I think there’s a lot of unnecessary hate thrown at so-called “casual” games. There’s this idea that, in order to be worth playing, a game needs a big budget, flashy graphics, or a steep learning curve that meets the demands of seasoned players. Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey does not rise to this standard. What it does do, though, is create a simple, approachable, and enjoyable experience that can engage players of many skill levels and ages, wrapped up with a tidy system of upgrades, challenges, and more. Simply put, it captures the essence of what a game ought to be without bothering to meet the idealistic standards that some gamers hold.
Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey follows the adventures of a small grim-reaper protagonist, Grimm, as he sets out to get some pizza. Of course, in games, nothing is ever simple; to claim his cheesy prize, Grimm will have to fight his way past scores of monsters, difficult challenges, and imposing bosses that stand between him and delicious victory. To fight through the hordes of baddies, players must use tiles to spell out words; the longer or more complex the word, the higher its damage potential. The end result becomes something between an adventure game and Scrabble, and is surprisingly fun.
Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey offers little beyond this system of combat, but it’s still entertaining. With a pretty decent spread of upgrades including increased health, damage, or defense, a variety of scythes featuring unique bonuses, and other useful items, there’s plenty to go after to keep you busy. I threw an easy several hours into the game, with both my wife and my seven year old stopping by to help me find good words to overcome foes — while I’m just as content with more serious or challenging games, the bottom line is that we had fun.
Where Letter Quest really excels is in the variety of challenges and boss fights, giving depth to a pretty simple mechanic. Bosses may take additional damage from words containing certain letters, words with multiple vowels, or even words of a specific length; at their toughest, monsters will only take damage when conditions are met. Challenges range from using certain word types, such as palindromes, using specific letters, or making use of special-effect tiles that alter the gameplay as you go.
The different tile effects in Letter Quest definitely keep things interesting, too. From poison or spike tiles that damage the user, to helpful Gem tiles that bestow shields or restore health, there’s a solid mix that requires strategic thinking to use. While Grimm may want to shy away from harmful effects in most situations, they can be worth the risk if a monster is nearly defeated, or when desperate times leave little other option. While the strategies remain simple, it’s at least cause for thought and keeps the game more challenging than simply putting words together.
Taken all together, Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey is pretty simple, and easily falls into the ‘casual’ category. That said, I’ve got nothing against casual games — I play a ton of them, because sometimes, I just want something simple, fun, and different. With plentiful bonuses to unlock and challenges to complete, there’s more than enough here to pack in several hours of family-friendly fun with a side of educational value for the youngsters. Letter Quest is available for a reasonable $7.99 on Steam, or for free (with in-game ads and purchases) on iOS and Android; the PC and Mac versions are also available directly from Bacon Bandit Games.