Of all the games that have been made for the web, the word puzzle game is one of the oldest. Despite its age, however, it has proven to be one of the most entertaining for those with a verbose mind. And so, social developer Red Pipe Media has created yet another, yet significant, variation of this classic genre: Sea Star Scramble.
The game has an underwater premise, fitting in with the growing list of aquatic titles on Facebook. Thankfully, this is not just another game jumping on the virtual aquarium bandwagon. You play a starfish by the name of “Asterisk” who is attempting to unscramble words as they emerge from a collection of seven clams at the bottom of his tank.
What makes this game different from other word-scramble games is that players do not utilize the same set of letters for a very long period of time. In games like, say, Word Challenge, you are given letters and must make as many words as possible before time expires in order to earn enough points to move on in the game. Sea Star Scramble, however, has one set of letters float slowly to the top, which forces the player to move Asterisk around and “shoot” the letters, in a Space Invaders fashion, in order to spell a word before they pop at the surface. Should the player fail to spell something correctly, or fail to do so in time, the water level on the tank recedes. If player scores three words in a row or nail a seven letter word, the water will rise.
In addition to the aforementioned rules, the game also comes littered with various power-ups that are hidden within flashing letters that can also raise the water, boost your score, or slow down time. To this end, the game makes for an interesting concept: Combining somewhat fast-paced, twitch game play with a traditionally slow-paced puzzler.
To be perfectly honest, the jury is still out as to whether or not this premise works for Sea Star Scramble. Granted, other word games have you pitted against a clock, but they do not have you moving around, shooting things (though that is very easy), trying to grab power ups, and changing the letters constantly. Yes, the change makes an old genre a little more fresh, but the question is will a traditional player accept it? Word games are about thinking, and with everything that is going on in the game, the environment isn’t exactly conducive to such.
Frankly, Sea Star Scramble is not a bad game. It looks good, it plays cleanly, you can compete for high scores with Facebook friends and is, overall, well-made. Nevertheless, with the core game play being so different, its appeal will probably be hit or miss with most players. That said, it’s a gamble the designers made to refresh a tired genre that probably needed a little bit of innovation.