WordJong Party

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
WordJong Party Game Poster Image
Fun, intuitive spelling game can be too easy for wordsmiths.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The game can be played competitively in groups of up to four players.

Violence & Scariness
Language

Players can try to spell cuss words, but they are rejected when submitted.

Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that WordJong Party is a simple puzzle game that sees players using a limited selection of letter tiles to assemble the longest words of which they can think. Profane words can be formed in the play area, but they are rejected upon submission. Even legitimate words that have taken on double-meanings are not accepted. The difficulty level is low, which means it can be a good game to let young readers practice their spelling.

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What's it about?

Based on the popular PC game WordJong, WORDJONG PARTY is essentially a mishmash of MahJong and Boggle. Players are provided an elaborate stack (or stacks) of letter tiles from which they select to form words, the longer the better. The catch is that they can only use letters from the top of the stack. The stacks are arranged such that the removal of a particular tile could reveal between zero and four new letters, with the upshot being that there are times when a player has a dozen or more letters from which to choose to form a word and others when they have as few as just one or two (at which point the player must shake the remote to make new letters to fall onto the stack). Play is scattered across several modes, ranging from a puzzle-of-the-day challenge to a single player campaign played against computer opponents to the titular party games that allow up to four players to compete head-to-head.

Is it any good?

WordJong Party ought to prove good fun for word game lovers. The premise is simple, the infrared controls for selecting letters are intuitive, and, unlike many such games, there is potential for advanced wordsmiths to form satisfyingly sophisticated words up to ten letters in length. There's even a nice element of strategy, thanks to a smart scoring system and plenty of power-ups and attacks. Should you go for the longer, higher scoring words, or simply try to churn out a succession of short, low scoring words? When ought you to use your double-word-score power-up or wildcard letter? How long should you wait before unleashing sandstorms and tornadoes on your opponents' playing areas?

However, as entertaining as WordJong Party can be, it does have a couple of sticking points. The first is that the single-player campaign is far too easy for most word game junkies. Computer-controlled opponents are apt to create simple two- to four-letter words, making it feel like our competitors are third graders. While this is great for the younger crowd, older children and adults will likely grow bored quickly and end up gravitating to the more challenging daily puzzles, in which the goal is simply to achieve a high score by creating long and complex words, or the party mode where they can test their mettle against human opponents. But that leads to the second problem, which is that both party modes are geared for four players. Should you have just one or two friends with whom to play, the extra spot(s) will be filled by the same computer-controlled opponents faced in the single-player mode, and they'll spend much of their time aggravating you with random, stack altering attacks. These aren't deal-breaking issues, but they do put a damper on the overall experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the educational value of word-based video games. Do you think games like WordJong Party actually help people to become better spellers? Do they have the same pedagogical merits as a board game like Scrabble? Can you think of any other word games capable of fostering spelling prowess?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo Wii
  • Price: $29.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Destineer
  • Release date: December 18, 2008
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • ESRB rating: E for (No Descriptors)

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