Can you imagine a game that combines a Scrabble concept with a Risk style board game? It’s hard to fathom how the creators of Quarrel managed to combine these two vastly different games into one amazing title, but somehow they have.
Scrabble is truly a game for the ages. It really is one of the simplest pleasures to create a word where before there was just a jumble of letters. It is this pleasure that Quarrel capitalizes on, by bringing word jumbles into the future.
It has to be said first and foremost that Quarrel is an amazingly well presented game. The menus are colourful and bubbly, the animations cute and amusing, and it’s all very much alive and kicking. This adds to the flavour of the game, and is carried over from the menus into the game itself rather seamlessly.
The aim of Quarrel is to capture another players territories by un-jumbling the same set of letters into bigger and better words. If you can crack the anagram then you are in for an even bigger bonus, with each set of eight letters making up a range of anagrams. Now throw in a timer and it’s all gone crazy - believe us when we say that Quarrel will leave your brow decidedly beaded. So where does the Risk element come into play?
Well, in Quarrel, the length of the words you spell is dependent on the number of troops you have - which in turn is linked to the number of territories you control. Each round of the game involves three elements: attacking, moving units, and defending.
Moving units allows you to move your own troops into an adjacent territory you control. At the end of each round you are granted a single unit per territory you control, while a successful chain of attacks will also cause your rear to be reinforced provided you don’t botch up. A successful defence will result in the attacking force being obliterated, opening up an attacking opportunity in the next round for you.
If you are simply a bystander during a stand-off, the game involves you by letting you guess the anagram, with bonus points added to your score if you get it. Increasing this sufficiently will allow you to call in reinforcement troops at the start of an attack or defence phase. Graphically the attacking and defending is a pleasure to watch with its cutesy graphics, attacks that are convincingly explosive, and the satisfaction of watching your opponent's troops be obliterated.
Attacking and defending is the crux of the game, because picking your battles and ensuring that your rear is defended well is crucial. Certainly the more troops you have the better your chances of outwitting the opponent with a killer word, but that said it’s amazing how even the most certain advantage can falter as you stare at a number of letters and fail to come up with anything convincing. This is also where the games controls let it down somewhat...
Quarrel allows you to plug in an external keyboard or use the chatpad, which no doubt would increase your ability to plug in a quick word, but the controller can act as an impediment here. Racing against a timer to complete the word is only half the pressure, because if you and your opponent complete a word of identical score, or heaven forbid the same word, it comes entirely down to how quickly the word was finalised. Particularly in online play this is a challenge, and even when you think you were quick you might find that it wasn’t quick enough - which begs the question why the developers didn’t limit it to controllers only to level the playing field, though the controller layout is quick and easy to use.
A range of game modes are open to you in Quarrel - the most interesting over the long-term is no doubt the online play, as there’s nothing quite like a human opponent. But the game's AI does a convincing job of scaling difficulty across a range of opponents with ‘personalities’.
The campaign mode sees you battle your way across and island archipelago, or quick play allows you to hone your skills without a timer adding pressure - a good place to start training your brain. The package wouldn’t be complete without a solid tutorial, and this does an excellent job of teaching the game mechanics.
The multiplayer modes include casual as well as ranked matches. These do a good job of matching your “word IQ” with that of other players. Your word IQ increases or decreases depending on how well you do across all your games, and the kind of words you pull together. Nailing an anagram is of course the best way to increase it, but these can be very challenging indeed. All the greater the feeling of success when you do pull it off however.
Quarrel is a unique title, somewhat of an experiment in terms of two very different game concepts coming together. It is blatantly clear that the developers have pulled off a mean feat, as Quarrel is both addictive and fun, regardless of the fact we'd normally shy away from word games for something a bit more exciting.
The graphics complement the game style perfectly, with the only real niggle being the difficulty of entering words within a time limit on the controller. Rarely a dull moment means you always have something to do, and the games can be quick and decisive, or hard won - depending on the skill of your opponents. The brain training this provides is an added incentive to keep going, and not to shy away from initial defeat - but we do love a challenge!
On 360 Publisher: UTV Ignition
Developer: UTV Ignition
Don’t let the system get you down
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