Wordhunters is the new globetrotting word game for PlayStation's Playlink, which has players interacting with the game via their mobile devices instead of the trust old DualShock 4. In this new addition to the platform, between two and six players can fly around the world to 20 popular destinations competing in up to 15 different word puzzle challenges. Along for the flight is your pilot Amy who plays host with an assortment of bad puns and dad jokes as you compete to be the first to complete your unique secret four letter word and be crowned the Wordhunter Champ!
The rules are pretty simple; be the first in the group to answer correctly and bag the most points each round, with the player who has the most points then choosing up to two letters from the name of the destination in question to help inform their thinking as everyone tries to work out how to spell their unique four letter word and thus win the game.
Each destination stands out with its own classic travel poster. Each one has its name written across the top to help players work out which ones have the letters they require. For every round you and your opponents play you can choose one of two destinations to compete at, so it's best to choose one that complements your required letters. Then either the majority wins or, in the result of a tie, the destination is picked at random.
There are Upgrade Cards that can be played between rounds that can help swing things in your favour; Diversion will override the chosen destination so the player can pick one more suitable; Head Start will give you a little extra time to answer; Extra Letter grants you a bonus letter if you win the round. However, you will still need to excel in the rounds to win the game, and the rounds certainly aren't easy - think Countdown rather than Scrabble.
With 15 different game modes, there is plenty to keep your brain cells firing, although during the first few playthroughs you may feel a little overwhelmed as you learn the different modes and mechanics (such as knowing when to look at the TV screen instead of your mobile device or vice versa).
Unlike other Playlink games of a similarly competitive nature, there doesn't seem to be any way to level the playing field if you're playing against a particularly good wordsmith. This can make for very short games, and in one playthrough it only took three rounds as the winner excelled and by chance received all four of the letters they needed rather quickly. On the other hand, we also had games that took more than ten rounds as everyone who won a round was unlucky in not needing any of the letters from the chosen destination.
The game is simply but well designed and, whether you are at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, each destination you visit is well represented in an angular 3D cartoon style. Even tallying the score at the end of a round is displayed on a clicker board you'd expect to see in an old airport.
You are swept through the different streets as the rounds take place but unfortunately half of the time you'll have to look at your mobile device so this nice little touch ends up feeling a little redundant, especially as most rounds take approximately thirty seconds to complete.
On the plus side, we were surprised by the number of different modes available in the game. There is everything from the simple the Word Search, choosing Real or Fake words, and Once Removed, during which you need to remove a letter from a word to make a smaller word until only a three letter word remains. One of the really good ones is Word Sushi, wherein random letters scroll across the screen and you have to grab them to form words. Each letter you take gets replaced so your words could also change as the play progresses.
There is a fair amount of replay value in Wordhunters, especially if you and your friends are good with words. However, for those who find spelling slightly more difficult, this probably isn't the game for them, and younger players may be completely bamboozled by some of the words used. Saying that, with a fair bit of practice it could well actually help with spelling.
Overall, Wordhunters is a fun party game that offers a plenty of challenges for players to master, and it's certainly one for the wordsmiths among us. That said, having such a range in terms of length, with games taking either just a few minutes to as long as 45 can be a little frustrating. Similarly, having no way to level opponents can zap the fun out of the room rather quickly. On the other hand, the game looks great, but what with one of the destinations in the game described as "the most beautiful place in the world" it's just a shame that most of your time is spent looking at a mobile device.