Leximo

Can you beat the clock? Can you beat the challenges?! Are you 1337 enough to SPELL?! I don't think you are. Move along...

With a flash Leximo enters the Boggle Dome draped in flare and pizazz, seaking to defeat long-time champion Word Soup for the Indie Spelling Game crown in a battle involving forming a bunch of words from a jumble of letters. Leximo is a promising contestant with its hexagonal well, stunning soundtrack, and excited display. It climbs into the ring cocky and knowing it has what it would take to unseat Word Soup, ready to prove it's the lexipro with its lexicon.

The sound of crickets is immediately drenched by Leximo's soundtrack, an impressive array of live songs culled from ccMixter, "a community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses." Zikomo A. Fields and his Ninth Planet Games has assembled five fantastic songs for players to listen to while spelling: Takin Yo Time (The Wingman Mix) and Act Cool (Roman Holiday) by Loveshadow; Fiesta by rupert1073; Persephone by snowflake; and Ophelia (Treatment) by fourstones. The quality here is amazing; I love the breezy manner of Act Cool, and the others are just as aurally pleasing whether on their own or as a backdrop for a letter sorting game.

Yes, back to the letter sorting. The basic gameplay of Leximo has players moving a letter left or right as it drops into the all too familiar puzzle well. Challenges appear on the right hand side of the screen, and it's up to the player to arrange the letters to form words to answer the challenges. Challenges will have a timer limit, and the game ends when the player runs out of time or the well fills up. While most challenges are rather simple -- Spell the word DUDE -- I found the l33t and backwards spelling challenges particularly disorienting. The l33t one is terrible because it changes all of the letters into leetspeak making it difficult to identify the letters themselves, and the backwards challenge is confusing because at no point in the game does it or its tutorial inform the player of how the words are going to be read. Leximo wants its words formed bottom-to-top or left-to-right, so a descending column of G-U-N will not register as one would think it should unless the backwards challenge is in play. It took me a few plays to comprehend what was going on here.

Leximo is also unique in that it doesn't remove the letters upon completion of successful words. No, Leximo has the player press the triggers to submit a batch of words to be removed from the field and scored. It's quite possible to lose a game even with words in play if the letters are allowed to reach the top of the well. As in Tetris, the well is only considered full when the drop off point is blocked by a column, so the sides are free to play with. Unfortunately, this just doesn't suit Leximo's gameplay; it's a major pain to constantly have the game yank control of the cursor from the player and reset it to the center each and every time a letter enters the well. It's quite jarring and makes lining the topmost sides of the well more difficult than it need be. Adding to the disorientation is Leximo's staggered hexigonal well. Letters don't just drop down -- they slither. It's something a player can adjust to, but it's not natural in the least.

Unfortunately for me, I found Leximo too demanding, instructing me to play as it wanted me to play it instead of how it itself should play. I adore the soundtrack, the little touches such as the avatar crowd cheers for high scores, and the basic premise of the game, but the all important gameplay is a bit of a let down. It's too easy to get random word piles forming by just dropping letters in the well, and having to fight with the controls is not something I enjoy doing, particularly in a casual-friendly title such as Leximo. I'm afraid Leximo is a game that while definitely worth trying feels as though it just missed the boat to being a stellar game, stuck on an island with its five desert island tracks and flagging down passers-by hoping that its awkwardness isn't enough to put them off as it was for me.

★★★☆☆
July 12, 2010
July 11, 2010 | 80 points
Developer | Video | Download

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