Using the anagram above, which two games does Quarrel DX combine? If you said Scrabble and Risk – then well done smart arse, you would probably love this game. If you didn’t get the answer….well as long as you like those two games then you’ll probably like Quarrel DX anyway.
Denki’s latest title has all the simple, energetic charm and polish of their previous releases. Like their challenging but loveable puzzle game Denki Blocks!, Quarrel DX combines a bright, cartoony aesthetic with rock solid gameplay fundamentals to craft a challenging but welcoming experience. While Denki Blocks! was an unremittingly tough prospect that left puzzle neophytes like me scratching their head though, my vocabulary has always been stronger than my logical ability so Quarrel DX was a far more enjoyable experience.
To begin with it might take a while to appreciate the charms of word-battling. The tutorial is slow paced and stubbornly refuses to let you enter a word other than the one it chooses for you, even when higher scoring options are available. This issue, along with a minor sound bug I encountered when playing music, made the first hour or so with the game a bit of a disappointment. It didn’t help that the game was insistent that I connect it with Facebook and Twitter.
Once the tutorial is over and you are let off the reins things improve and it all begins to fall into place. The games charming, retro art style is a winner. There’s something quintessentially British about the cartoony avatars and the interface design. For some reason it brings to mind games like Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder, and as an anachronism compared to the innumerable App Store games that simply copy Angry Birds visual style, its charming in its own quaint fashion. In fact at its best – when the animated characters and cheery sound effects combine with the bright and crisp visuals -it has the feel of a Nintendo game.
Beyond the games appearance, the gameplay is tremendously slick and well thought out. Playing on a themed grid (castle, jungle etc) you takes turns moving your little troopers in a way somewhat analogous to the boardgame Risk. Having more troops on a single map square makes it more resilient to attack, and you shuffle your troops from place to place as you try to capture your enemies territory while defending your own.
When it come time for you to attack an enemies square or defend one of your own, you face your opponent in a word cahllenge. A line of random letters appear on the bottom of the screen and you have to make a word out of them. Different letters award different scores (Oh Z, how I want your 12 delicious points!), and the player with the highest scoring word wins, either claiming their enemies square on the map or rebuffing their opponents attack. The catch here is that you can only create a word equal in length to the number of troops you have in battle. While a three letter word with a Z may be good enough to beat a five letter word on occasion, having more troops generally confers a huge advantage to one player over the other. While the initial gameplay is not timed in the quick matches, once you face the games campaign mode (called Domination) each round you race against your opponent to get the best word within the time limit. As a result, the game has a great pacing as you are split between careful and intense planning to feverish, panicking word creation. To call it absorbing would be a huge understatement.
Quarrel DX is essentially a mashing together of two great boardgames both with established gameplay formulas that have entertained gamers for decades. In this regard Denki has been very clever. There was no question that with such a simple but effective gameplay hook, Quarrel DX was always going to be at least entertaining. Where Denki have excelled is in everything that surrounds the game. From the characterful avatars that you choose to represent your troops, to the mugging opponents who you face in each word battle, Denki knows how to push your buttons. Because of the little graphical animations with stars and sparkles, the pitch perfect sound effects with cute voice samples (including some Scottish ones) and the sheer enthusiasm of the whole experience you are drawn into the game completely. The closest comparison for the way the game captures you completely is something like Peggle; a game that similarly seems to fire strange pleasure centres in the brain.
And if you are worried about longevity or lack of features, let me alleviate your concerns. With a challenge of the day mode, achievements, definitions for each word and leaderboards, there’s an unbelievable amount of value in the package. On top of that, the game is littered with features you only notice after hours of play. With little touches like your Word IQ which is updated as you play (a-la Dr Kawashima) and detailed records of every aspect of your game performance that would put GTA to shame, its hard to think of anything else the developers could add. That is until you realise the game has no on-line multiplayer mode.
If a day comes when this feature is added, you could be looking at a near-perfect mobile game. Until that day, Quarrel DX will have to make do with being simply great.
9 kwyjibo’s out of 10