One of the more surprising things that the rise of social and casual games has revealed is just how much everyone loves spelling. Where were all of these people when I was looking for Scrabble players? Or was it the fact that I insist on playing the game in the buff to maximize the flow of my chakra? Oh well. Wherever they were at that time, they came out later in full force, and now there are mountains of word games. At first there were mostly knock-offs of Scrabble or Boggle, but as in any competitive genre, everyone started looking for their own spin, leading to some incredibly imaginative variations. Spell Quest: Grimm's Journey [Free] isn't treading on completely new ground, certainly owing a debt to the classic Bookworm Adventures, but thanks to a few good twists and an extremely polished presentation, it more than carves a place for itself.

In Spell Quest, you play as Grimm, an adorable little reaper who's on a quest to, I think, viciously kill any and all rabbits in sight. Something like that, anyway. The point is, you need to go through a bunch of levels and beat the stuffing out of monsters with your superior knowledge of the English dictionary. Each stage contains one or more monsters and some treasure, and the path forward is always paved in letter tiles. To do damage or claim treasure, you simply have to choose letters from the five by three grid at the bottom of the play area to make a word. The tiles don't have to be touching, and outside of certain challenge stages there is no timer, so feel free to let your brain go wild trying to make combinations. Once you've decided, you can let fly with your attack, doing damaged based on how many and which letters you used in your word. The enemy will counter-attack in some fashion, and that continues until someone's life bar is depleted.

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Enemies can inflict a massive range of status effects on you with their counters, including turning some of your letters into unusable stone, inverting the print on them to make them slightly harder to pick out in a pinch, turning them into whirlwinds that switch letters every turn, and so on. Sometimes these status effects can benefit you, like when a monster changes a whole row of your letters into a useful letter like 'E'. Crystal letters will also sometimes spawn, which boost the damage of your attack when you incorporate them into a word. Some enemies, especially the bosses, require certain methods to take down. You'll have to make words starting with vowels to do any damage to one ghost, or use corner tiles to make up words to take down a vicious zombie. Between all the different status effects flying around and the specific tactics you have to use on particular monsters, Spell Quest has a lot for the player to take into consideration beyond simply putting together a word, but we're not finished yet.

Each stage has three stars to earn, but they work a little differently here than in most games. Playing through a stage normally will earn you one star, going through again under a time limit will earn you another, while the last star is earned through a stage-specific challenge. In one stage you might not have access to half of the alphabet, for example, while in another you'll have to use words of a precise length to deal damage. You'll have to run each stage at least three times if you want to completely clear Spell Quest, but the variety of the challenges constantly keeps you on your toes and reassessing the way you're playing, so it never feels like a grind to head back into the same stage again.

Defeating enemies and clearing stages earns you cash that you can use to buy a constantly increasing list of upgrades and items. In addition to the usual things like health upgrades and potions, there is an assortment of books that modify your capabilities in very specific ways. You can only equip a limited number of books at a time, up to three by the end, so you'll have to choose what's most important for you at any given time. Equipping the books allows them to accumulate experience, increasing the power of the effect they give. They'll eventually max out, at which point you have to decide if you want to put your powerful book on the shelf temporarily for something that needs the experience.

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The game offers IAP in the form of a reasonably priced currency doubler and currency packages. Without the doubler, you will likely hit a point where you'll need to grind a bit of cash to afford upgrades, but with it, you'll have more than enough to buy everything in the shop and then some. If the doubler feels a bit too much like cheating to you, but you still want to toss a couple bucks to the developer, you'll be happy to know that you can activate or deactivate the doubler at your will after you've bought it. There's also a great spread of achievements and leaderboards implemented via Game Center, giving you something else to go for beyond simply collecting all the stars.

Ultimately, the biggest strength of Spell Quest is in how frequently it forces you to adopt new tactics. One of the problems that plagues word games is that once you learn their initial mechanics, the game never really changes all that much. You're doing the same thing at every stage of the experience. There are certain skills that will help you all the way through inΒ Spell Quest, of course. A big vocabulary will always be handy. With all of the other things going on in the play field, though, you can't simply look for the biggest and best word possible without taking a lot of external factors into account. As a result, the play experience is fully engaging from start to finish.

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The only real issue I have with Spell Quest: Grimm's Journey is that once it's over, it's over. There's quite a bit of game here, but I devoured it fast and found myself still very hungry for more. Once you've leveled Grimm's abilities to their fullest extent, replaying the stages isn't nearly as fun because of how overpowered you are, and there's no endless dungeon or anything like that. It's a great trip while it lasts, though. If anything, it reminds me of 10000000 [$2.99] in that I had trouble putting it down, and when I finally did, it was only because it was finished. For free, you'd be silly not to check this game out, especially if you enjoy word games.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Amenbrother

    Not into word games that much honestly but its actually a pretty cool game!

  • Ramaz1234

    Lol I like the title for the article

  • Pete Osborne

    So deserved, great little game. Fantastic dev too; he'll be so happy with this review!

    • markjasmith

      Thank you Pete! And you're right, I'm ecstatic about this review, and all of the positive feedback we've been getting!

  • nadav bar kama

    Never had so much fun writing in English! Good luck and best wishes all the way from Barcelona! Buen fin de semana!

