PopCap GamesPopcap Games brings us another edition of literary and epic battles starring Lex, the adorable bookworm. Following the success of Bookworm Adventures, Volume 2 adds new characters and power ups. The game play remains the same as you work to create as long words as possible. The longer the word, the more power you’ll have in your next move in battling the enemy.

Those familiar with the original game will find the game hasn’t changed much. You get a grid of letters. Select the letters to make a word. Some letters have a different color to indicate bonus points or power ups that give your hits extra punch.

You begin each round (based on locale) of battle by battling the little people. At the end of the round, you battle the big boss. They’re the hardest to defeat.

Bookworm Adventures Volume 2What’s new in Volume 2: characters, power ups, story and companions. You’ll get to pick one companion to go with you on your adventures. Each companion has a strength, so you’ll have to figure out what you need. Every round begins with a heads up on what you’ll face so you can pick two power ups and one companion to travel with you.

You have the occasional challenge of trying to create words that fall in a category such as metals (“nickel” and “gold”) or words with double letters (“moon” and “tattle”).

Prepare to laugh even when you’re waiting for a new level to load. You know how web sites show a loading bar or animation (pre-loader)? The game has comments instead that flash on the screen. “Spelling architekt,” “Playing Peggle” and other funny notes. Of course, Lex and the enemies exchange repartees.

I love the game’s use of Mother Goose and nursery rhymes characters such as the cat and fiddle and Miss Muffet. You’ll also see Alice in Wonderland and other literary characters like Odysseus and Moby Dick. I wish it had more of these types of characters and less of the Chinese, sci-fi and role-playing game (RPG) style characters since we had more of these in the original game. But that is probably a personal preference as I do love literary characters. Plus, there may be copyright laws involved.

Bookworm Adventures Volume 2The game lasts a long time and has great replay value. You unlock a second mode that’s timed — which freaks me out and puts me on edge. Also, during the adventure, the mini-games return so you can earn bonus power ups and take a break from battling.

One feature I wish the game had: the ability to use the keyboard to create the letters. I’ve played loads of word games and they allow you to use the mouse or keyboard. Keyboard is faster and more comfortable especially in timed mode.

Although Bookworm Adventures Volume 2 doesn’t have many enhancements and the story drags, it’s a joy to play especially for literary and word lovers and Lex fans. It brings a new experience so you don’t feel like you’re watching a rerun of the original game.

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“Science fair.” Those two words conjure up different memories for most of us. I did one project in 11th grade as a requirement for Biology II. What do I know? The Audubon Society awarded my deforestation project an honorable mention. Nowadays, the projects kids do just blow us judges away. They make projects from my high school years look like pre-school projects.

Where am I going with this? Crosswords meet science fair and Peanuts look-alike characters in Lex Venture: A Crossword Caper! I’m not shouting — it’s the game title. Although the game deserves a shout of excitement as it falls neither in the hidden game nor time management game genre. So what makes this crossword game different? Strong story, loveable graphics and characters, original power ups, and a Hangman slash Wheel of Fortune style mini-game.

Friends work together to create a word machine for the science fair project. Somehow a thief breaks their project and runs away with the their machine and its parts. The kids chase the thief who drops parts around town passing playgrounds, parks, the beach. The gang creates words to collect all of the the parts in every stage.

In each stage, the kids engage in a battle of wits against the the thief and enemies. The kids take turns with the first one playing for 10 stages, the second for eight, and so on. Every kid has a specialty to give him super powers in fighting the enemy — without fists, of course. Enemies try to stop the gang such as the dog that picks up and moves parts, a duck that eats things, a bully who can break letters.

Create words with at least three letters from the nine letters shown on top of the Scrabble-like grid. Parts rest on different squares of the grid and enemies try to block your way. When you enter a word, a bubble appears with its definition.

Power ups and combos help create words when you’re stuck, jump to a further away square, get a joker, electrify tiles. Even with all of this support, don’t think this makes for an easy game. Besides, it makes a great game for families to play together even with pre-schoolers.

Two mini-games change the pace that fit with the story. Upon spotting the thief, the kids a game where they race to pick up more parts than the thief to win the stage. Before trading kids, the currently on-call kid plays “The Challenge,” a Hangman type of mini-game. The winner gets a page of the machine plans. Just like Hangman, a blank word with a couple of letters filled in appears along with the word’s definition for a clue. Normal game mode uses

Lex Venture: A Crossword Caper! comes with 42 stages in adventure mode. Quick game mode comes with five games where you can play with three of the five kids. These last longer since they contend with more parts and challenges. I’d like to see a game mode without the adventure that lets you pick which kid you want to play. Supposedly, more levels are available on the Internet, but nothing shows up on the referenced Web site.

The game begins with a tutorial and that’s it. It needs help instructions along with details of the kids’ names and background. Nonetheless, we get to know the kids and their personalities whenever we play them in the game. Despite the little foibles, Lex Venture: A Crossword Caper! with its good music and charm will entertain families and puzzle fans.