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USA Today Crosswords Challenge Review

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Developer: Mercury Games Publisher: Destineer
Release Date: June 3, 2008 Also On: None

Last year Majesco released The New York Times Crosswords for Nintendo DS. Given that the DS has a touch-screen, dual screen and caters to a casual audience, it made perfect sense for such a game to grace the system. It is no surprise then that another company has come along to attempt the same thing. The USA Today Crosswords brings puzzles from America’s Newspaper to Nintendo’s handheld.

The main difference between the two games is price. The New York Times Crosswords is $10 more expensive than the USA Today Crosswords. As our review of the New York Times Crosswords says, you get 1,000 puzzles, an offline and online mode where you can challenge other players. With the USA Today Crosswords, you get fewer than half of that (only 300) and no online play. On the plus side, if you know how to speak Spanish there are also 300 puzzles in Espanol. As the old saying “you get what you pay for” and that applies here.

The puzzles themselves are relatively entertaining and definitely can be educational. Most of the puzzles are plays on words, while others may be looking for the first or last name of some famous person, or a word to a definition. The most important thing to remember when playing is to think of all of the meanings of the words in the clue and assess the surrounding puzzles. Often times it is best to just go back to a clue later on after you find a few letters by solving surrounding puzzles.

The grid is shown on the bottom screen while the top screen is used for the “Across” and “Down” puzzles. Filled boxes show the letters that you put in them on both screens. The game allows you to write using a pencil or pen. The pen must be used on all puzzles in order to complete the game. Using the pencil, though, insures that if you have auto-check on that you do not get penalized for guessing. Amazingly there are a few puzzles that will reuse the same words and phrases from previous puzzles. One puzzle even asked about a “fence” twice in the same puzzle.

Two of the features that I like most in this game are the immediate error spotting and the hint button. A hint will give you the letter of one of the spaces that you select with the stylus. This costs you one minute towards your completion time, however. Errors also will cost you 30 seconds of completion time each. Having the immediate error spotting on will result in time deduction every time you get a box wrong. You can also use an eraser or “undo” if you feel you got a word wrong.

On the downside, I did not care for the writing tool that they give you. Letters such as u, a, e, and c often get confused with each other and if you have immediate error checking on, this will cost you time simply because the computer doesn’t correctly recognize your hand writing. Thankfully a keyboard tool was implemented to rectify the poor writing system that they have in place. With this you simply tap the box (double tap to change direction from across to down) and then tap the letter.

If you are looking to buy the USA Today Crosswords be sure to go to GameStop. They are the only store that sells it new. For the price that they are asking ($20), I have to say that it is a reasonably good deal. It has far fewer crosswords than the New York Times version does and it does not have online play. Being cheaper is a plus and both the error spotting tool and hints help out people who get stuck. For that reason alone I like playing the USA Today Crosswords on Nintendo DS over the traditional method.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7.2
Written by Kyle Review Guide