Word Forward Review: Oh, word?
Is it just me, or is there a dearth of good word puzzles on the Switch? Like I get that dungeon crawlers and platformers might be more adrenaline-inducing, but surely my fellow word nerds can agree that games with Boggle or Scrabble vibes need to be brought to the platform? Something that provides just enough of a challenge to be entertaining, but not too deep that I can’t pick it up and play when I have 10 minutes to spare? Won’t someone PLEASE think of the word nerds???
Turns out, that’s exactly what Rocketship Games and Thalamus Digital did when they developed and published (respectively) Word Forward. Originally launched as a mobile and PC title back in 2019, Word Forward has since made its way to Switch a year and a half later. A different kind of word game, Word Forward asks players to employ a “chess-like strategy to clear every tile and declare victory in 500 puzzles.” Boasting over 6 million players on its Nintendo page, it seems Word Forward is already a massive hit with word aficionados everywhere.
Word Forward’s premise is interesting: each level contains a board of lettered tiles arranged in a 5 x 5 square, the goal to clear the square of tiles entirely. To do this, players must make 3-letter words (or greater) by choosing tiles, the caveat being that they must be touching each other to qualify. Once a word has been created, the tiles disappear, leaving an empty space behind. Can you clear the entire board of lettered tiles?
At first glance, Word Forward is immediately reminiscent of Boggle, but the two word games are vastly different. Initially, I thought it was fun to create as many big words as I could, but I soon realized that I was shooting myself in the foot, as I’d have a tile or two lingering all by their lonesome with no way to connect them to other letters. I quickly learned that the best way to beat these levels is to make words using tiles that were situated on the outer walls of the square and work my way in, ensuring there were no lonely letters as the tiles dwindled. Once I realized that strategy, the game went from mildly confusing to downright addicting.
Of course, it’d be extremely difficult to incorporate every single tile into a word — what if you get a bunch of Js or Qus and nothing to use them on? This is where some of the helpful items come in handy: first, the swap option, which allows you to choose two letters to trade places. Although limited at first, you can earn additional swaps through gameplay by making words composed of 4 letters or more. Then there’s the option to replace any letter with one of the two available in reserve, although those tiles are predetermined. There’s the ability to pick a tile and change it to any letter of your choosing, which is tremendously helpful. Naturally, there’s also a tile that will shuffle all letters and dish out new ones, in case you need a fresh start. Finally, there’s a bomb icon that will allow you to obliterate any tile on the board — a fantastic item when you have a straggler that you just can’t fit into any other word.
As much as I really enjoyed my time with Word Forward, I admit that the controls are not the most intuitive. Featuring playability with both the touch screen or controller buttons, Word Forward was almost best experienced as a mixture between the two schemes instead of one or the other. It took me at least an hour to stop confusing the swap ability with creating a word (and don’t get me started on the picking a letter ability), but once the controls were mastered it was all fun and games from then on out.
Word Forward is a fantastic word strategy game, and one that absolutely belongs in any word nerd’s library. It’s perfect for that on the go gameplay for when you want to sneak in a few minutes of playtime here and there. If you love word games and you want something with a bit more brain tickling than most, Word Forward is G-R-E-A-T!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC, Mobile, Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Thalamus Digital; Developer: Rocketship Park; Players: 1; Released: December 3, 2021; MSRP: $4.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Word Forward provided by the publisher.