If there's one thing I enjoy in my video games, it has to be gratuitous amounts of explosions. Whether a top notch shooter ala Modern Warfare 2 or an over the top racer like the classic Burnout Revenge, I can't resist flashy graphics and loud noises.
Which really makes me question why I find myself caught up with Blitz Arcade's (Blitz Game Studio's dedicated 'arcade' development team) latest offering to the Xbox Live Arcade. While this release is being produced with the assistance of gaming giant Konami, Blitz Arcade is most notable for their 'King Games'; the hit series of Burger King Adventure Games (the King series were originally meant for Xbox Live Arcade but instead sold in the chain stores because of the perceived quality).
KrissX (pronounced Chris Cross), is not my typical gaming experience. It was released to Xbox Live Arcade with virtually no fanfare and had most gamers feeling disconnected. Here we have a cartoon owl promoting a 'word style' game on arguably the most powerful gaming console available and during a revolution of gaming fueled by the likes of Mass Effect 2, Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed. Just what did Blitz, Konami and Microsoft expect us to make of this quirky title. After spending more than 2 hours straight on this one (and several hours overall), I think the parties involved wanted to remind us that gaming, after all the layers are peeled back, is still an intellectuals playground, populated by mind bending brain teasers.
At the core of this game is a sort of Scrabble meets the Sunday Crosswords. You are tasked with assisting Wordsworth the Owl to solve a series of puzzles. Game play modes include 'Quest', 'Time Attack' and 'Timeless', with the latter 2 modes being unlocked as Quest mode progresses.
Quest mode is simply a series of 150 levels(there are more than 3500 puzzles)showcasing the different puzzle modes. Most are designed like a crossword puzzle except that the letters are shown, all you have to do is swap letters to make the correct words. There are 'hint' balloons that pop up as you hover over individual word groups but they do tend to actually block some puzzles (further indicating the patient, thought provoking manner of the game). Other puzzle styles have a series of word rows and you must swap letters from words to create the proper series. Another style will have you solving an individual word scramble with the added challenge of completing it in a predetermined number of swaps. And yet another level will have you arranging letters in alphabetical and reverse-alphabetical order, again with the challenge of a predetermined number of swaps(this is much harder than is sounds). The Time Attack and Timeless modes are exactly as they sound; you play through a series of levels with or without a countdown timer.
Adding to the gameplay is the 'capture' aspect; as you complete puzzles special icons waft down and you are to tap the corresponding button. Correct sequences will add to your time and score. This tends to ramp up your attention as you find yourself wanting to get all of the icons. As you progress you are awarded with a seemingly endless supply of badges and achievements. Under many circumstances the novelty would seem underwhelming but the rewards are handed out in such a way as to keep you wondering what you can achieve next. The early levels are not very challenging but as the game moves along the challenges, and the modes become increasingly difficult; it wasn't long before both my wife and I were working on puzzles together (which as a gamer was a pleasant surprise).
With KrissX being offered for 800 gaming points, the 'price point' does seem a bit high on the surface, but those who give it a chance will be surprised by the addictive nature. While I have no doubt that anyone that picks up this title will find themselves many levels into it and contemplating the ever popular 'one more level' mantra I, personally, have to question the future of my gaming experiences. If I am so drawn to this game will I ever be truly happy again with the mind numbing pace of past gaming titles....Well of course I will be, but it's great to see developers mining all of the Xbox 360 capabilities not just trying to push the limits.