Quarrel Xbox 360 Review

February 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – Ignition – Developer – Denki – Genre – Word/Strategy– Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

The developer of Quarrel struggled to find a publisher for this Xbox Live Arcade release, with the game landing on iOS first, and it would have been an absolute tragedy if someone hadn’t picked it up. Fortunately, Ignition came along and made the release happen on Xbox Live Arcade, and thank god that they did – the world is a better place with the colourful, charming and inventive game that is Quarrel.

Quarrel is the sort of game that is so easy to get into, but is a genius execution – a cocktail of Scrabble and Risk that is hard to put down. The tutorial is helpful and welcome but does actually make the game sound more complex than what it actually is. This is one very simple game, although it’s also one that calls upon your brainpower.

So, it goes a little like this. Before the game begins, you and your opponents are dealt out equal land, which is separated and split into smaller sections. Your pint sized troops (ninjas, pirates or robots etc) then rain down into these sections, with the objective being to win your opponents sections and eventually dominate the entire map. If you are unfamiliar with the game, you may be asking yourself how words fit into this set-up?

Visually, the game has a lovely cartoon charm that should appeal to a wide audience.

It’s simple. You battle to win sections by making as high scoring words as you can find out of the jumble of letters that you are given in each Quarrel. Players receive the same letters as each other, meaning it’s quite possible for the same word to be presented. Quarrels are initiated by choosing a section that is currently home to your own troops and then selecting an adjacent area that is occupied by the troops of your opponent. The amount of letters you can place into a word is determined by the amount of troops you currently have in that section, of which you can have up to eight in each of your own individual areas – yes, as the maths suggest, that means you can create eight letter words if you have enough troops. There’s also anagrams to find in each quarrel if you have the maximum eight troops, and it’s always highly satisfying for your brain to process the letters and your hands to present them in time, with the game then letting you know that you’ve produced an anagram. As the game lets you know the meaning of each and every word, Quarrel can also be a highly educational experience.

A Quarrel with seven on three is likely to result in the former coming out on top with a higher scoring word, although, like Scrabble, it’s possible to put together some very high scoring words with next to nothing if the luck and the brainpower are there. If each player in a quarrel creates a same scoring word, the fastest player to input the word will win the fight, while if a lesser number of troops are the victor, you’ll be rewarded with prisoners that will join your own ranks. At the end of Quarrels, the winner amusingly tosses his/her word tiles at the opponent, with defenders staying where they are and attackers advancing onto emptied sections.

Over the course of each match you’ll earn treasure, of which fills up a meter. When the meter is full, you’ll gain an extra troop that can be called in to even the odds or to at least give you a better chance during certain quarrels.

It’s not all about the quarrels either.  Reinforcements are dropped it at the start of each new round, and it’s also possible to transfer your troops onto neighbouring sections, thus reinforcing that section, giving you a higher chance to produce that quarrel winning word, when the time comes to the battle of words that is the very essence of the game. There’s a feeling of great satisfaction when you manage to shift your troops towards your opponents in a mighty looking swarm.

At the end of matches, the game will inform you of your rating and how well you faired with the use of the letters you were given. There's also a persistent Word IQ that carries over to every mode.

There’s a number of modes. A Challenge mode presents you with 12 challenges to overcome,  Showdown has you facing 9 AI opponents in head-to-head matches, and Domination finally tasks you with conquering all 12 islands. AI opponents differ in their intellect, and you’ll have to be a real wordsmith if you want to beat the lot. The AI is also very smart – they know when to reinforce, and there’s times where they really appear as if they’re deep in thought and caught in a dilemma as to what to do next. But it’s the online modes where the most fun is to be had, as it’s all the more satisfying to overcome up to three real living, breathing and thinking opponents with your high scoring words, and add in the time limit pressure during quarrels, and things can get really competitive as you and your opponents scramble to produce the winning word. I just hope that the rather modest online community continues to grow or at least retains its size for the forseeable future.

The problem with Quarrel is that, while it may make use of the official Scrabble dictionary, developer Denki also had Microsoft against them. Microsoft have a censorship system in place that censors obvious words, although it also censors some not so obvious words. I can’t tell you how much frustration this causes if you think you have came up with an excellent word and then for the game to deny you it because Microsoft have decided, for one reason or another, that your word is inappropiate. The problem only exists online, as offline modes allow you to make use of any single word from the Scrabble dictionary.

Without such a problem, Quarrel would easily be a 9/10, but as it’s there and the online mode is where the most enjoyment is to be found, it does bring the game down a peg or two. If you are looking for something a little bit different, something to make you think even, this very addictive combination of Scrabble and Risk is still a game that comes highly recommended at the bargain price of 400 Microsoft Points.