There is no bitterer pill to have to swallow than knowing the answer to an anagram in Quarrel and being forced to resort to a word like “it” because your squad of scholarly soldiers is too puny to host anything better. And you can guarantee that in this instance your adversary, who’s more than likely flaunting a 7-man platoon of wordsmiths against your 2, is going to pummel you into the dust with something insultingly inane like “tit”.
On the contrary, there’s no higher high than trouncing a pal with a chain of diligently chosen words and anagrams that leave him scratching his dome and you caroming about the living room like a six-year-old on Christmas morning. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Quarrel pounced onto the iDevices last year and, in a scene brimming with top-notch word-games, took up residence on the throne. It’s a colourful blend of Scrabble and Risk that has players snatching chunks of land from one another through word-power rather than firepower. Highbrow imperialism.
War is raged across a land divided equally between up to four players and on these nuggets of earth are stationed squads of warriors up to 8-strong. Players take it in turn to do battle with adjacent territories or micro-manage their land by switching soldiers across tiles or reinforcing between rounds. This part of Quarrel is very much in the vein of Risk.
When a player invades a tile both attacker and defender are handed 8 letters and whoever creates the highest-scoring word purloins the land. Scrabble rules. However, Quarrel is a game of risk and calculation. With more soldiers your chances of victory should, in theory, be higher but – as the core modes and multiplayer games are stringently timed – you can easily trip trying to create a beast of a word and end up descending, once again, to the harrowingly low lows of “it”.
It’s a simple premise that quickly gives way to immense depth. Duking it out with tougher opponents or playing online requires more than just a yawning word bank. Pitting adversaries against one another and knowing when to do battle and when to reinforce becomes as pivotal to success as un-jumbling words at lightning speed. It’s easier to kill a wounded animal after all, and there’s nothing worse than being beaten in a battle you’ve waged. The AI adversaries take a touch too long duking it out without you, but even in these instances you’re given the opportunity to solve the anagram and earn some backup.
Quarrel could have easily been a sterile affair but Denki have infused its game with a fetching sense of humour, winsome visuals and a whole well of minutiae; each word made is accompanied by a dictionary definition and there’s a raft of leaderboards too. There’s enough content wrapped up in the single player alone to justify a price tag thrice as high without taking into consideration the meaty core of the package.
And that, of course, is four-player online multiplayer, which takes everything that makes the single player so fine and adds the only thing that could better it: someone with which to gloat. The lack of local multiplayer is a bore, mind.
Denki’s wily word-game makes the jump to XBLA with poise and, packaged with a much-needed multiplayer component and a knot of natty new modes and features, is the definitive Quarrel.
It’s forever a rollercoaster ride of chagrin and elation but through love and ire one thing remains; the fact that it’s bloody magnificent. Plus you’re allowed to use naughty words offline. Tehe.