As a fan of word building games, I typically jump at the opportunity to review a title in the genre. This time around I took the plunge into Happy Words, a Nintendo Switch port of a browser based title. It is easily recognized as being inspired by the timeless classic table top board game Scrabble, of which its gameplay and layout are one in the same as far as any prying eyes are concerned. With a simple enough concept, I assumed a game like this would be truly hard to poorly compose. I was proven wrong. As good of a scene that LAN – GAMES EOOD tries to create, the game just does not hold up in this console port. Though hope glimmers occasionally, the bad far outweighs the good in this word building game.
Ok, so for those unfamiliar with the concept, the game is played by building words left to right, or top to bottom, on a grid via tiles. Typically you start with seven tiles, with letters of varying point value, and play until either no more moves can be made or until all the letters run out. With up to four players locally or online, this type of game is better to play with a full group of people. If you are not too confident on your spelling, fear not. There is no penalty for incorrectly spelling something, and there is a very handy dictionary function that lets you check your spelling and words similar to what you input. Most games are played with a turn timer, so do not take your good old time, unless you want to miss out and set yourself back. Feel like you have a bad hand? Skip your turn and trade in some tiles! Aim for the score multipliers scattered across the board and strategically place a high scoring letter, like Q or Z on it, to earn some big time points. Now that those basics are out in the open, let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
Visually, the game gets the job done. The game looks and sounds fine, even offering some different skins for the board and the tiles, which it could have easily omitted but it helps give the game a tiny bit of pizazz. That, and the dictionary function, are the main redeeming qualities, as you will soon find out that the controls and overall functionality are miserable. While playing on the touchscreen works mostly fine, the handheld/docked controls are so poor, I would audibly get upset. It is just laid out so bad, you end up making actions by accident that cost you your turn. Adding a “Are you sure?” pop up would have saved me from making or skipping my turn on multiple occasions. It is plain clunky, in my opinion. It makes for a really bad time when playing on a short timer, which I forced myself to do when playing with the wildly varying AI. One match I played with two AI opponents saw me waiting the ENTIRE minute long turn each time, just for them to almost always not take a move. Talk about boring. The next match would see them come back with a vengeance, delivering blow after blow of high scoring words, while I could barely make my word in the 30 second time frame. At this point, I was sold on never touching the game unfortunately. Unless I want to do two player pass and play, the game is broken and unplayable in my eyes.
While only $10, do yourself and pass this title on your way to the digital board game aisle. It just is not worth the effort when it plays so poorly with such a simple concept. You can do better.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review.
Final Score: 4/10
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