Imagine just for a minute or two, that you are the head of a games development studio. You are aware that from time to time, strange if not some really way out ideas get floated across the table at you. Now picture the scene, some guy comes into the office (or gal!)
all excited and says, “Hey boss, we’ve had this excellent idea!”
Perhaps your head gets filled with images of a game that will become the next Forza 4 or the next best thing since Mass Effect, or perhaps Gears of War! So you lean forward in your chair and demand that he or she, spits the idea out.
“Okay, we take two family board games and kind of mix ‘em up!”
You may well just sit back here, a little puzzled to say the least, but if you are bold enough, maybe you’ll be intrigued.
You swallow nervously and say, “OK shoot. Go on, lay it on me!”
He pauses, takes a deep breath and then says; “OK what if we combine Scrabble with Risk!”
“Scrabble with Risk? Err go on...”
Scene fades and then we cut too..
Yours truly entering a code given to me to download. I have no idea as to what to expect and as I finish the entering the code and I get the download confirmation screen I wait with anticipation as to what this game called Quarrel is all about.
And yes, that is what you have got, scrabble mixed with risk! Now it sounds odd, weird and strange, it sounds like it shouldn’t or indeed couldn’t work, but it does!
OK so let’s explain exactly how the game works.
You start off with an area of land divided into sections, rather than a global map showing continents etc. These may be a castle on a hill, ruins in a jungle or as is the case in challenge mode, a chain of small islands that need to be dominated.
Like Risk the land is shared out at random and the playing order is determined by the a.i.
Be warned though, in challenge mode it’s rare unless playing one on one, that you will go first. This has it’s drawbacks as well as benefits as I will explain in a while. But first I had best explain the differences between the two modes.
In a quick match, a random land and a random number of opponents are selected. Before choosing the land to battle over, take time to study the word i.q rating of your opponents.
The higher the ranking the better they are (that kind of goes without saying really) so be aware that some of the players are not so much as sneaky but can think of things that would perhaps pass you by. The beauty of one on one matches is that there is no time limit on taking your turn. The turn starts with you or your opponent, picking where they would like to attack first. Having selected the area in question, they (and you) must try and make up a word that matches (if possible) the number of troops involved in the battle.
So 5 troops and you are looking at words between 2 and 5 letters long. Look at the tiles as you build words, and like scrabble, each letter has a numeric value. (There are no blank tiles by the way). If a word doesn’t immediately jump out at you, then press the right button and the letters will be rearranged. In the worst case scenario, pressing both triggers means you concede the battle and the sector being fought over. But do this at your peril, you may be surprised as to what constitutes a word! For instance UFO is acceptable!
(There you go, a free hint, and it scores well to boot!)
If you have been a successful defender, then he or she is sent running away with their tail between their legs. If you are a winning attacker, then you’ll take their land and you may also capture one of their troops as a prisoner who seems only too happy to take the battle to the others.
In a multiplayer game the same rules apply but remember this, there is a time limit involved. So if you can’t see a word and that clock is ticking down you could obviously lose that land. Alternatively if two of your opponents are battling each other, then you have an opportunity to gain some useful reinforcements. As they lock horns, some letters are presented and the idea is to enter the word that is shown in the form of an anagram.
(There may be more than one answer so bare that in mind) If you can get the anagram then a meter is filled that surrounds a picture of your avatar. Once this is filled, you’ll gain an extra man that you can call on to a) bolster your forces in case of an attack from a larger force, or b) give you extra muscle against a slightly weaker opponent if you so choose. This is where the real tactics can come into it, spend them, or bank them?; that is the question amigo! Not solving the anagram boosts your word IQ but does NOT fill that meter, or if it does, it does so sparingly if the word is impressive enough. To really get somewhere in multiplayer, then those extra men can make all the difference.
Other modes see you face a challenge where you battle with an opponent in a continuous assault, where as in the normal game, you do get a chance to reinforce units because like Risk, as you take over a neighbouring section, you will of course deplete troops in your home sector as the conquerors will jump into that now empty space. With luck any prisoners captured will help alleviate that problem. So you see knowledge of words is useful as is a grasp of tactics.
On line play is as fast and as furious as off line and the I.Q score is reflective of their prowess in the game as a solo player. Be brave and take on those higher than you, or step back, that is entirely up too you!
Right then, let’s break this down.
GRAPHICS: Colorful graphics really give the impression that this is a party game and it’s meant to be fun. They reflect that fun loving aspect of the game very well indeed and some character animations of the troops may provide a chuckle or two along the way.
SOUND/MUSIC: Conquered troops are flattened with gratuitous whacks and smacks and indeed, the screen gets filled with comic book style bams! and ka-pows! like the old Batman serial. The music is jolly and will have a different theme depending on the setting for the battles. A jungle theme naturally has the drums etc etc, that you’d expect, and a tropical scene has shades of those Caribbean steel drum bands. All functional and jolly and suit the game well indeed.
PHYSICS: As there are no explosions, fireballs etc etc, then the physics are non existent to be honest. Waves will lap at the shore etc but that’s about it, but honestly with this title it does not matter at all.
VOICE: Again mostly whoops and yelps and hurrahs etc etc. No actual speaking or lip synch. Not an issue.
PRO’S: This is one of the most engaging party games I have seen. It’s family friendly and anything that encourages kids to spell and use words can only be applauded. Someone ought to sit down some of these anti video game lobbyists that it’s not all about shooting people/aliens and blowing stuff up. This is a fast, furious and above all else EDUCATIONAL game as well as being a darned good hoot to play. Play by yourself, with family or on line, this is a nice package and I find it hard to tear myself away from it!
CONS: There are not that many. The major con is some of the a.i. players in the higher I.Q brackets are good, and I mean damned good. They may annoy you like anything but the feeling of accomplishment when you do beat one is a very satisfying one indeed! It is possible to draw in a battle by the way, the winner will be the one who has entered either the same word as the opponent, or a word with the same score value, the fastest. There have been times when I have slightly questioned the decision made by the computer as to who was the fastest so be aware of that.
But heck the game is a blast, and I whole heartedly recommend it. It’s not that expensive on X Box arcade (800 points) and it will provide, fun, education and a darned good laugh at the same time. You like Risk? You like Scrabble? So go ahead and try this hybrid. On paper it sounds like this should not work, but trust me, it does. Now excuse me, where’s my dictionary gone to?