Perhaps a war of words might refer to the kind of conflict where harsh language is used to sway minds and souls to each sides cause. Great leaders might stand upon podiums giving rhetoric-stuffed speeches to the masses, in an attempt to woo the people with their silver tongues. However in Quarrel, it refers to annagram-battles framed in a Risk style game of conquest. Gunning for that ecclectic kind of innovation where two drastically different concepts are brought together in compelling harmony, Quarrel from Denki games is a word/strategy hybrid that is equal parts Scrabble and Risk.
Is Quarrel E-X-T-R-O-D-I-N-A-R-Y or just B-A-D? Find out with this games Hot and Not.
Quarrel is a mildly straetgic kind of warfare, where intelligent attacks and the smart reinforcement of certain areas can go long ways to help you win. However this is just a framing device for the real action; where you and your opponents colourful, chirping rows of troops must figure out the highest scoring word from a jumbled, eight-letter anagram. Strategy can help you out here, but at the end of the day the person with the best eye for anagrams is going to come out on top every time. It’s a unique twist on the traditional word game – one that lends a greater sense of victory to every sucessful bout, thanks to the overarching goal of conquest.
Much like Risk each area on the map is populated by a certain number of troops and their number corresponds to how many letters you have available to make a word.You pick one of your territories then an adjacent one belonging to the enemy, and the battle begins. The anagram might be something like A-I-N-S-L-E-C-P. See anything? Don’t take too long though. If the time runs out, or you try to submit three invalid words, you effectively concede the fight. If both of you come up with a word of equal value, it’s the one who did it fastest that wins. My answer was S-L-A-I-N back there – enough to beat the opponents pitiful P-A-N, but nowhere near the P-E-L-I-C-A-N it could have been. Sometimes the words are really obscure. Back there you could have had P-A-N-I-C-L-E-S which the scrolling tab at the bottom of the screen tells me refers to a group of loose, irregularly branched cluster of flowers. The more you know eh?
Unlike Risk it’s never simply enough to just pick on the enemy where they’re least fortified. Sure this can help in Quarrel, but you’re going to need a certain level of letter-swapping skill to get past even the easiest stages and nothing is quite as satisfying as pushing back your opponents six men with a well picked three letter word. Quarrel is, at its heart, a word game more than a strategy game, which is easy enough to see in its simplistic maps. Strategy, it seems, is a secondary concern to the quick paced wordsmithing that lies at the heart of the experience, though that isn’t to say there’s nothing here for the strategic minded. Reinforcing adjacent squares against an expected attack is an imporant part of play and sometimes it can be better to wait for your end of turn reinforcements before you go on an all-out assault. For all its strategical nuances though, Quarrel remains, at its core, a game for the lightening-minded linguists rather than the deliberate armchair generals.
There’s a great amount of variety offered within this relatively simple formula in the various game modes too. Regular games can be had against up to four players. These keep you engaged and participating even if you’re not directly part of a fight, allowing you to have a go at the anagram for the chance of getting some bonus reinforcements. This is a vital feature which would otherwise have made playing with any more than two people an absoloute chore. Domination offers a campaign of conquest of the various maps, while showdown throws you into some tantilising one-on-ones with the games cast of characters, all with their own strenghts and ‘Word IQ’ as a dennotion of their difficulty. Unique challenge maps, a simple Quick Play and a strong online mode rounds out the collection, making Quarrel a very generous game considering its low price point.
Fluid, Responsive, Charming
Denki’s tenants of game design are well represented in Quarrel, ensuring that the game feels smooth and attentive. The games jump from iOS made many wonder if the fast pace could be kept with the Xbox 360 interface, but the control remains slick and functional even in high-pressure moments. Flicking your bouncing troops from one square to reinforce another is effortless, as is the command of your letters. A button push allows you to randomise your letter sequence allowing you to look at the puzzle from a different angle and commands for deleting letters are easily at hand. A shakey interface in an enviroment where speed can be the dealbreaker could be disastrous for Quarrel, but Denki nailed it, allowing an ease of control that lets you get along with just looking out for those high-scoring words. It’s small touches that help make Quarrel a game more than the sum of its parts. Popping text and brazen trumpet blasts herald big-stake battles and you’ll get a hearty congratulation for fending off a massive attack with just a few troops. It may ‘just’ be a word game, but it’s one with an undeniable sense of drama – one that helps makes those close matches all the more tense and all the more enthralling to win.
Top this off with a pretty aesthetic and you’ve got a very charming game indeed. The entire game, from the colourful maps to the cartoonish ninjas, pirates, soldiers and hunters who you’re randomly assigned as your soldiers all flash with simplistic, vibrant charm. Word games are often seen as dull, sedentery affairs, but Quarrel works hard, with its colourful and energetic feeling, to make annagrams fun, which pulls it off with the kind of flair that you can’t help but smile at.
Not for everyone
Word games aren’t for everyone, and this is perhaps the only flaw I can level against Quarrel. Even as a writer myself I have trouble picking out anything above five letters, let alone the entire eight letter anagram hidden in every confrontation. That only made it all the more satisfying when I finally managed to nail one though, and after a few hours playing I certainly felt that I’d improved at the game. The light dusting of strategy over the word game interior can, at times, lead to a little too much push-and-pull, capture-and-recapture style of play that can drag the match on to an unpleasant length. Those with a limited appreciation for the art of stitching words back together might find Quarrel a little tedious at times.
However Quarrel not being everyone’s cup of tea isn’t necessarily a flaw inherent in the game, but one that should probably be acknowledged before you consider the purchase. Yet, at the extremely attractive price of 400 MSP it’s a steal! Even if you’re dubious about your word skills, Quarrel is certainly worth the consideration.
Plucking out a killer word from a seemingly impossible set of letters is a particular kind of pleasure that not everyone will be able to appreciate. However even those with limited capacity for the linguistic skill that Quarrel demands will find it a rewarding experience. Whether you’re a letter-swapping maestro or someone who’d just like a fun way to try out anagrams, Quarrel has something to offer. Simple yet confident in its design, chirpy and pleasent in its presentation in addition to it’s compelling method of play; Quarrel takes the word game genre to a very accessible place indeed.[Editor's Note Quarrel was reviewed on the Xbox 360 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]