Bookworm Adventures is a follow-up to the word-forming computer puzzle game Bookworm from PopCap Games. Released in November 2006, Bookworm Adventures combines the "create words from sets of letters" aspect of Bookworm with several elements of a computer role-playing game. In the 2007 Interactive Achievement Awards, Bookworm Adventures won the "Downloadable Game of the Year". The game also won three Zeeby awards for Best Word & Trivia Game of 2006, Best Game Design of 2006 and Best Story/Narrative of 2006.
In contrast to the lower production budgets typical of most "casual games", PopCap Games spent over two and a half years and US$700,000 developing Bookworm Adventures. Although the direct sales model used by the company avoids various distribution and retail fees, this still represents one of the most expensive investments in the genre to date. John Vechey, PopCap's director, indicated that this did seem to be a departure from the previous model, noting that "A couple years ago, the prevailing wisdom was that it took three guys six months and $100,000 to make a casual game. They used to be considered a low art form."
Players guide Lex the bookworm (voiced by Chief Creative Officer of PopCap, Jason Kapalka) through a number of stages, battling creatures along the way (which are largely based on Greek Mythology, tales from 1001 Arabian Nights and Gothic literature, while the foes in the game's sequel are based on Fairy tales, Chinese mythology and Science fiction). Each battle consists of Lex squaring off against a given foe. Both Lex and his adversary have health meters (represented by a number of hearts), which, when depleted, signal defeat. However, unlike more traditional role-playing games where players might injure their opponents with arms or magic, enemies in Bookworm Adventures are damaged by forming words.
As in the original, words are formed from a grid of available letters. Unlike the original, the letters used to form the words need not be adjacent to one another. The longer the word which is formed, the more damage is done to opponents. Similarly, words generated using letters which are less common do more damage than those using only common letters. Each turn, players can form a single word, while enemies use one of their available attacks to injure Lex, heal themselves, or otherwise make the battle more difficult. If victorious, Lex automatically recovers all of his health between battles.
After a certain number of battles are won, a "boss monster" of increased difficulty is encountered. If players defeat the boss, they complete the stage and are rewarded with a treasure item. Treasures provide special abilities to Lex, such as a reduction in damage inflicted to him, or more damage generated from words containing certain letters. In some cases, rather than receiving a new item, an existing item is upgraded. After the player has accumulated more than three items, he or she must then choose which three items to bring along on later chapters.
Game modes and others
There are 3 game modes of the game. The different modes are Adventure, Mini-Games and Arena. Adventure mode is a library icon. There, the player solves the mystery of the Great Library. Mini-game mode is a tent icon; players can play a mini-game between some stages of the game. The player can play all mini-games from the opening screen after defeating Book 2 (or Book 5 in the sequel) of Adventure mode, and the last is the Arena mode, where the player battles all of the bosses that Lex encountered (except for Hydra, the Sphinx and Professor Codex in the first game and Previous Lex, Skeletrox (Dance Commander) and all three phases of The Machine in the sequel). This can be played after the player defeats Book 3 (or Book 6 for the sequel) of Adventure mode. Arena is a constant battle. There is a time limit of this mode above the grid, and when it is up, the enemy attacks. The Tome of Knowledge is where the player can find all the monsters, their abilities, their 'flavor text' and the secrets that the player has unleashed. The player can open this sacred tome after defeating Book 1 (or Book 4 in the sequel) of Adventure mode. Clips and Giggles is where the comic introductions to each book and theme music of Bookworm Adventures can be found and replayed any time the player wishes. It also features commentary from PopCap Games on creating the game. Players unlock Clips and Giggles by defeating the Arena mode. It is not available in the sequel. Adventure Replay is available in the sequel only. The player can play the 3 books all over again and this mode is rather different from Adventure. One difference is that the player will level up after each chapter, and another is that the Level Up bar is replaced with a score bar. Players can also obtain badges if they do a special task. For instance, one task might be to spell 12 consecutive words that start with the same letter and another might be to spell a word with eleven or more letters. The badges have four levels; bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Players unlock this feature after defeating Adventure mode.
