PEGBRJE: Word Forward and Soundodger+

No matter how many times I refresh, UWO still remains.

Word Forward is a brainteasing word puzzle game made by Rocketship Park, an indie studio out of Ontario with a primary focus on mobile-centric titles, although some can be played on PC (as I’m doing right now). Case and point, this title which features a simple grid of letters with the goal of simply removing the letters from the grid. With words. Seems simple enough, and it is! Kind of.

As stated, Word Forward is about creating words by stringing together letters on a grid that are at least three letters long — as long as they are connected in order, the word is formed and the letters disappear from the grid. The key word is disappear, as letters can only be connected together to create words if they are directly touching each other in some way, be it vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Players cannot bridge the gaps that they create to continue making words, which brings about the true difficulty of the title; creating words that don’t immediately destroy any chance of completing the board. It reminded me a lot of mazes or line puzzles in which the lines couldn’t cross, as it becomes a game less about simply having word deduction and more about spatial awareness and planning. Sure there is a fantastic six letter word, but it is in the centre of the entire grid; is there any way to salvage the rest of the board? In my case, many times ‘no’ was the only answer, as I’d be left with three vowels and no secondary abilities to assist.

Those secondary abilities are the saving grace in this logical world, where the player is given multiple ways to alter the board in their favour, even if it is slightly. The most general and abundant ability is to swap two letters so that they can be in different grid locations, and the uses are indicated by the top left. There’s also an undo button up there in case a word created has ruined the board and needs to be brought back. At the bottom are the more ‘fancy’ abilities that can only be used once with permanent changes. Two of them change a letter to the indicated one, with the above picture giving an A and G as the possibilities. The middle ability is a complete board scramble of all remaining tiles, creating more chaos which could make or break the attempted clear. Beside it is the ability to change a single letter to any other letter on the board, and the final blows a tile up so that it is removed from the game. Very useful for getting rid of that floating tile that couldn’t be salvaged.

If this wasn’t obvious, this game can be ridiculously hard. Even with all of the special abilities, much of the time will be spent staring at the grid in confusion and indecision, wondering if a letter should be replaced or if a different angle is necessary. Oh and there are 500 grids to clear. Granted, it appears that the grids are prebuilt, so restarting them returns the original grid layout to try again, which will happen a lot. Word Forward will leave you scratching your head, until finally something clicks and you’ll be super excited to start the next level, only to enter that state of indecision at the new board and the dozens of restarts that may be required. Thankfully, the music is soft and relaxing, and it can be played on mobile so that you can try and figure out a solution during a commute, or while waiting for someone to hurry up. Regardless of why, it’s a good way to stretch your brain’s ability to dissect letters and words. I can’t give you a time frame on when you’ll be able to finish it though, as I’m still on level 2. Happy wording!

Oh god I’m about to lose aren’t I.

Soundodger+ is a ridiculously rhythmic rave made by studio bean, a solo indie dev out of the United States known for creating many experimental-esque titles and even a piece of Twitch software. Originally made with Adult Swim back in the early 2010’s, this is the updated version with more tracks and features. Let’s be upfront, shall we; we are here to dodge some sounds and give ourselves adrenaline through the power of FAST MOVING OBJECTS AND TUNES.

As implied, Soundodger+ involves the player controlling their mouse in different levels to avoid oncoming shapes and objects created by the music that plays. Restricted to the circle that encloses the space, players are specifically aiming to avoid the pointy of most shapes as they are what pierce the ball controlled by the mouse. While it seems odd at first, it does allow for players to effectively dodge projectiles that they may not have seen or accidentally threw their mouse in to, which allows for better accessibility for an already crazy title. The game gets extremely crowded during high points in music, so any little bit helps. This isn’t the case for all shapes, however, as the large balls above are deadly if touched anywhere and are usually featured in higher difficulty levels. If hit, the music does a scrub through, skipping forward to the next ‘motif’ of sorts to allow for a better starting point, rather than starting in the middle of a music structure or worse, at the end of one and in to a completely new phrase.

Players are given one super power to alleviate some of the difficulty in the ability to slow time, which occurs when the left-mouse button is held down. This can be done indefinitely (at least, as far as I can tell — I held it for a long time to see), which may confuse some of the more hardcore individuals out there. ‘This is supposed to be a hard game, why would you make it that easy?’ some might ask, but I’m here to tell anyone of that mindset that it does very little to perpetuate that ideology. For starters, the game was designed with this feature in mind as there are times that the screen can feel utterly covered in coloured shapes to the point that even slowing time can’t save one from being hit. Next, slowing down time causes the music to slow down as well, which for many won’t be an issue; for me it seriously killed the vibe, encouraging me to use it as more of a deterrent from the even more ‘vibe killing’ being hit and having the song scrub instead. It’s purposefully designed to be seen as a way of helping players out at any time with the mild drawback of losing the pacing of the song, rather than some arbitrary ability that requires even more focus and patience to utilize at a proper time. After all, if I just wanted to rock out to the music there’s a ‘Zen Mode’ that removes the song scrubbing when hit, instead turning the object collided red to indicate the ‘failure’, but still allowing the music to play as normal. This is another fantastic mode to add to the collection, as I can relax and enjoy the game without fear of the music changing.

Essentially players are dodging an audio visualizer, crafted for each song to line up with the highest sequences to bring the most shapes and even some down time during the interludes. Reminds me a lot of Osu and other rhythm centric titles where the music is put on display in fun ways. The song library is another thing I really should dive in to, because it is extensive — artists such as Danny Baranowsky, Bill Kiley, Disasterpeace and more all make an appearance in this title with their own style of music put on display to dodge. There’s also ‘user levels’ which include even more tracks from artists I wasn’t expecting to see in here such as Jukio Kallio’s with the Nuclear Throne Theme, Kevin Macleod, Hinkik and even Dan Salvato (can’t lie, was not expecting his name to appear here). There’s such a plethora of musicians from all walks of life that it feels like a museum collective to enjoy and be in awe of.

If rhythm games are your jam, then soundodger+ is definitely one that should be within your library, if it wasn’t already. It’s simplicity and cleanliness allows for its interface to be nice to work with, and the music with the gameplay just feels like so much fun to lose constantly to. You can even AUTO-GEN you’re own! I really can’t say much else other than that. If you love this title, perhaps you may enjoy the fact that Soundodger 2 is in the works, with the trailer dropping last year. With the amount of features that appear to be in the newest edition, I look forward to seeing where it goes.

Links are your friends.

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Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.

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