Imagine if you will, that all those years you spent learning all those fancy long words would finally come in useful. Imagine that those words would enable you to fight off those pesky hordes that have plagued that mysterious tower for years. Well imagine no more!
Spellspire from 10Tons is an action role playing adventure crossed with a Countdown-style word game, where waves of enemies are placed in front of you hell-bent on tearing your face off. The only way to defeat these monstrosities is to find words from the group of letters laid out in the corner of the screen. The longer the word, the more damage your spell will do.
The action role playing element comes with having gear you can equip and upgrade, and consumable spells that can get you out of a bind if you totally blank on the letters in front of you. It’s a pretty simple concept to be honest, but definitely one that is easy to pick up, and the difficult comes from the time constraints and increasing damage the enemy can do if you take too long in plucking those words from your brain.
The game is set out as a tower (duh) with each floor being a new stage to tackle. There are quite a few levels on show here, and the key it turns out is replaying previous levels with your new gear in order to gain extra resource to purchase new stuff. Rinse and repeat.
Now I’ll level with you, even with words being what I’d call a strong point of mine I struggle massively with tv shows like Countdown, only managing a pathetic 4 or 5 letter offering where there are more bountiful options to be found. Once you complete a stage it breaks down your performance, and even shows you the longest word possible to discover given the set of letters at your disposal. It give me hope and broke me all in one fell swoop.
As easy as the initial concept may be, the difficulty does seem to spike about 20 stages in, and forces you to backtrack and replay other levels. The initial few sets of gear are quite easily attainable, and also absolutely necessary in order to progress at a steady pace. Unless you’re wordsmith levels are Rainman-esque.
I appreciate that a word game such as this should never really wear thin, as the challenge is always slightly different and the words to discover almost endless. The impetus to carry on playing seems to wain about halfway up the tower for me though; Spellspire doesn’t seem like a game you can marathon. The fact that it’s on console and PC now is a bit strange to me; even before I knew it was already on Android and iOS it seemed like a no brainer that touch controls and the ability to play it on the go for short periods of time would be the ideal scenario.
The controls on offer here serviceable at best, and a little clunky at worst. It felt like I was trying on an on screen keyboard with my controller, which as we all know can be more than a little frustrating. When you add in a time constraint when trying to find a word it starts to grate a little. On more than one occasion I was living on the edge somewhat, and accidentally went one slot too far, spelt the wrong word, and was obliterated.
The artistic direction of the game is decent, with sprites clean cut and really entertaining for the most part. Enemies get slightly more exaggerated as you go, and each one comes with a humorous description to boot. Seeing a goblin with a horn taped to their head carries on being amusing even after the 30th time of asking. Each item you can acquire also contains this flavour text, and it does add more than a little character to what could have been a soulless endeavour.
Ultimately, Spellspire is a decent word game with very serviceable role playing mechanics thrown in for good measure. The core game is fun (if you like that sort of thing) and the longevity is there if replaying previous levels is your thing. The presentation is fun, and the overall style of the game is simplistic but quite cute.