Puzzles games are excellent on their own, but throw in some role-playing elements, and you get fantastic puzzle RPGs like Puzzle Quest and Gems of War. The same principle applies to Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey Remastered from Bacon Bandit and Digerati.
Letter Quest combines Scrabble-style spelling and role-playing, resulting in a unique game for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Vita, and Steam. Read our detailed Xbox One review to learn how surprisingly fun spelling can be!
Before we talk about how great Letter Quest is, let's get its biggest weakness out of the way first. Every role-playing game needs a story. Puzzle RPGs never seem to have good stories, but they tend to at least go through the motions.
Letter Quest makes the least possible effort to provide a justification for its campaign. Our protagonist Grimm gets hungry and sets out on a journey to buy some pizza. For reasons that are never explained, an army of rabbits want to stop him. That's the whole story, sparsely brought to life by single-page comics over the course of the game. Letter Quest doesn't need a good story to be fun, but it's almost impressive how little thought went into this particular tale.
Letter Quest's campaign consists of 40 total levels, each with four variations to play (and thus four stars to earn, for a total of 160 stars). Every level consists of one or more battles between Grimm and a variety of monsters. Unlike a regular role-playing game, these battles don't involve choosing attacks from a menu. Instead, players spell words to attack enemies.
You always have a field of fifteen letters from which to choose from here, far more than Scrabble's limit of seven letters per player. As a result, it's usually much easier to spell words here (not that you're building off of existing words like in Scrabble). Words must contain at least three letters and less common letters like K and X add more damage to attacks than common ones.
If you can't find a satisfactory word from the available letters, you can shuffle the field at any time. Enemies attack after every move, so shuffling affords them a free hit. But sometimes it's worth taking the hit to access better letters, especially if you're trying to make specific types of matches for the optional side quests.
Once you've completed a word, submit it to initiate an attack. There is no penalty for entering words not found in the game's dictionary; it simply won't let you submit them. Letter Quest also has a nice educational component in that the game displays the definition of any word you submit. Since players sometimes do a bit of guessing in word games like this, it can be cool to learn what a guessed word means.
After you attack or shuffle your letters, the enemy will hit back or heal itself. Some enemies have the power to create special tiles, such as poison, spikes, plague, duplicator, and more. These tiles have effects like harming the player when used, changing the actual letter every turn, or making the letter completely unavailable for use. They add a nice degree of challenge to the battles and play into many optional quests and Achievements.
Now and then, our hero also encounters a chest which can only be opened by winning a Hangman-style challenge. Players have a certain number of tries to fill in the mystery word, most of which are food-related. Succeed and you get a choice of three rewards, such as free gems (shop currency), a shield, or damage boost. Chests provide a pleasant diversion from regular battles.
Turn-based battles aren't Letter Quest's only RPG element. It also has a robust upgrade system to keep players motivated. The farther you get into the campaign, the more things you'll unlock to purchase. These include:
- Upgrades: Increase Health, Damage, Armor, Potions carrying capacity, and more. You'll want to max all of these out eventually.
- Books: Equipping these provides benefits like more time in Time Attack stages, more gem drops from monsters, increased healing, and more. Each book levels up with use, increasing its effectiveness. I highly suggest you wait to repeat stages for Stars until you unlock all three book slots – that way you'll level the books up as early as possible.
- Potions: Buy single-use healing potions or potions that remove bad tiles from the board. Healing potions are important, but try not to rely too heavily on them.
- Special: These consist of a few game modifiers, like previewing which monsters you'll encounter throughout the stage. The Special upgrades are entirely skippable, at least until you've bought everything else.
- Heroes: If playing as Grimm doesn't float your boat, you can also play as his female friend Rose. Each character has slightly different stats.
- Weapons: Buy and upgrade several different scythes for our heroes. The only weapon you need is the one that increases gem drops, though.
- Tiles: Letter Quest includes six different tile sets, including a wooden set and a Words with Friends-themed set.
Endless Mode and Stat Tracking
Letter Quest's campaign is the meat of the game, but it also includes an Endless Mode. Here, players select Equipment, Stage, and Music, and then battle an endless series of opponents. Every few battles, you get to buy power-ups. Lose and the game ends.
The Endless mode could potentially be a fun way to challenge friends, seeing how far everyone can get without dying (or cheating). Unfortunately, Letter Quest has absolutely no online leaderboards – a huge missed opportunity that totally neuters Endless mode.
Still, the Stats menu tracks a variety of interesting stats such as longest word, letters used, palindromes used, etc. It's just a shame we can't compare our stats against friends' stats.
The Xbox One version of Letter Quest offers a whopping 60 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. That massive Achievement count is important, as you always have some optional goal to work towards. One of my favorite puzzle games of last year, Gems of War, doesn't give players nearly as many Achievements and milestones. Consequently, it gets stale a lot faster than Letter Quest.
Naturally, Letter Quest has time-consuming Achievements for achieving all 120 white stars in Story mode and spelling 2500 words. It also has fun ones such as spelling 25 Palindromes and spelling the words in the developer's name ( BACON and BANDITS). Endless Mode has 8 Achievements that might be a chore to get through, but they shouldn't take too terribly long.
The one hard Achievement relies too much on luck. Close Call asks players to beat a stage with only one health left. Very unlikely to happen if you've bought any health or armor upgrades, but there are reliable ways to get it by starting a fresh save.
Should you get the Xbox One version?
Letter Quest is available on Xbox One, Steam, and PlayStation 4 and Vita, so which one should you get? We played both the Xbox One and PlayStation versions.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 game are identical, except for Achievements. Both PlayStation games only have 12 Trophies for some reason, which is a real shame. Letter Quest's Xbox One Achievements actually make it a better game by providing so many goals to work toward. If you want to play on the big screen, you can't do better than the Xbox version.
The PlayStation 4 and Vita versions are cross-buy, making them a great value. The Vita version must inexplicably be played with the touch screen only. The other versions support buttons and control great that way, so requiring players to hold the Vita a bit awkwardly and get their screens dirty playing Letter Quest makes no sense. Still, get used to touch screen play and Letter Quest is great on the go.
Whichever the platform, Letter Quest is a must-buy for fans of word games and/or puzzle-RPGs.
- Spelling is fun!
- Lots of levels and upgrades to keep players engaged
- Achievements that actually enhance the game
- No online leaderboards
- Neither of the two selectable soundtracks fits the game very well. The Original soundtrack is better than Remixed though.
- The actual story is way too basic and pointless
- See Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey Remastered on the Xbox Store
- See Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey Remastered on Steam
Xbox One version provided for review by Digerati.
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