In Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey, by Bacon Bandit Games, you are a reaper just trying to get some pizza and make some gems along the way. For some reason all kinds of spooks and monsters keep getting in your way. Your only weapon is a mighty scythe powered by words. The player is given a 5×3 grid of letters to build the most impressive and deadly words their minds can fathom. Longer words and words with more rare letters in them deal more damage. However, those pesky spooks can damage, change or even poison your letter tiles. One spook even dastardly flips some of your letter tiles UPSIDE-DOWN! The fiend! This honestly does very little to hinder your ability to tell what letter the tile is, but he thinks he’s very cleaver. Let’s not ruin this for him. He is already dead. Plus, all the monsters have charming bios like Lil Boo, who ‘tries to be scary but she’s too cute for that’.
You are given a simple map of locations. Each location has four star levels to complete. Each star is a different way of playing that level. The first being a straight forward play through where you encounter monsters, sometimes captives who sell you useful items, and if you are lucky a treasure chest. Treasure chests can be opened by guessing a mystery word, Hangman style. If you don’t figure out the word before your guesses run out then no loot for you. You have endless time to find the best word possible in this mode. Some letters like K, Q, and V do more damage. You rack your brain for words with as many of those high damage letters as possible and revel in defeating your foe with VANQUISH! Or, if a monster has few hit points left, you could kill him with the power of LOVE, you cleaver reaper.
The second star is a timed level. I find these especially difficult because I don’t spell well under pressure. You will find yourself trying to make up words because you need just one more hit to defeat the monster, but you can see the seconds ticking down.. 5, 4, 3, 2 and you furiously try to attack with FUBAR! Which is an acronym and not recognized as a word. Fail mission, upgrade stats and scythe, prepare to perspire in another attempt. I recommend the Dr. Seuss approach to this mode: BAIL, MAIL, TAIL.
Third star is running the level with a special challenge. This can include monsters with twice the health or that do two times damage. They can limit your word choices to those with more than four letters, or as evil as banning A, I, O, and U. Go ahead, think of a word without those vowels. Okay hot-shot, apparently you should play this game. I often play this level first because of my hatred of time limits.
Finally, in the fourth star level, every monster is elite, and they each have special conditions. For instance, one monster might only take damage from words that start with a vowel. I like these levels because they force you to be creative. You discover good ammo to take back to that time trial you skipped because that darn spook made half your letters M’s and your brain dumped every word you know with M in it. They aren’t called elite for no reason. Some leveling up will be required before tackling these monsters.
After completing several levels you reach a boss level. It’s just one monster but lives up to his boss potential. This makes completing the four star levels especially daunting, but the gems you get are worth the sweaty palms.
Not enough options yet? You’re in luck! There is also a quest log you can complete. You get three challenges at a time. These start out easy like ‘use a potion to heal’. Then suddenly they want you to ‘use 5 poison tiles’ or ‘spell words that are alphabetically ascending’, like ‘ACE’ for example. Letter Quest assigns quests for you, but you can pay gems to skip one if it’s proving too difficult. The quests are a good way to force the player to finish all four stars of one level. You need to fight that one monster with poison tiles because darned if you skip a quest instead of upgrading your scythe.
The game’s pace is well-tailored to the casual gamer. It feels like after every two or so locations you complete you not only get to level your character, but are also given more options to choose from. Unlocks include new tile skins, characters, potions, upgrades, and books. Yep, books. They level up as you carry them into battle. Their usefulness includes bonus damage when you use words with double letters, such as ‘bubbles’, or heal you when you use the letter E. Really? E is in everything! Almost. There are so many options for upgrades, items, and game play challenges that I’ve only listed a few of my favorites. The depth makes this game great for seasoned RPG players as well as the casual gamer.
Letter Quest is an excellent game to unexpectedly lose five hours in what you swear was just twenty minutes. I like to refer to this as the Puzzle Quest Conundrum. The game play is not difficult, but it does present you with many challenges and options. It also has the magical effect of lowering your vocabulary to a second grade level, especially in the time trial portions of the game. It makes you feel smart for remembering the word WINDOW and rewards you often, making it very addictive. I’ve even heard rumor using the word BACON gets you an achievement.