Dear Reader is a delightful game of wordplay

Shelf-help.

Hello! This week we're looking at some of the gems of the Apple Arcade line up. Who fancies a bit of reading?

The first tumult of joy. When the first tumult of joy was over. We do not write this way anymore, I think, and that is why Dear Reader works as well as it does. This is a game of "literary wordplay", according to the title screen, and the game takes that idea extremely literally. You scroll through classic texts, scanning sentences and trying to fill the gaps from the selection of words you hold at the bottom of the screen. Or maybe the sentences are mixed up and you tap them to swap their places. Maybe it's just words that are mixed up. Maybe there are single letters missing. Onwards and onwards.

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Dear Reader makes such a simple idea work because it is always adding new ideas, new ways to meddle with the text laid out before you. But it also works because each writer has their own voice, which amounts to a texture that you learn to understand as you pick through their writing.

There's more. It works because there's a lovely range of things to do, including - a favourite of mine - a daily challenge. I did one of these a few minutes' back, swapping and tapping through a piece of prose and then, at the end, as a sort of smug bonus, trying to guess which of three books it came from.

It can be exacting at times. I get a real sense of panic as the timer runs down and my ink - it counts as health - starts to run dry. The panic is not so much that I'm going to lose, but that here is this bit of text, here are these blanks, and I just cannot wring sense from it. Maybe I never will? Maybe we really do not write that way anymore?

But then the tumblers tumble and the pieces fall into place. And when it's all done here is someone's voice, which is what a lot of writing is, I guess, their voice preserved as in a bottle. Open the bottle and what do you get? The first tumult of joy. When the first tumult of joy was over.

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About the author

Christian Donlan

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.

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