I really enjoy using my Nintendo DS; I love the fact that it is backwards compatible with Game Boy Advance games, I enjoy the fact that it encourages creativity through the use of its dual screens and stylus device, and finally, I take pride in the steady variety of experiences that it has to offer.
While these aspects are satisfactory on their own, a standout reason I take pride in my DS acquisition is attributed to the variety of mind-training games that are available; experiences such as Brain Age and My Word Coach encourage players to use their brains along with their fingers, something that I take pleasure in.
Crosswords DS by Nintendo is another addition to the class of games that require mental mastery along with physical dexterity; this one differentiates itself by requiring an understanding of crossword puzzles. Two other games of this ilk have recently seen release, namely The New York Times Crosswords and USA Today Crossword Challenge. How does Nintendo’s iteration compare to these competitors, and to other mind mastery challenges?
Crosswords DS requires players to handle their DS system sideways, akin to what was required on Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword. Once at the title screen, players are given the option of learning the game’s nuances or immersing themselves in its offerings.
Along with the expected assortment of crossword puzzles, Crosswords DS includes word searches and anagrams; these items enable the game to set itself apart from The New York Times and USA Today crossword editions as they simply offer crossword brainteasers. However, the three games are similar in that they offer a large quantity of word-based games to keep one busy.
Ironically, it is this quantity that proves to be both Crosswords DS’s most significant strength, along with its greatest weakness. The countless crossword puzzles that this game provides are divvied up into Easy and Medium settings, with a more difficult option available should you choose to participate. For players that lack skill in crossword puzzles, this choice appears beneficial; however, those who purchased this game as a means to improve their crossword solving abilities may not quite get the experience they are hoping for.
This can be attributed to the game’s slow method of progression and lack of a difficulty curve. Upon my first purchase, I was eager to experiment with the various word game types at their varying difficulty levels. After practicing on a few simple puzzles and progressing to medium level challenges, I was eager to test my mettle on some more challenging puzzles. However, in order for that to occur, I would have to complete the hundreds of puzzles offered on the easy and medium settings. This deliberate means of progression may satisfy crossword puzzle novices, but it will fail to impress crossword veterans looking for a challenge.
On that note, the crossword puzzles found on the easy and medium settings are lack the challenge required to satisfy persons familiar with word puzzle solving. Some of the clues come from questions such as “Shrek is one” and “Term that is short for doctors.” Word puzzle veterans and well-read individuals would have little difficulty in solving these problems, thereby proving the game’s overall lack of challenge for these groups.
Crosswords DS‘s other word-game types, word searches and anagrams, focus on giving players a choice of length rather than difficulty level. The word search games also give you the option of varying your grid size to ether small or large levels. Large word-search grids have more words and will require players to use the stylus to navigate the grid in order to find the words listed. Shorter word-search grids have smaller areas to traverse and fewer words.
Anagrams, which are games that require players to piece together words from a series, follows the same procedure, allowing players the option of piecing together small, medium or large sets of words. Both of these choice types succeed in providing players with a wide variety of puzzles to solve. The word search challenges though, suffer from the inconvenience of using the touch screen to navigate the large grid that is there while trying to find words. Twice during my time with the game did I mean to select a letter only to have the grid move upwards. While this is a challenge that can easily be overcome, it remains problematic nonetheless. The anagrams, by comparison, provide a significant level of challenge through the varieties offered, though this can be mainly attributed to the fact that the clock is a significant adversary in your efforts to piece together words.
In looking at Crosswords DS as a whole, I can say wholeheartedly that Nintendo succeeded in their mission, which was to bring a word puzzle game to the DS that everyone can enjoy. I can definitely see this game as a useful mechanism for individuals who wish to improve their vocabulary or word understanding. However, that improvement can go so far; for persons who desire a more demanding test of their knowledge of words and culture, I would recommend more rigorous crossword puzzle or word challenge DS experiences.