Spellspire Review

Game Title: Spellspire
Developer: 10tons
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Download: 22 MB
Availability: Digital (Europe, North America)
PSTV Support: Yes

Were you ever good at Word Scrambles? You know what I’m talking about. You are given a bunch of letters and your task is to rearrange them into actual words. I can’t say I have a huge amount of experience, given how I fared when I played the game I’m about to review for you. Many of you may have that skill up on me.

Word Scrambles are nothing I’d expect out of a PS Vita game, though it did happen. Thanks to our friends over at 10 Ton Games, a Word-Scramble Puzzle game has come over to the PS Vita and releases this week. Here is my review of originally-on-mobile title, Spellspire!

Story

Due to the game having no story, this section shall remain blank.

Gameplay

Spellspire is a puzzle game where you use Word Scrambles to fire off spells and fight off monsters as you climb up a huge tower. I would even go as far as to say that Word Scramble is its genre, as that’s the interaction element of the game, although combat looks more like an RPG.

Your goal in the game is to conquer 100 floors, each with a “stage”, pitting you against undead monsters of various varieties in something very similar to the ATB battle system that Final Fantasy has used since the days of the Super Nintendo.

Once you’re in the stage, you have a group of letters you must then form into words. The longer the word, the more damage is done. The catch is that you must use these letters to form several words in order to fight off a wave of different enemies. You can only use a single word once per stage, so you must not only form them into one word, but many by the time the stage ends.

If you have issues, enemies can attack you. Each enemy group has a timer before they attack. Form words and defeat them before that timer reaches 0 and you’ll go by unscathed. If you don’t, they’ll attack and down your HP. If you run out of HP, you lose and have to retry the stage or go back and better equip yourself. But if you prevail, you’re rewarded with Gold to spend on items and upgrades.

Between stages, you can access the Shop, where you spend your Gold on Upgrades and New Inventory Items. As you play the game, you’ll gather items to be used in stages, like instant words or HP refills, but to keep going, you need to upgrade your weapon and armor and get new weapons and armor pieces as the game continually gets more difficult. The more you upgrade, the more HP you have and the more damage your words do to enemies.

The normal flow is to do a stage, use money for upgrades, and then repeat the process. However, there are many moments where the difficulty will spike a lot, and your current equipment, even at max upgrades, will not allow you to prevail across the enemy doing too much. For this, you need to unlock and buy new equipment items. However, unlocking new equipment requires you to replay old stages and collect Gold Stars by performing well.

This leads to a lot of situations where you play a few stages, get to an unwinnable fight, go back and replay those stages again to get Gold Stars to unlock your new Wand/Hat/Robe, and then replay them a second, third, fourth, etc. time to get the money needed to purchase said Wand/Hat/Robe, as well as the money needed to enhance it enough to get you past that fight. Doing this every so often isn’t too bad, but it actually happens roughly every 4-5 stages. So across the whole game, you’ll have to stop and do this repeat-stages-several-times-in-a-row process around 20 times. It gets very repetitive and very tedious.

As I said earlier, there are 100 stages to play in the game and each stage takes around 1-2 minutes to complete, the length slowly increasing the further you get. If you didn’t have to do so many replays, the game would barely last a couple hours, but thanks to the repetition, the game easily lasts 5-10 hours before you finally complete it.

Controls

Spellspire is a great exactly of how a publisher can support the PlayStation TV, despite control awkwardness. The game cannot be controlled by buttons at all. It is solely touchscreen-oriented. Despite this, 10 Ton Games made the game compatible with the PlayStation TV.

The game is still playable as well. Since all you do is tap on letters or menu options, having the touch alternatives off constantly makes it for a decently-playable experience. Although button controls would help immensely, it isn’t completely useless. Far easier on a Dual Shock 4 controller than a Dual Shock 3, but you get the idea.

Presentation

Visually, the 2D style of the game looks nice. It’s smooth, clear, and the animations work well for it. Nothing outstanding or underwhelming about it. It looks just as nice as it did on Mobile.

Performance is the same. No real problems at all. Load Times are short. FPS never drops or lags. It’s optimized well.

Summary

In conclusion, Spellspire is a neat little puzzle game for fans of Word Scrambles. Although the lack of button controls and the game’s forced-repetition with replaying previous stages does bring the experience down, it’s still a very neat puzzler that I’ve not seen anything like on the Vita and PSTV.

8/10

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