Every once in a while, we all like to sit down and enjoy a good puzzle game. Letter Quest is simply not a good puzzle game. As the title may suggest, Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered is indeed a grim journey. The gameplay is simple, being an altered version of both Scrabble and Bookworm, with some RPG mechanics sloppily mashed inside. Sloppily also describes the effort that the composer put into making the repetitive and annoying music heard throughout the entire game. Letter Quest is fairly lengthy for a puzzle game, which is usually a plus but it fails to deliver any satisfying feeling out of the 10+ hours you will sink into this game. They also try to grab you with a plot after every set amount of levels, but the scenes are so short and pointless that it’s probably best to just ignore them. There is very little to like about this mess of a game, but it’s definitely not the worst thing that you could spend your time on.
From the beginning of the game, I thought that it would be a fun and simple little adventure that would mark itself above many other indie titles, but they forgot to include the fun. I found myself truly having a hard time getting much enjoyment out of the extreme redundancy and repetition that was glamorously littered throughout this title. From the moment you start the first level, you are greeted with some decent looking characters and backgrounds, as well as a set of letter blocks that you can use to spell words with. As previously mentioned, the game works like Scrabble; you get a set number of blocks that you can use in any order to create a word, but it also works like Bookworm in the way that there isn’t a board and you keep on going until either a goal is completed, or you feel like stopping, depending on which mode you select.
In the Story mode, you play through 30 levels that each have an optional set of challenges that are accessible after completing the level. There are an extra ten ‘hard’ levels to play through as well, and I can definitely say that they are hard if you haven’t prepared enough. Unfortunately, preparation consists of getting gems from completing stages and buying upgrades that make your character better. When you are actually playing the game, you are fighting through small waves of enemies in order to deplete their HP. Each word you craft holds a certain number of points depending on the letters you use and the overall length of the word. These points are subtracted from the current enemy’s hit points, and thus creates a pseudo RPG game mechanic. This doesn’t work well, as Letter Quest is mostly a puzzle game, and these elements manufacture a fake sense of challenge and quickly becomes boring.
The difficulty in the game is artificial. I mentioned earlier that some stages can be tough if you haven’t prepared enough, but the reason for this is generally not based on your own skill. There is no timer, nor is there a reason that the upgrade system should determine the game’s difficulty. In order to survive in the later levels, you are more or less required to buy upgrades from the gems that you get from completing each stage. Since the letters you get during a game are random, you can get any set of words from them as you please. If you don’t have the proper upgrades, those words don’t matter. You need to buy more damage to hit harder, you need to buy more health to survive longer, and you need to buy more potion slots to restore more HP. This makes the sense of skill almost non-existent which is the bane of any puzzle game. Puzzle games are meant to test your mental strength and abilities, not meaninglessly grind for crystals that make your character better so that you can progress further. I will admit, you can’t get away with using three letter words for the entire game, but most people can spell decently long words or use ending modifiers to enhance them. The lack of challenge is definitely the biggest issue in the game.
Next up on my long list of complaints is the music. The music selection is small and repetitive, albeit I did think that the title theme was pretty catchy when I first laid my ears upon it. The issue with the music is that there is little complexity and continuous loops that start to wear on you within ten or fifteen minutes. Luckily, the developers graciously give you the option to switch the soundtrack back to the original game’s tunes, which is much easier on the ears and fits the atmosphere of the game world significantly better than the remastered soundtrack. After switching back to the original soundtrack, I actually felt like I was having more fun looking for words to build and defeating enemies. It’s still not the best game, but I did find it more enjoyable and even a bit nostalgic.
The visuals are nothing to gawk at but they’re not too shabby. Everything looks smooth and clean, though it does lack much needed complexity in the colors and overall design. I enjoyed going through the game and seeing which new monster would pop up next, but they’re all pretty much derivatives of the previous enemy. The weapon designs were well made and pretty fun to use. It’s very nice to see that you can get some variety in a game that doesn’t change all that much. Unfortunately, the remaster only contains one new character who is basically a recolor and resize of Grimm with different stats and a more feminine design. It doesn’t make much sense to use her, but the addition is definitely welcome. Again, the common theme of the game is that everything is very repetitive, and the graphic design is only slightly better than everything else when hitting that mark.
A grim journey indeed. Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered fails to make a puzzle game work the way that they should with messy RPG elements and difficulty based on an upgrade system rather than your own personal skill level. The game does manage to get some things right, but only the very basic of mechanics which are overshadowed by the bigger cogs in the machine. It sounds mediocre, and it looks decent, but what really makes this game genre shine is the element of challenging yourself with a good puzzle or two; this game just does not have that. Anyone can make basic strings of words and improve their character with a simplified upgrade system, and that makes this game terribly boring and unbelievably annoying.
Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38