Review: Bookworm DS

BookwormDS.jpg The DS is absolutely flooded with puzzle games, so at this point it takes a special game to really grab my attention. PopCap’s DS port of word-based puzzler Bookworm is one such game.

If you’ve never played a Bookworm game on another platform before, it’s essentially the board game Scrabble molded into a match-three puzzle game. You are presented with seven columns of 52 jumbled letter tiles and must conjure all of your literary might to link adjacent letters into words of at least three letters or more. Obviously, with the game carrying an “E” for Everyone rating it won’t recognize any vulgar terminology, but beyond that it is backed by a sophisticated dictionary that is sure to expand your vocabulary with words you’ve likely never heard of – Lex (the game’s bookworm mascot) even gives you word definitions on occasion.

Like with any match-three-style puzzler, larger word chains equate to higher scores and the creation of special tiles that add on even more bonus points, and as you earn points you rank up and the game gets harder by burdening you with fire tiles that gradually burn their way down to the bottom of the screen and end your game. After a certain point, Lex also gives you bonus words that, if spelled, give you a big score reward. And there are many other opportunities for bonus points by spelling the daily “Word of the Day” and listed categorical words from 20 unlockable bonus books with topics like Sports, Fruits, Toys, Colors, Pets and so on.

As you would probably expect from a game with a title like Bookworm, you play holding the DS vertically in open-book orientation, with the letter columns displayed on the touch screen to the right and things like your score, library progress, bonus word and Lex himself displayed on the left screen. Overall, this is an effective scheme for this type of game, but I do have a couple nits to pick at.

First, from what I could find there is no option for a left-handed orientation, so that’s something to consider if you’re a lefty. More significantly, the touch screen input isn’t always consistent. You create words by tapping letters in succession or dragging the stylus across the desired sequence of letters, and then you must confirm by tapping the green box at the bottom of the screen or the last letter in the word. By and large, the controls are very intuitive, but at times – often enough to be a detraction – you’ll click a tile and it’ll select and unselect from faulty stylus recognition or, even more frustrating, a smaller word will accidentally confirm while you are still attempting to link on additional letters to make an even longer word.

Fortunately, the occasional control mishap is easy to forgive because the game as a whole is an absolute joy to play and is nearly impossible to put down once you start. The two game modes test your brain power in different ways – Action mode forces you to think quickly with fire tiles that automatically appear and burn through underlying tiles, while Classic mode is more relaxed in that you can take as much time as you need between words, as fire tiles only propagate after you confirm a word – and if you have a DS-owning friend around you can match vocabularies against one another even if you only own one copy of the game. I haven’t been able to test the multiplayer, but according to the manual players take turns spelling words and whoever reaches the goal score first wins.

For me, Bookworm has become an essential game in my DS library, and so should it be in yours. Whether you’re at home vegging out on the sofa or on the road in need of a quick puzzle pick-me-up, Bookworm is a go-to game for instant satisfaction. You may actually learn something while you play too, so you don’t have to feel guilty if you end up glued to your DS for hours at a time when you should probably be doing something more productive.


+ Unbelievably addictive gameplay
+ Highly accessible
+ Edutainment gaming at its finest
+ Infinite replay value

– Occasional errors in touch screen recognition
– No control orientation for lefties

Game Info:
Platform: DS (lite version also available via DSiWare)
Publisher: PopCap Games
Developer: Black Lantern Studios
Release Date: 12/2/09
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2 (Wireless Multi-Card and Single-Card Download Play)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!