With all the recent whining from the so-called "hardcore" spectrum of gaming that casual gamers will invalidate the hobby, turning it into some kind of pixelated Hollywood doppelganger, a lot of people seem to have lost sight of the fact that the influx of cash money these younger sisters, elderly parents and hyper-intelligent dolphins bring with them CAN have beneficial side effects.
Let's suppose that the reason casual games have sucked in the past has more to do with peripheral issues than the actual games themselves. Obviously no developer wants their product to be reviled by Joe Joystick and Suzie USBkeyboard, but due to publisher demands, available resources and time constraints, you end up with games featuring Cartoon Network characters that sit in the bargain bins of your local EB until they literally gain sentience and wander off to haunt the food court.
Now with an influx of casual gamers, and the publisher realization that casual games can both be good and make boatloads of cash you end up with titles like Wordjong, an upcoming DS puzzle game from Destineer that has proven almost as addictive as my crushing opiate dependency, and at $20 much more affordable.
Hit the jump for a look at how casual gaming should be done.
Wordjong (whose basic gameplay I already covered here) fits anyone's definition of a casual title. It's going to retail for next to nothing, the developers don't own Ferraris -- nor have they ever made anyone their bitch -- and the game is probably going to be overlooked by most of you. Luckily for you, neither I nor your parents have ever had much faith in your ability to make wise decisions, so today I'm going to share with you a few quick reasons why you need to play this title. Tomorrow, we'll move on to why you shouldn't be allowed to leave the house dressed like that.
As a game, Wordjong is extremely simple. It's the kind of thing you can pick up for a few minutes of time during a subway ride, and on a handheld system that's a key selling point. Sure, there's a lot to be said for putting 80 hours into the Pokémon games, but most people use the DS for short bursts of gaming to distract themselves from the tedium of daily chores. Combine that with a ridiculously large in-game dictionary and the intuitive drag-and-drop word creation system, and you have a game anyone with middle school level literacy can get into -- the definition of 'casual', but also the game's biggest draw.
In a nod to the competitive spirit of the 'hardcore' the game also blatantly cribs the Xbox 'Achievements' system. There are 15 'Awards' available for various in-game feats and those of you who've spent more time with a game on the Xbox 360 than you otherwise would will instantly realize how important this is. This particular phenomenon exploits every person's innate obsessive compulsive streak to create a huge amount of replayability without actually extending the game. None of the 'Awards' seem too overly difficult, which should make them accessible to the casual and hardcore alike.
This game hits retail in exactly a month, and you can be sure we'll have a review up for you guys. I'm the last person you would ever expect to willingly play a casual-friendly puzzle title, but I have been more entrenched in this game than I have in any DS game -- without adorable fictional fighting beasts -- in over a year. As I said above, many people are going to overlook Wordjong, but if I convince even one more of you to give it a try than normally would, I will have done my good deed for the month.