Checks Out Letter Quest

Bacon Bandit Games was good enough to provide me a copy of Letter Quest, and as is my wont, I played through part of it and recorded as I went! You view the results below:

So, what did I think?

I have mixed feelings about Letter Quest. On one hand, it’s transparently a clone of PopCap’s classic Bookworm Adventures; on the other, that doesn’t stop it from being extremely fun to play.

Letter Quest’s battles are where the joy lies in this game. It’s quite fun stringing together words, trying to conserve particular letters for future use, and navigating the bonuses and limitations imposed via tile rarity and status effects. The game is at its best when it imposes special rules on the play space to force changes of strategy. It perhaps doesn’t make for the most compelling video viewing (sitting and thinking is sort of required to succeed here), but it is compelling to play.

The little hangman chest puzzles scattered throughout various areas pose an enjoyable challenge as well, and make for a nice change of pace, though they can prove positively maddening when you’re attempting a time trial challenge of a level. Thanks to the strength of these core mechanics, it’s very easy to settle in and lose several hours compulsively hacking your way through ghosts and rabbits and, uh…ghost-snakes? (I think that’s what they are.)

However, I can’t help but find myself disappointed in the RPG context that’s supposed to surround and make sense of these challenges. Put bluntly, Letter Quest’s RPG trappings are threadbare. You have the ability to customize your character, but ever-increasing costs to keep improving any one stat limit the extent to which you can customize your overall approach. Beyond that, you’re given a limited inventory of potions, the ability to equip books that give you various sorts of bonuses in combat, and a selection of scythes that offer different benefits of their own, all of which you can grind to get some very incremental improvements to.

This minimal approach extends to the game’s story, which is–frankly–incredibly stupid. Of all the plots they had available to justify the game’s nonstop battles, Bacon Bandit decided on this: your character wants to visit a pizza place. That’s it. That’s literally the basic plot. This premise is clearly meant to be something innocent and silly played up for laughs, but it doesn’t even make sense as far as that goes: your character only knows that the pizza place is there because his smart phone told him so, which means that he could easily have just ordered his pizza delivered. It’s just not very motivating to know that you’re hacking through hordes of the undead to save yourself a $3 delivery charge on a food item that your character probably can’t even eat (because, y’know, he’s the friggin’ grim reaper, and therefore presumably does not have a digestive system).

I cannot recommend Letter Quest as an RPG–there’s just not enough there, story-wise or character customization-wise, to make it work on that level. However, it does have a compelling combat system that you are sure to enjoy in short bursts, and for the miniscule price point of $7.99, the price is right. You can find more info on buying the game here.

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  • erdraug says:

    It’s kind of confusing (for me, being over 30) how nowadays “RPG” can refer both to genre and theme.

    Letter Quest seems like a boggle game that has an RPG theme, same way that Puzzle Strike is a puzzle game that has a Fighting Game theme.

    Same way Gauntlet is a top down shooter that has an RPG theme.

    Been mulling over this though since the “Heroes of Loot” post back in 2013 🙁

    • Craig Stern says:

      According to my definition, this actually meets the genre requirements for an RPG as well–but only just barely.

      • erdraug says:

        Thanks for the heads up, I wasn’t subscribed to your RSS feed in 2011 so i wasn’t aware you had spent some time pondering what defines an RPG (but then again i should have guessed, as you mention in the opening lines, people tend to do that).

        Concerning Letter Quest – and similar games – I think it’s the “consequential” decisions part that irks me. But being able to fall back on your definition will certainly reduce my frustration from now on!


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