While I spend most of my gaming time stomping monster and shooting enemy soldiers, I also enjoy more traditional challenges. Give me a solid word game any day. Nintendo has done just that with Crosswords Plus for the Nintendo 3DS which packs a wide variety of crossword puzzles, word searches, and anagram challenges of varying difficulty levels. Perfect for the more low-key moments in our lives, there's something here for everyone who enjoys fun with letters.
The bulk of Crosswords Plus consists of, fittingly enough, crossword puzzles. More than one thousand puzzles are available spanning difficulty levels of easy, medium, hard, and expert. For those with plenty of time and patience, a set of giant puzzles are also lurking around, and more puzzles unlock via StreetPass and SpotPass. The catch is that all of the more advanced puzzles must be unlocked by completing puzzles from the previous difficulty level. Expect to slog through simple crosswords built on a 4x4 grid before the more interesting puzzles become available; plan to build up through 7x7 and 9x9 puzzles on the way to 11x11 and beyond. The 3DS's top screen shows an overview of the puzzle and the current clues for both Across and Down, while the touchscreen displays a zoomed-in section of the puzzle in which players can write solutions one letter at a time. The handwriting recognition works very well, although occasionally the game mistakes my S as I for some reason. Clues are available through the game's hint system, and incorrect letters written into the puzzle light up in red to denote a wrong answer (this alarm is optional on more difficult puzzles).
If the crosswords try patience after a while, there's always word search puzzles to complete. There are dozens of word searches based around a wide variety of topics such as US Presidents, hobbies, functional skills, kitchen objects, and, yes, Nintendo characters. Small word searches fill the bottom screen with the letter grid, while the larger sizes require scrolling the touchscreen to see the limits of the puzzle. Just tap and drag the stylus to encircle a word. A list of words to be discovered are kept on the top screen. I find that the easy puzzles are perfect for a quick play, as the more challenging ones that require scrolling involve too much material to track. I often play Crosswords Plus just before bed, and the harder puzzles require too much thought when about to sleep.
Anagrams make up the final main game mode in which players are tasked with arranging a selection of letters to form as many words as possible starting with up to four letters each and growing in size as the difficulty level increases. I shouldn't be surprised that a Nintendo game censors objectionable words, so don't expect to spell words that have to do with alcohol, drugs, or violence; the game will reject them as invalid. This mode lets players off the hook when 70% of available words have been found, as those last few are typically obscure words that most people will not consider. Ardent anagram players can go for total completion though, and the game does track which type of victory has been achieved.
Those looking to build up vocabularies can dip into the Word of the Day function that provides a new word found in the different puzzle types. This ties into the Word Paths minigame that uses the new word as a springboard for players to spell other words. That's about as exciting as it sounds. It's not a mode I replay and feels like filler material.
Crosswords Plus is available both at retail as a traditional 3DS game card and on the eShop as a download. While I'm predominantly in favor of retail purchases and owning physical objects, I decided to purchase this game digitally so that it would always be available on my 3DS. Word game puzzles are perfect for quick play sessions and I don't want to have to worry about carrying the game card around for those stray moments when an anagram game would hit the spot. I've enjoyed playing it and while it's not traditionally the sort of game that I would recommend, it really is perfect for word game fans. Whether or not I finish all of the puzzles is up for grabs (and I'd rather have too much to do than not enough), but I'm comfortable putting my stamp of approval on this one. Not everything in gaming needs to revolve around antagonists and assassinations.