Word games are part of the human experience. They’re hard to put down even when the situation demands it (just ask Alec Baldwin). They’re fun for plenty of reasons, chiefly for the chance to make your friends and family look like vocabulary-lacking neanderthals. Scribendus (80 MSP), derived from the Latin word for ‘write’, itself meaning ‘really smart dude’ (loose translation), is not part of that fun, unfortunately.
Which is strange. To me, it sounds like a sound idea. Combine Scrabble‘s word-making (words can be built across, top to bottom, or diagonally), two letters at a time, which can be rotated as they fall, while being lulled by classical music (Bach). Imagine Shakespeare playing Tetris, and you’ll have a fine idea of what’s expected of you here.
The game contains three modes. Survival, which speeds up the drop rate after a preset number of words formed, Ascension, which leaves the speed alone but increases the minimum length of words each round, and Practice, which is… practice. Oh, and the minimum word length is four. Sorry, simpletons, none of that ‘cat’ in the ‘hat’ bullshit is going to fly in Scribendus. No cheating, either; the pause screen hides all the letters both incoming and on the board (yeah, I tried it).
No matter the mode, expect a steep challenge and plethora of brain farts. Even at its slowest speed, the game doesn’t give you much room to think or maneuver if / when you do spot a chain of letters that are conductive. The highest total I got in one session was eleven words, with three of those happening completely on accident. Yay me. Still, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. Having a deep reservoir of words doesn’t favor you nearly as much as having a sharp eye would.
Rounds can be torture in that it basically requires a quicker mind. Bottom line: it doesn’t suffer any idiots. Methinks the game doth protest too much in that regard. Therefore, I say onto you, unequivocally, that Scribendus is a game only suited for gentlemen / gentlewomen of means and aspiring wordsmiths, the 1% of Xbox Live Indie Games enthusiasts. Good on you, all you smarty pants.