Letter tiles usually appear in the grid as unremarkable, standard tiles containing one or (in the case of the 'Qu' tile) two letters. However, tiles of different types, with either positive or negative attributes, can appear during play. These attributes then impact the game when the tile is used to form a word. Such attributes include:
- Gems - Tiles can turn into colored gems when the player spells longer words. The longer the individual word used, the more powerful the gem tile granted. These gems have various positive effects, such as increasing the damage done by the word, healing Lex, or adding elements to an attack such as poison or flame. The seven available gems are, in order of increasing rarity:
- Amethyst (purple) - Poisons enemy for two turns, adds 15% damage to the word.
- Emerald (green) - Heals Lex for two hearts, adds 20% damage to the word.
- Sapphire (blue) - Freezes the enemy for 1 turn, adds 25% damage to the word.
- Garnet (orange) - Weakens the enemy's attacks the for one turn, adds 30% damage to the word.
- Ruby (red) - Sets enemy on fire for three turns, adds 35% damage to the word.
- Crystal (pink) - Purifies Lex and the grid, shields Lex from damage for 1 turn, adds 50% damage to word.
- Diamond (white) - Fully heals Lex, gives one of each potion type, adds 100% damage to word.
- Locked - Locked tiles cannot be used at all to form words for a certain number of turns. These tiles result from the attacks of certain foes like the Minotaur.
- Smashed - Smashed tiles can be used to form words, but do not add to the damage of the word. As a result, using these tiles produces less damage than would normally be generated. As with the previous negative tiles, these tiles also result from the attacks of certain foes, like Polyphemus.
- Plague - Similar to smashed tiles (see above), plague tiles can be used to form words without adding damage to the word, but additionally have the ability to spread their condition to other tiles if not quickly used. These tiles result from the attacks of certain more powerful enemies, like the Medusa.
The "scramble" feature from the original title returns in Bookworm Adventures, allowing players to replace their current grid of letters with an entirely new set. The cost of doing this is forfeiting a turn, so that the enemy gets a "free" attack. In the sequel, however, the treasure "Mad Hat" (later upgraded to "Time Helmet") allows players to receive one or two extra gems when the Scramble button is used, unless the treasures and companion are under Stasis.
In addition to equipped items, players can also earn consumable potions, which can be used (once each) for an immediate benefit. Using these does not cost the player his or her turn, and hence the enemy does not get a free attack. The potion varieties consist of healing potions, potions which power up the next attack, and potions which cure any negative status conditions and/or negative tiles.
While potions can be acquired gradually by defeating foes, potions (and, later in the game, gems) can also be awarded for playing separate word-based mini-games between stages. In such mini-games, the player must try and guess a secret word (using a Mastermind-like system), or must try and form as many words as possible from a set of letters. The more skillfully the player plays these mini-games, the greater the reward.
There are about 18 treasures in this game, 6 treasures in each book. The treasures aid Lex in his journey. These treasures have abilities that help Lex in his battles such as using certain letters for additional damage, give gems more damage, spelling certain words for more damage, and makes some resistance such as burn, poison, power down, petrify, stun and smashing and locking of tiles. Most treasures may upgrade for best effects and improved abilities.
Enemy Attacks and Abilities
In the game, you can see what attacks and abilities the enemy can use, located at the right-bottom portion of the screen. Some attacks can combine two or more effects.
- Common attacks
- Damage- Damages Lex.
- Burn- Burns Lex, damaging him each turn.
- Cut- Causes Lex to bleed, damaging him each turn.
- Poison- Poisons Lex, damaging him each turn.
- Power down- Temporarily weakens Lex's attacks.
- "Missing turn" attacks
- Stun- Stuns Lex for 1 turn.
- Freeze- Freezes Lex for 1 turn.
- Petrify- Petrifies Lex for 2 turns.
- Tile attacks
- Smash Tile- Smashes one or more tiles. Smashed tiles can be used, but they will not cause any damage.
- Lock Tile- Locks a tile. Locked tiles cannot be used for a short while.
- Plague Tile- Infects a tile. Like smashed tiles, plague tiles don't cause damage. If not used quickly, the plague may spread to other tiles.
- Gem Steal- Steals any available gems in the grid. Later on in the game, enemies may steal more than one gem at once.
- Altering of Tiles- Changes current letters in some tiles.
- Helping attacks of enemy
- Heal/Life Leech- Heals enemy. Life leech causes the enemy to steal some of Lex's life for his or her own use.
