Younger children can learn new vocabulary words and get a great introduction to crosswords in the “Easy” section. Adults doing the New York Times puzzle in ink will enjoy trying to beat their previous time in the hard section. There is something to love for everyone in this game.

Final Vote:

I would, even with the singular flaw in the larger grid of the word searches, rate this game a 5/5. I feel as though the scrolling of the word searches is a flaw, but a true lover of word searches might find this feature to add a unique twist to the complexity of the search, actually making it a bonus.

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