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Bookworm Adventures 2

Another spell of good fortune.

The magic of spelling is a lost art in the European isles. Technology is now so advanced that if you say a word incorrectly it appears with wobbly red lines in the speech bubble above your head. Young people tweeting pods from their mobile Xboxstations care not a jot for the inclusion of vowels. Local Spelling Stations are closing down all around the continent. Spelling is going the way of the apostrophe.

America has a slightly different attitude to spelling. Extraordinarily, every year there's a live spelling contest for children aired on national television. ABC annually broadcasts the National Spelling Bee championships. Spelling is celebrated with trophies. God bless America. And it's from that resplendent nation that Bookworm Adventures 2 appears.

You may have played the original Bookworm Adventures. In it you played a worm called Lex who, after a disaster in the library, has to enter the books to fight his way past literary figures with spelling. Goodness me, it's fun to describe that game. Bookworm Adventures 2 is precisely the same format, with a brand new story and a few new twists.

The combat is very one-sided. Opponents simply attack you on their turn using their unique abilities. However, to fight back you're going to have to get your spell on. There's a grid of 16 tiles, each bearing a letter. From them you must create the longest word you can. The longer the word, and the higher value of the letters used (think Es and Ns being lowest, Js and Qs being highest), the more powerful an attack you'll perform.

12 letters. That's right. I'm the best ever.

This is made more intricate by special tiles. Various letters will become jewels, which when used will have specific effects on the opponent. A red gem will set them on fire for a bit, which will continue to hurt them for a few turns. Blue will freeze them, letting you take two turns in a row. The opponents also have access to these abilities, and indeed many more.

Baddies can cause tiles to become worthless, having no effect on the word's attack. Or they can chain them so they can't be used for a number of turns. Or perhaps set them on fire, or infect them with spreading diseases, and so very much on.

Lex also comes armed with various special tools, won throughout the game, that add various bonuses. Some are reasonably obvious - increased damage from gems, resistance from being stunned, etc. Others are more esoteric and fun, like a special book that gives bonus attacks for spelling adjectives.

This time, however, there's only room for two of the many bits of equipment you pick up, the third slot assigned for a companion. Now, as Lex adventures through the new story (as daft as it might seem, I'm not going to spoil any of it here, other than to say it involves time travel and magic pens), he meets various characters who offer him support. As well as playing parts in the narrative as you enter new books and begin new fights, you can select one to help you, endowing you with bonuses at various points. My favourite setup? Just Right Porridge to resist stun attacks, the very concept of Enlightenment that makes you immune to tile smash and tile lock, and Carroll's Cheshire Cat, who purifies Lex of ill effects every four turns.

Only 11 letters here. I was having an off moment.

Also new are rainbow tiles. Create a word with three different coloured gems in it and on your next turn a letter in your grid will be a rainbow gem. This is a wildcard, assigned to any letter you wish, which for the sesquipedalian creates fantastic opportunities for outdoing oneself.

So here Bookworm Adventures 2 already succeeds. It's the adorable Bookworm formula, applying pure skill to defeat opponents, in a fun and silly storyline. The difficulty curve is steeper this time (although Lex's health and bonuses are reset at the start, it does refer to the three chapters as Books 4, 5 and 6), with bonus tiles and ill effects arriving much sooner, and the game getting tough by the second chapter, rather than the third. But it goes the extra mile.

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John Walker