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KrissX

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Regolith Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

It seems like word games are dominating my life as of late. I'm addicted to Words with Friends on my iPhone (TheTuck - all challenges accepted) and I'm hooked on KrissX, the first really good word game on XBLA.

KrissX goes for a simple presentation, which is just what the game needs. Music is soft and relaxing (though a little too loud on the default setting) and backgrounds are little more than a simple animated owl, a few trees and big word tiles. If this was all KrissX had to offer, I would be fine with it. However, the developers felt a need to add a little extra pizzazz to the presentation. Solving words results in an explosion of sparks and fireworks. It's a great celebratory touch, but a bit distracting, especially when you hit the sparks alongside another combo bonus.


Gameplay:

KrissX (pronounced "Kriss Cross") is a familiar concept presented in a unique way. Imagine a crossword puzzle where all the letters are filled in, but out of order. Your only clue to the mystery word is a simple "Like..." clue. You goal is to rearrange the letters, revealing the answer and earning a few points. It's one of those simple concepts that will have you wondering why you didn't think of it before and will keep you hooked and thinking.

KrissX offers a number of modes, all unlocked through the main Quest Mode. Time Attack gives you a time limit while Timeless removes the clock, letting you work at your own pace. You can also unlock a number of incredibly tricky Special Puzzles that challenge you to unscramble themed words, like state capitals or countries. Other puzzles challenge you to figure out words or alphabetize random letters in "X" number of moves. All of the modes are loads of fun and should push your brain more than most games on XBLA -- particularly when you are asked to put letters in reverse alphabetical order.


Difficulty:

Truthfully, anyone with a college degree should be able to work their way through most puzzles, though you may need to pull out a dictionary when you're stumped. Every word has a clue attached, though I sometimes found the clue words more confusing than the jumble of letters I was trying to decipher.

Crossword-style puzzles offer the added benefit of "locked" letters shared by the crossing words. It's helpful, but sometimes just one letter isn't enough. Not that I'm complaining; otherwise KrissX would be too easy and not as much fun. Tricky clues that will only really throw anyone off are the blocky word search layouts. Little bonuses will usually make things easier, but I noticed a lack of helpful bonuses during the "block" layouts.


Game Mechanics:

KrissX also includes a slightly more action-based twist to the typically brainy activity of swapping letters. Solving words will usually send off the aforementioned bouquet of sparks and fireworks. In addition to cluttering the screen with bright, distracting flashes, they also offer the opportunity for bonus points. As the sparks float off screen, they turn into button icons. Pressing the corresponding face buttons on the controller adds points; the more you can hit in succession, the higher your combo. It isn't necessary, but a fun distraction that keeps you on your toes.

At certain times, a section of letters will also begin to glow or burn, indicating you can either set off a massive letter-switching combo or a Wildfire bonus, which will set two neighboring letters into their right slots. Activating either can potentially mean a lot of points or even help you out of a jam.

KrissX is a fun game and should please most fans of word games. It's definitely one of the smarter games available on XBLA and the 150 levels (with the promise of downloadable puzzles) should keep players coming back.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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