PAX 2007: Hands-on with Wordjong, Nex is dumb as a rock

At the recent PAX conference, I spent some time talking to the guys from Destineer. You may remember them from this hands-on piece I wrote that seemed to confuse and terrify most of you, and today I’m bringing you some hands-on impressions of another one of their titles: Wordjong.

The game itself is an electronic amalgam of Scrabble and Mahjong. With such classic parentage and a $20 price tag, moving this title off of store shelves shouldn’t be an issue regardless of its quality. Of course, that wouldn’t leave me with anything to write about so we’re here to discuss how this game stacks up to the recent wave of casual software stressing smarts over twitch gaming.

Hit the jump for impressions, pictures and the depressing reality of just how many brain cells I’ve murdered. 

Wordjong is a title designed to capitalize on the new-found affection the casual gaming set has for brain exercise. Like Sudoku and Brain Age, this game reaches out to every age range and demographic with easy-to-learn gameplay that can keep a person occupied for months while simultaneously enhancing one’s intelligence, memory and ability to impress the female contingent who thinks brains are as sexy as facial scars or cars with gold-plated GPS systems.

The gameplay in Wordjong is relatively simple. You combine lettered tiles to form words which earns you points based on the complexity of the word, its length, and various available bonuses. In using the tiles, ones stacked below become available and the eventual goal is to clear all tiles on the board. While the system seems simple, it quickly becomes mind-bendingly difficult as you realize you probably never should have dropped out of college. Perhaps it was the fact that I was playing the game only half an hour after waking up or my proclivities towards spelling things in Latin, but I found myself most often relying on simple three letter words, and weeping at just how stupid the whole thing made me feel. Obviously this is more a personal problem than anything, but don’t be surprised if you’re humiliated by your own inability to put together anything more complex than ‘dog’ or ‘fire’.

That said, the gameplay is surprisingly addicting. The title boasts a Daily Puzzle mode that offers you a new puzzle to complete every day, and with a system as simple as the one in Wordjong, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult for Destineer to jam an obscene number of puzzles into the tiny cart.

Of course, gamers are always looking for new and innovative ways to push the boundaries of games, and the developers of Wordjong already guessed at how you kids would go about that. In a game where spelling is the entirety of the objective it’s only going to be moments before people attempt to pull off words like ‘buttcrumble’ and ‘scrotum’ and while the ESRB would weep if they’d included words like ‘f*$k’ and ‘c*%tcrumble’, Destineer assured me that there are a surprising number of swears in the game’s 100,000+ word dictionary.

We’ll have a review of this game coming very soon, but I will say that I’m quite impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Wordjong won’t replace Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin as your favorite DS title, but it’s a perfect time-killer for long plane rides or awkward family gatherings.

Earnest Cavalli
I'm Nex. I used to work here but my love of cash led me to take a gig with Wired. I still keep an eye on the 'toid, but to see what I'm really up to, you should either hit up my Vox or go have a look at the Wired media empire.