Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered from Canadian developer Bacon Bandit Games takes the best traits of word games and turn-based RPGs and combines them to make an excellent and addictive game that’ll have your inner logophile rejoicing.
Available since 2014 on PC and mobile, Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered arrives onto Xbox One (making this the developer’s first console game) and tells the story of a cartoonish reaper named Grimm on his journey to rid his kingdom of monsters with the power of words and his trusty scythe. There’s no story save for some unlockable comic book panels in Letter Quest so don’t come in expecting a profound narrative rife with lore and characters like other RPGs. The game takes place over thirty stages, with ten bonus optional stages usually containing a mini boss thrown in along the way that are selected from an overworld map.
Once in a stage, proceedings are represented on a 2D sidescrolling plane. The charming cartoon artwork and animation are complemented by an albeit repetitive, enjoyable, fast-paced, arcadey soundtrack. Once Grimm confronts an enemy, a 5×3 grid of letters will appear in the mid-bottom section of your screen. The aim is to spell words in order to deal damage to your foes. In order to compose words, you’re able to select letters from anywhere in the grid and are not restricted by their positioning and adjacency like you are in say Boggle and if you’re unable to spell anything from the provided selection, you have the option to refresh the grid by pressing the ‘Y’ button (or selecting the ‘swap’ tile), although this will result in you missing an attacking turn.
Typically the longer the word spelt, the more damage that is dealt to your opponent but words containing certain letters will result in a more effective attack. The potency of each letter is indicated by dots on their respective tiles. Vowels and other common letters have one dot and do the least damage, less common letters such as M’s, P’s and B’s have two dots dealing average damage and those tricky, uncommon letters such as Q’s and Z’s have the maximum three dots which pack a hefty punch. Once you’re confident in your choice of word (deleting letters is simply done by pressing the ‘B’ button), you press the ‘X’ button (or select the attack tile depicted by the image of a scythe) and Grimm will deal a blow to his opponent thus ending the turn. Forming a word will result in its definition being displayed in the bottom-left corner of the screen as well as its numerical damage effect. Both the enemy and Grimm’s health meters are displayed above them and once an enemy’s health counter is reduced to zero they will burst into a pile of gems; the game’s currency that can be spent in the in-game store.
In true RPG fashion, Bacon Bandits have packed a truck load of abilities, weapons, buffs and other upgrades into the game that can be purchased from the store. You have the standard upgrades that’ll increase Grimm’s health, damage and armour; potions to be used during a stage; single purchase specials such as the monster health bar preview that’ll show you the amount of damage that will be done on an enemy’s health bar once a valid word is spelled; and cosmetic items such as different skins for the grid and a different playable character which are unlocked over time. Whilst acquiring these will give you an advantage, the RPG strategist in you will want to focus more on the purchasable weapons and books. As you progress through the game, new weapons and books will be unlocked and introduced into the store for you to buy and then upgrade. The weapons, which are all scythes, offer different perks such as the Winged Warrior scythe that converts a percentage of the damage inflicted upon your opponent into health for Grimm and these are upgraded using gems. The books also offer perks but they relate to your choice of lexicon rather than Grimm himself. For example the Quality book provides bonus damage for words containing the letters ‘QUA’ whilst the Plurality book offers bonus damage for words that end in ‘S’. Three of these can be equipped at a time and are upgraded by the XP you earn in battle.
Letter Quest may not be as statistically complex as other RPGs, which is either a good thing or bad thing depending on your view point, but there will be some deliberation about your choice of weapons and books and you’ll notice the benefit from purchasing the upgrades, potions and specials. Given the availability of gems, you’ll be able to afford most of these and turn Grimm into a word-wielding force to be reckoned with. Gems are generally easy to come by since every defeated enemyis converted into gems and there is a pile of them to be broken open at the end of each stage. Also certain weapons and books can be equipped to generate a higher percentage of gems and up to 70 quests (use the letter ‘D’ 25 times, use spell 15 six-letter words etc.) can be completed to earn more. The developer could have easily made the gems rarer or made items in the shop exorbitantly overpriced and introduced a pay to win model but Bacon Bandit Games have gone the honourable route and there isn’t a microtransaction in sight. In my playthrough I found that I had upgraded Grimm to the point where he was far more overpowered than the monsters quite early on in the game and even the final boss went down without even so much of a whimper, but considering what the alternative could have been with a pay to win model, I’m happy to let this small grievance slide. Plus there’s always the expert mode if you’re up for more of a challenge.
Whilst Grimm has a suite of abilities and perks, the enemies he encounters can give as good as they get. There is a good variety of enemies throughout the game and each will have their own strengths and abilities which will be detailed in the bottom-right section of the screen. Examples include enemies that are only affected by words of a certain length or words that contain at least two letters from the top row of the word grid. Enemies can also affect the word board itself with tiles. The Duplicator tile and Plague tiles have a domino effect and will change neighbouring tiles causing them to turn into the same letter or another diseased tile, respectively. The Stone tile will prevent you from using that letter, using a Cracked tile will mean you don’t get any points from that tile and the Poison and Spike tiles will inflict damage upon Grimm if used. In order to get the better of these enemies with unique abilities and powers you must exploit their weaknesses, which too will be displayed in the bottom-right section of your screen. Some enemies may receive double damage from words of a certain length or triple damage from words that contain at least three vowels.
There are many more of these variables and modifiers over the course of the game keeping things interesting and keeping you on your toes. As these new features are introduced, you’re given a quick explanation as to how they work and if you ever need a reminder, a quick press of the view button will bring up option to read an explanation of every element displayed on the screen. Besides the plethora of enemy types, abilities, perks and variables in the game, Bacon Bandit Games have packed a surprising amount of content into the game. As stated previously, there are a total of forty stages and each offers additional bonus challenges with three stars and a crystal on offer. The first star is acquired by simply completing the stage whilst to get the second you must complete the stage within a specified amount of time. The third star and the crystal offer harder challenges such as more powerful enemies, banned letters and enemies with more special abilities. Whilst each stage can be completed within a few minutes, doing this 160 times will result in a fairly lengthy playthrough. And if that isn’t enough, there is an expert story mode and endless mode.
I didn’t expect Letter Quest to be quite so addictive but once I started playing I didn’t stop until I had acquired every single star and crystal, reaching 100% completion. With its cartoonish visuals and Comic Sans letter tiles, at first glance it’s possible to dismiss Letter Quest for just another port of a casual mobile game but if my eight-or-so-hour playthrough has taught me anything, it’s to not judge a book by its cover. With a tonne of content and robust RPG system, Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered is more than worthy of its £7.99 / $9.99 price tag. Whether you’re a bookworm or an RPG aficionado, Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered is not one to miss.
Many thanks to Bacon Bandit Games for providing Indie Marathon with a copy of Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered for review! You can pick it up on Xbox One now for £7.99 / $9.99.
- Unique Twist on Word Games
- Deep RPG Mechanics
- Lots of Variety
- Plenty of Content
- Normal Mode Too Easy