Overall Score 80%
Spellunker: Ace's Aztec Adventure
The oddly titled Spellunker, is best described as a cross between Scrabble and Boulderdash. A maze of letters fills the screen and in a gap is an explorer. Using mouse clicks to adjoining letters you must form words that make the letters vanish and clear a path to the exit.
Jewels, keys and a few other elements (like level design constrictions) make progress through the levels a challenge, and add variety to what could have been a simple game of one screen.
The game is classic 2D. There aren't many graphical special effects as such but the graphics that are there are very nice to look at, the menu text in particular being in a nice adventurous font. A tutorial is quick and works well. There are added instructions too, but really the tutorial is all that anyone should need. The game options are restricted to audio video basics.
The music sounds rather like sound blaster midi music, which together with the 2D graphics can make the game look dated for 2005. The music wasn't annoying, even when constantly playing in the game, but never raised itself above average. There are not many sound effects apart from confirmation noises, but the occasional puzzled exclamation by the hero was most welcome and could have been built upon to add more character to the blurry little fellow.
Words are formed letter by letter and appear in the display panel on the right. The letters seem to have different point values, but this is not shown which I found a little annoying. Boosting the score is quite easy in effect. You can start a word with any letter that adjoins the hollow area containing the hero, even if the letters are a long way away. This means it is quite easy to clear out large sections of the screen, even areas that are not needed to reach the exit. This illustrates that in this game level progress, not score, is of primary importance so the longevity of the game is bound to be affected as progress is made.
Only one save game can be active at once which might be a problem if several people share the computer. The lack of an un-install item on the start menu is also a little inconvenient.
Added features include the wildcard gold letters. When picked up by forming a word with them, you can place them as any letter, anywhere on the screen. Jewels act as multipliers for your word score, and keys and doors also add to the puzzle element. If you get stuck, you can click the Quake button to randomise the existing letters... or should that be 'randomize' (thus I highlight the lack of support for spelling anywhere outside of the U.S.A.). A timed bonus level helped break up the game too which worked well. Options for two player, timed or custom games would have been nice but all you get is the story mode.
In conclusion Spellunker is an innovative slant on the recent craze for word games. The graphics and audio can appear a little old fashioned but the game is appealing and fun to play. Some things could have been improved, but the basic gameplay is the most important part of any game and Spellunker gets that crucial part right.
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