As previously stated in my Sparkle 2 review, the Switch is getting a bucket load of games with surprising variety. Yet again we have something a little new with word game mixed with RPG adventure elements in Spellspire, 10tons’ 5th game on the system in as many weeks.
There isn’t really a story to Spellspire, you are just a young boy seemingly trying to ascend a 100-floor tower to find his riches. It’s obviously not going to be the easiest of tasks with countless monsters standing in his way. Luckily for the main protagonist he’s an apprentice magician with a wand capable of defending himself.
Each floor of the tower is occupied by some nasty enemies stopping you from reaching the treasure. To combat them, you need to spell words which unleashes an attack, the longer the word, the more powerful it is. If you’re worried by the state of your vocabulary then don’t be, at least for most of the game. You’ll be hugely surprised at which words you have stuffed in the back of your head and how they spew out when under pressure. And pressure there is. Each of the enemies has a countdown timer which indicates when they will attack you.
It can be tough at times, I’m a writer and an English teacher and my vocabulary is actually quite poor and given less than favourable letter pool, you can be really up against it at times. Letters are generated at the start of each stage and the 10 that you have be with you until you get to the end. They aren’t used up or anything, you just need to make as many different words using the same set of letters. This can be both challenging, fun and even make you become slightly cunning. Having an S or ED in there can easily make any other word plural or past tense. Some frustration may come from times when you really are dealt a dud hand. I found having no E’s a complete catastrophe for my lexicon knowledge.
Killing enemies and reaching the next floor will give you gold which can be used to buy a few things which you will definitely need. You can buy new wands which increase your attack power as well as giving you different enhancements such as burn or poison. You can also buy new cloaks and hats which improve your health and again, provide extra abilities such as slowing down enemies or giving you more gold. All of these things you purchase and equip can be upgraded to different levels which increase their usefulness. There’s a nice balance of should I upgrade the one I’m wearing or buy the next one up. It’s a tough choice because either way, it uses a lot of precious money.
One last mechanic that you’ll find in the game is the items you’re allowed to take with you and use. You can use healing potions, magic scrolls or even books which reveal a word for you. To be honest I was so caught up in the frenetic word making action that very rarely did I pay attention to item usage. Saying that, I only played up until floor 50 or so, so maybe the further up you go it may become more essential to take items into account.
As a port of a mobile game, it does still bare the hallmarks. Firstly, you can collect free gifts once every 8 hours, which while not a bad thing, still shows it. Then you have the grind. It has the full on grinding curve you’d normally find in a free to play mobile game ripe with in app purchases. Now, unlike the free to play version, there’s nothing actually stopping you playing when you fail and no, there aren’t any micro transactions here, you can get straight up and try again. But when you get to certain points you’re going to hit a brick wall unless you go back, grind for cash and upgrade your equipment.
Part of this is alleviated by the fact that the set of letters you get differs each time, so it doesn’t feel like your playing the same thing over and over again. You always have to come up with new words. With that in mind, playing 100 levels as well as repeating most of them at least one time, this is a game that will last you quite a while. Playing an already completed level for a second time you’re invited to do a challenge: complete the level without taking any damage which can actually be very difficult if you’re not equipped or upgraded enough. You may have to retry this more than normally progressing up the tower.
Control wise, you can use the buttons while in docked mode, but the game is far more suited to portable play as you can use the touch screen for everything. That’s not saying the docked mode is unplayable or anything, in fact it’s perfectly fine but just a tad slower to choose your letters or correct your spellings.
Presentation-wise, it’s okay, but on the downside it does look like a mobile game that’s free to play with most things lacking any advanced animations. Music is also on the steady side, nothing really too special.
Overall, for word junkies, Spellspire is a no brainer. Of course you’re going to get it, challenge your thinking speeds and vocabulary. For those who are leaning more towards the adventure side of it may want to hold off because it’s really not the deepest gameplay, more of a window dressing for the wordplay. It does a good job though and it’s a nice addition to the Switch library. Library. Get it?
Game provided by 10tons