    • markjasmith

      Thank you kindly! So happy to hear that you're enjoying the game!

      Also, I'm jealous of your Barcelona weather, it says it's 15 C there right now. Here in Winnipeg it's -18 C, and that's one of the warmer days lately! πŸ˜‰

      • nadav bar kama

        Fair enough, I won't talk about the weather ... Let me make a comment about SPELL QUEST: I understand the star system, I think, I have to manually choose a star mode ... finish, time mode and minimum word use ... can I complete all three in one go?

        ( very nice! I have been playing almost the last two hours since my earlier post).

      • markjasmith

        Yes, you choose a star, the first is beat the stage, second is always a time trial, and the third is a unique challenge for each stage. Right now you have to choose them from the map. In the next update we've got planned, we're going to allow you to click a star on the results screen and have that let you immediately play that star. πŸ™‚

      • androsynth

        -18 c!? And I thought we had it bad in sweden with +-0 c :O best wishes to you and I hope the snow melts soon <3

      • markjasmith

        A few weeks ago it was almost -40 C! Gets extremely cold here lol. Best wishes to you too!

  • markjasmith

    Thank you for the review Shaun! And you're right, we were definitely inspired by Bookworm Adventures, both 1 and 2 - fantastic titles that we highly recommend to anyone!

    As for the game being over - we're definitely looking into nice ways of increasing the longevity of the game. And an endless dungeon would be pretty cool...

    I'm curious Shaun - what's your play time at now that you're done everything? I know lots of people have been curious about just how much game is there. Thanks!

    Also, we're aware of the couple of crashes that some players are experiencing, and submitted an update to Apple last night that should fix them all. I applied for an expedited review and it was granted a few hours ago, so hopefully they get it pushed through soon. Will post here and in the forums once that happens. Thank you to everyone that helped with figuring out the bugs/issues, you're all awesome! πŸ™‚

    • Shaun Musgrave

      Just under 6 hours. Like I said, lots of game to be had, I just want more, more, more!

      • markjasmith

        Wow, nice job, that's actually one of the faster times that we've seen! Did you get all 99 stars and complete all quests in that time? πŸ™‚

      • Shaun Musgrave

        Yep. Haven't maxed out all the books or chased down all the achievements yet, though.

      • markjasmith

        That's one of the faster times we've seen, for sure! The average is just over 9.5 hours to get to 99 stars so far!

  • markjasmith

    OH MY - Spell Quest: Grimm's Journey just got listed under apps on the front of the entire iTunes Store. Also listed under Best New Games on the front page of the App Store!

    Mind = Blown. Officially.

  • vicsark

    Fun game. A good 10000000 like with word game instead of Mach 3.
    It's free, at least give it a try πŸ˜‰

  • GiHubb

    Great game, well done! A lot of fun, variety, and polished to a shine, loving it!

  • Rooie1154

    It's definitely a fun game. I love word games but they are often disappointingly easy. This one started simply enough but is ramping up the difficulty nicely.

  • Trevor

    I hate word games but decided to check out the hype since it was free. Played for ten minutes and bought the coin doubler IAP to support the dev. Bravo sir(s)/madam(s), you've converted a scrabble hater into actually spending money on a word game. Great game.

  • bhornburg

    So amazing, definitely the iOS gem of the week.

    the only thing I wish (which is probably silly and hard to implement) is certain types of words would have bonus effects. Ie. spell 'bash' and it does a critical, or 'sleep' and the enemy falls asleep.

    However, the gameplay is really quite perfect the way it is. Here's to the devs success so we may have many future updates! πŸ˜€

    • markjasmith

      Thanks for saying that! πŸ™‚

      Your suggestion is actually something we've had on our to-do list for some time, just need to find a nice way to actually display that info without confusing players. Hopefully can find the time to sneak that feature in someday, just need to get through a bunch of other updates/changes first! Also doing the design for the first major update. πŸ™‚

      • bhornburg

        Sweet! The books give that effect already to a degree, but every time I spell some destructive sounding word, I imagine what effect it might have. πŸ˜‰

        The game is still too awesome as it is. πŸ˜€ I plead for everyone to buy the coin doubler!

  • androsynth

    I will take a look into this game as soon as I can break myself free from Pokemon X (yep, even 32 old gamers likes pokemon ^^)

  • Mj1ggy

    Nice little game but through the first 7 levels or so it's been incredibly easy. Hope it ramps up soon to keep my attention!

  • ExK

    same name as my word game, Spell Quest, which was published last year.

  • Papa Deuce

    I like this game but I do have one or two issues.....

    1. You can never really build up that many gems.... I mean you barely have enough most of the time to ever get more than what you absolutely need. I routinely make 6 letter words but find myself always needing potions... At 500 gems each. And I die often, even though I read the tips on what the monsters take more damage from.

    2. I have had whole screens with just 1 consonant or 1 vowel..... I know I can switch the letters at the cost of one turn, but far too often using a turn that was just guarantees a certain death.... How many word can you make when your whole board is almost all vowels?

    Like I said, I like this game. I played for 3 hours one night.....but now the newness has worn off and frustration has set in.

Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 4.5