Thanks to Digerati for the review code
Title: Letter Quest Remastered
System: Switch eShop
Release Date: 11/23/2017
The presentation as a whole is a mixed bag, with the art style being the major factor that could turn away potential players or keep them invested if they don’t mind, since at first glance it looks a lot like a typical flash game you’d play on your computer, thanks to the UI, the comics that tell the story, and the character designs feeling equally as basic.
I don’t mind it too terribly much in this version of the game at least, since the Switch itself is just a handheld tablet at its core, so I find that the basic art style of the game fits right at home on the Switch, especially since this game makes use of the entirety of the tablet’s screen instead of filling it with excess background material. To explain how the game does this, while the core gameplay takes place in the bottom-center of the screen, the bottom-left acts as a dictionary for each word that you spell, while the bottom-right offers handy statistics and the top is where all the action takes place, with the health bar, main character and the enemies being the focus. This smart use of the screen proves that no matter what you think of the game’s cartoony artstyle, it at least was optimized for the Switch’s screen instead of just being a mobile game dumped onto the Switch with no adjustments to make up for it.
The soundtrack is also a bit strange, since there’s a new remixed soundtrack and an original version, and I found that both sounded pretty bland, but the remixes could occasionally enter the territory of being pretty awful, so I stuck to the original OST for this game since I liked the instrumentation a lot better despite the boring nature of the melodies in general.
The main objective of each level in Letter Quest varies based on which one you decide to choose, as while the stars over each level indicate the generic ranking system seen in most games to exist on this planet, they actually represent each individual objective. Some objectives simply want you to make it to the end, while others give you Time Trials or challenge you to use a harsh limit of words or characters, offering a bit of replay value and encouraging you to revisit older levels for stars if you find the new levels too tricky at with your current stats, but whichever star you choose, the game still has the same basic premise of you spelling out as many complex words as you can (Letter complexity is determined via the amount of stars on the bottom-right corner of the letter tile) to deal damage to the enemies on screen. Once you defeat an enemy, you move onto the next part of the level to fight another enemy, guess a word to open a treasure chest, or beat up a pile of gems for currency.
Sometimes an enemy will shake things up a bit by screwing with your board and making letters corrupted, either so they won’t be as effective, become totally unusable or they’ll simply flat-out cause you to take damage if you use those tiles in a word. This is a nice way to force you to think of alternatives if things go wrong, and you’re always able to skip a turn to throw out your current board if you can’t think of anything.
Yes, I said stats, and that means that Letter Quest is part RPG, since the gems you find in the stages or by completing quests are required to upgrade your characters, either by extending their health bar, strengthening their weapons, or buying new equipment entirely. In all honesty, while the execution of this mechanic works like you’d expect, I can’t help but feel a bit bummed that this means if you tackle a very difficult level with the default settings, you’re assured to lose the match even if you keep spelling complicated words to attack to the enemies, simply because you don’t have enough defense. On the contrary, it does feel good to blaze through earlier levels once you upgrade a few times, but I can’t help but feel that adding RPG elements to the game makes the main goal of being a good speller meaningless, since it seems an experienced speller with only a few required upgrades can get through this game on the same level as a basic speller with a ton of upgrades. Luckily to fix this, you can play the endless mode, which has the characters pre-equipped as you aim for a high score.
So far, the game seems like a basic word spelling game, with quirky RPG battle elements that may or may not fit with you, and while I’d love to say that the game is perfectly fine as-is, there’s a massive technical problem with the Switch version of the game that makes it absolutely unplayable for me unless I play in handheld mode with the touch screen. You see, you’re given the option to use the standard controllers to move the cursor and spell out the words, but instead of this controlling normally and working just like it would in a game like Ironcast, there’s this awful, terrible controller problem where it flat-out hates you if you don’t hold down on a direction for long enough. This means if you’re like me and use the D-Pad or joystick to move one space at a time, the game simply won’t register the action unless you hold it down for a while, and the same thing goes for the freaking A button!
I don’t like writing early reviews but I can’t play the game if the controls lag so badly… pic.twitter.com/7nbl5VNf84
— Connor The Dreamer (@SeafoamGaming) December 6, 2017
This delay and stubborn control issues pretty much killed my drive to play the game, and the only way I could find that any controls would work as well as they should is if you used it as a touch-screen only game, since touching the letters to form them worked just fine. Still, this game-breaking bug completely makes the game unplayable on a TV, and I just can’t believe this managed to slip by despite an update already being issued for the game. (to change an icon that didn’t really need a change in the first place.)
In conclusion, Letter Quest is an OK game that succeeds in being a simple letter-spelling game with RPG elements, but not much more. Unfortunately, I could barely stand to play this for long in Docked Mode, solely because of the atrocious controller problems. As of the publishing date of this review, they haven’t been fixed, which is pretty stupid considering how controls are the one thing a game needs to get right in order for players to invest in them.
For the time being, this is really just a game meant for handheld mode only, with nothing special or noteworthy to make it worth checking out for players who aren’t already diehard fans of these word games. And if you are a fan of these word games like myself, then I still advise you to stay away from this game until a patch comes out. I give Letter Quest Remastered a 5 out of 10.