Version tested: Xbox 360
- Microsoft Points: 800 (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60)
I was as surprised as anyone at how much I enjoyed Buku Sudoku, and thus approached Coffeetime Crosswords with some amount of anticipation. Playing paper-and-pen puzzle games on an HD games console might seem technologically backwards, but if the result is engaging and enjoyable, who cares? Maybe it'll be as awesome as Tom O'Connor's seminal Crosswits?
Sadly, Buku Sudoku's generous features and Tom O'Connor's cheeky variety show demeanour only serve to highlight just how poorly thrown together Coffeetime Crosswords is. It's a shoddy excuse for a puzzle game, blighted by an awkward interface, idiotic clues and an appalling lack of challenge.
There are four difficulty levels - Super Easy, Easy, Medium and Difficult - with 45 puzzles in each. That's 180 puzzles for the maths deficient among you, although this number is less impressive when you realise just how laughably simple the game is regardless of which difficulty level you choose. There's a delicious irony that the first allegedly "difficult" puzzle has a four letter answer to the clue "Not hard".
That's the intellectual level the game is working at, so anyone expecting anything to compare to a proper grown-up crossword with clues like "Elgar's recital amused Valerie, perhaps?" should steer well clear. I mean, how long would it take an adult - or even a child - to work out that "Take by theft" might mean "Steal"? That's another difficult clue, by the way. Making it even easier, the layouts don't follow the traditional system where answers intersect rarely, leaving you to fill in the blanks with brainpower. Open spaces are crammed next to each other, with up to 70 or more answers to fill in, forming words in all directions. Even if you do end up completely stuck on a clue you can almost always fill in all the letters by answering the ones around it.
One of the only reasons why you're likely to get stuck is because the game hasn't been localised for European players. Omelette is spelled "omelet", odour is spelled "odor" and there are oblique clues related to uniquely American institutions such as the Elk Lodge. Another possible obstacle is that the game often just makes words up. The clue "Shine again" requires the answer "rewax" - a word that doesn't exist in any dictionary I checked. A "type of dress" requires "aline" rather than the correct "A-line". One clue asking for "A sign of triumph" even produces the hilarious answer "Vee". I hate to be a stickler for rules, but if we're allowing phonetic letters as answers, what's the point?
On top of all this, text entry is via a clumsy two-tier wheel system where you have to spin around to the letter you want. The alphabet is split across two such wheels, so long words result in a lot of scrolling backwards and forwards between the two. If you've ever had to use an old-fashioned rotary dial telephone recently, you'll know how slow and annoying this can be. There's also no way of saving a puzzle in progress, which rather goes against the whole concept of casual gaming.
There's a two-player online co-op mode and a timed challenge, but both are of negligible value since they're part of the same ham-fisted package. At 800 Points, Coffeetime Crosswords is grossly overpriced for the amusement it offers. For anyone still contemplating a purchase, here's one last clue: Insultingly simple and clumsy Live Arcade puzzle game, unworthy of your time (10, 10).
3 / 10