Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey was one of the first mobile games to successfully hold my attention, with its neat gameplay hook, cute characters, crisp graphics, and steady stream of rewarding upgrades. I’m a firm believer that just because a game exists on a mobile device doesn’t necessarily make it bad, and I looked forward to checking out Letter Quest’s PS4 and Vita port when it was included in this month’s batch of free Playstation Plus titles.
It’s a neat RPG with a dumb little story about a grim reaper’s quest for pizza, but rather than using any sort of traditional battle system, you deal damage by spelling out words from a randomized batch of letters. Each letter dishes out a specific amount of damage, so it’s a wise strategy to spend your turn focusing on lengthier words, ones that use more powerful letters (like X or K), or, should luck have it, both. Think of it like an RPG version of Scrabble.
The game becomes increasingly challenging as enemies begin manipulating Grimm’s tiles. Some of the more devious monsters cause tiles to become poisonous, inflicting damage if you include them in your words. Others can break tiles, rendering them useless for a few turns, or even change your available letter bank. So not only do you have to dig deep in your vocabulary to slay baddies, but do so while tip-toeing around potential hazards as well.
Battles play out similarly to any normal turn-based RPG, as Grimm trades blows with monsters, replenishes lost health through potions, and earns a spendable currency from each victory. You can spend that currency by rescuing NPCs, who return the favor by granting access to a variety of different shops. With their help, Grimm can buy and upgrade new weapons, stockpile consumables, beef up his stats, and unlock spell books that provide passive bonuses in combat (like extra damage for using double letters).
Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered offers a neat RPG experience with just enough of a hook to keep me coming back. Honestly, that’s the best case scenario for any mobile or handheld game. I played the mobile version pretty extensively, but since I had already invested a considerable amount of time over there I was less inclined to do so again. However, in the back of my mind I always thought it’d be a great fit on Vita.
While the PS4 version is just fine, scrapping the mobile practice of microtransactions (the mobile version is free, but has a few paid options) and tossing in d-pad support, Letter Quest is a slight downgrade on Vita. Although the rest of the visuals are crisp and clear, the text is pretty fuzzy (which has given me a few headaches). The controller support that’s present on PS4 is also absent on Sony’s handheld, in favor of touch-only controls.
Touch controls are manageable in moderation, but I found it difficult to claw-grip the Vita in one hand while fully controlling Letter Quest with the other. It’s a different story on my tablet, since I can just lay it in my lap and poke the screen with my fingertips. It’s not only uncomfortable to support the Vita one-handed, but nearly impossible to become engaged in the experience when my hands are cramped and uncomfortable.
If you recall, this is the same issue I had with Drinkbox’s fantastic dungeon crawler RPG, Severed. It was an incredible game that I just couldn’t play for longer than 20-30 minutes, due to hand cramps and the overall awkwardness of clutching the Vita in one hand while rapidly slashing across the touch screen with the other. It’s a shame, really.
Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered is still a great game that offers a novel spin on a familiar genre, and I applaud that. In fact, it still remains my favorite mobile game to date. I’m just a bit disappointed by the Vita version’s noticeably downgraded text visuals and uncomfortable control scheme. Especially when Letter Quest on PS4 already includes controller support and doesn’t suffer from the same haziness.
Had this been my first experience with Bacon Bandit Games’ puzzle RPG, I’m almost positive that I’d overlook these flaws and get sucked in to the game on PS4, or even Vita. Having extensively played it beforehand though, my only selling point is unlocking PSN Trophies.
But I guess I’ll just stick to using my tablet, and that’s something I never thought I’d say in my life.