As some readers may have noticed, I do not personally review many word games. Very few word games gain my attention because I am terrible at these types of puzzles, finding them for the most part frustrating and demoralizing.
Therefore, it is quite a compliment from me to have enjoyed reviewing Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet as it is a word game that has won me over with a charming narrative, wonderful sense of style and an abundance of whimsy that I have greatly enjoyed.
This app can be played as a straight word game with the Whimsy mode turned off or kept on to enjoy this game in a charming and fun context of a young adult looking for work when he is hired by Coolson’s chocolate factory where artisan chocolate squares are produced. Your job is to pack boxes with these chocolates, but you take it upon yourself to pack these boxes creating 2-5 letter words, many of which interconnect to create crossword-style shapes.
Simply drag the letters one wishes to play off the conveyer belt and place them in empty letter boxes, but do try not to let any chocolates fall off the conveyer belt and into the garbage as one loses accomplishment stars, although this game can be played long after these stars are lost.
For many levels, this game works for me, as the building of 2-5 letter words is less about spelling and the understanding of English language nuances such as where vowels and consonants are most commonly placed to think ahead, especially in terms of the interconnecting words one tries to plan ahead for.
I adore the charming illustrations that tell this story, the character of the boss, Mr. Coolson, a penguin with a gruff demeanor, and the scenes showing how the main character in this story spends the weekend - all delightful moments that kept me playing.
These illustrations, drawn by hand and presumably outlined in ink and colored with watercolors, are splendid, with lettering just as appealing, telling this very nice story that really drew me into this game.
I must confess that I have only finished the first month of this game, structured into three months as seen on a calendar of days that one works at Coolson’s. At first I really enjoyed the challenge and although I was not always quick at these tasks, I was able to happily muddle through these crossword-styled puzzles.
I do feel it is best to think about these word games fluidly as if one is married to a specific that one is trying to spell, as this way the game can seem dragged out and difficult, so it is far better to let the letters inspire words, finding the balance between planning ahead and the willingness to move things around when new letters become available.
Having said this, there are points later in this game where I have multiple intersecting words completed, and I am looking for a single letter which never comes - typical letters such as a “T,” “N,” or “S,” letters often chosen at the end of Wheel of Fortune for their commonness, including vowels such as “A’” or “E.”
Now I am all for changing the word I am trying to spell from “STOLE,” to “STORE,” or “SPOKE,” maintaining the other intersected word's wholeness, but there are times when none of these letters I need are offered, only the same letters unhelpful in the situation seen multiple times repeated, so I change the word I am trying to spell - if not the entire intersecting puzzle itself - and now new letters which are not useful are offered, including those I could have used before changes.
There are moments when this plays out where I ask for not easier game play, not fewer intersecting words, or fewer five-letter spellings, but for more, dare I say, “fairness” in these puzzles, as it can feel as if one is playing against a child who enjoys cheating, as I wait for minutes, as a test, for a letter remotely useable sent onto the conveyer belt, delayed as if by spite.
Harsh words, I know. Do understand that I find creating the word “cat” during Scrabble an accomplishment, so I am not truly the core audience for this or other apps like it, although I am pleased to say I had my moments while being on a roll where I collected achievement stars - moments I am proud of, making the delightful narrative scenes directly after all the more satisfying.
I am sure that seasoned word puzzlers would not have the level of difficulty any other way, and it is a compliment, even if a backwards one, to say that this app has upset me, as I typically would never get involved enough in a word puzzle app to care before deleting it from my iPad.
I would love to see a “relax” mode where the letters are found on the conveyer belt that represent how often the letter is used in the English language, with no letter being unseen within 26 random letters offered, instead of the withholding of important letters that I came across during these later puzzle levels.
On another note, I am very happy to report that the cut scenes starring the lead of this game and Coolson himself be seen in the Break Room found on the main menu of this app - good to know if you would prefer to play this game without interruption or would like to view the witty animation without completing each of these levels. I would also love to see how each weekend is spent as well - illustrations I greatly enjoy - as well as any other illustrated moments possible not already shown in the Break Room.
Also of note is the chance to battle both another player sharing the same iPad or with a stranger over the internet mode that I for obvious reasons have never tried. I will do so, however with my son when he gets old enough to play this game - in late grade school I assume. Soon after he will probably leave me in the dust unless he too inherits my lack of spelling ability.
Although I found frustration during parts of this game, I cannot talk highly enough about Coolson's Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet, especially for those good at word puzzles in general, as I am not.
I do, however, greatly and whole-heartedly appreciate the included narrative and cartoon-like, hand-drawn illustrations. This app is wonderfully realized for the app these developers envisioned. I would love to see a “Beginner” mode included in the future as well.