- Purify- Purifies enemy of status ailments.
- Power up- Boosts enemy's next attack.
- Bonus Categories- Spelling words in a certain category, such as 'metals' or 'felines' makes a boosted damage attack to the enemy.
- Immunity- The enemy may be immune to certain ailments, such as poison, or words with four or less letters.
- Armored- Monster is resistant to damage.
- Heavily Armored-Monster is very resistant to damage.
- Weakness-A certain status condition damages the monster more heavily than normal.
Note: In the sequel, the armored status is now separate from the enemy lore. The armor icon is visible at the bottom right of the enemy, similar how status ailments appear. Unlike bonus categories and immunity, weakness has disappeared from the sequel.
Like most other titles from PopCap Games, Bookworm Adventures features an online scaled-down version of the full game, in which Lex encounters (among library rats and undead library staff) characters from the works of Shakespeare and Norse mythology.
The players may also directly download the "deluxe" game and play it in trial mode. The trial allows users to play up to a certain point in the first storybook. The full (non-trial) version can be purchased for a fee, and enables access to three storybooks as well as various additional mini-game modes.
Bookworm Adventures Volume 2 was released in 2009.
It features the same basic gameplay as the first edition, except there are new tile types:
- Cursed - Damages Lex when used in a word. Cursed tiles are produced by foes such as the Bull Demon King.
- Warped - Does not cause any damage to enemy and changes to a hard letter each round. Warped tiles are produced by foes such as the Witch.
- Fire - It can still cause damage but it can't be purified in the middle of the game. It only disappears when an enemy is defeated (except for survival battles). Once it reaches the bottom of the grid, it burns down, all tiles are shattered and Lex burns. Fire tiles are produced by foes such as the Butterfly. Note: This is the only negative tile that also appeared in the original edition of the game, Bookworm.
- Rainbow - Acts as a wildcard for any letter. It is formed by using 3 or more differently-colored gems in one word. Only one can appear in the grid at any time.
In addition, there are three new attacks:
- Potion Steal- Steals a potion. Potion steals are caused by enemies such as the Queen Of Hearts.
- Shielding- Shields the enemy and are classified into 3.
- Absorbed- Absorbs the damage taken.
- Reflected- Reflects the damage taken.
- Immunity- Makes the foe immune to certain conditions.
- Stasis - Treasures and companions cannot be used for a short amount of time. Stasis nets are produced by foes such as Skeletrox.
Also, there are unlockable companions that can aid Lex on his quest:
- Mother Goose - Grants a healing potion every 4 turns.
- Cheshire Cat - Purifies Lex and the grid every 4 turns. Note, however, that like the blue purifying potions, the Cheshire Cat cannot purify Fire tiles.
- Legendary Master - Stuns the enemy and powers up Lex every 4 turns.
- Monkey King - Changes beneficial forms every 4 turns. Fire form burns the enemy when it attacks Lex, ant form slightly increases Lex's damage, iron form slightly armors Lex, cloud form gives Lex a chance to resist harmful effects and tree form slightly heals Lex every turn.
- H.G.Wells - Shields Lex every 4 turns.
- Skeletrox - Upgrades tiles every 4 turns.
The game also introduced 3 new mini-games, as well as keeping the 3 from the original game:
- Word Up! - Spell words to beat Moxie up the hill. The longer the word, the farther up the hill you go.
- Golden Coins - Spell words to gain coins and fill up the five rows. Five coins equals one row. Gold letters are worth 2 coins. You can only spell 5 words, so choose carefully!
- Mutant Words - Help Moxie unscramble the mutant words. There are 3 words, each one sharing a common theme, such as 'vegetable' words or 'music' words. The faster you unscramble the words, the more prizes you earn.
It should also be noted that, unlike in the first game, you can now choose which mini-game you want to play.
- 10th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards (PDF). interactive.org (2007-02-09). Retrieved on 2007-02-09
- Zeebys - First Annual Casual Game Awards. Zeebys.com (2007-02-08). Retrieved on 2007-09-20
- Not your father's 'Tetris': Casual games go upscale. Deseret News. Retrieved on 2009-03-18
- PopCap Games - Bookworm Adventures Volume 2. PopCap (15 July 2009). Retrieved on 2009-07-29
- Bookworm Adventures at PopCap Games