It seems like a bit of a tricky choice. Spend a quid on a paper-based crossword puzzle book from your local corner shop or newsagents, or 800 points on the electronic equivalent for your Xbox 360. Sheer economics might scream “fool” at you for choosing the latter, but you know something? Coffeetime Crosswords isn’t actually all that bad.
It takes the well known word-puzzle much beloved of little old nannas the world over, and gives it a 360 makeover packing the game with 150 different puzzles at 5 skill levels ranging from “Oh my god, you could write for Nutz Magazine” right up to “So you read the Times then do you?”
The game is reasonably well presented, just like Buku Sudoku was – but be warned, if you haven’t got a handy USB keyboard to plug in (or one of those weird little messenger keypads for your 360 gamepad) you are going to suffer at the hands of one of the WORST text entry methods known to anyone with opposable thumbs.
A standard crossword grid is drawn on the screen, with numbered clues lining up across and down each grid section. You know, the way crosswords have been since time immemorial. The problem comes when that little light bulb above your head lights up, you get an answer, and you want to enter it into said grid.
The screen changes to show a highlighted circle of letters, which you cycle through with the shoulder bumpers! Worse than that, you only get a few letters at a time to choose from, so constructing lengthy words with this input method becomes a complete tedious chore. I’ve no idea who thought that this was a pleasingly designed text entry method but whoever they are, I hope they’re being kept in a small padded cell somewhere to keep the neighbourhood safe.
Thankfully you can rescue the situation by nabbing a USB keyboard and just using the arrow keys to navigate round the grid before typing each letter in turn. Annoying though this is (mostly because the pad will “go to sleep” every now and again, pausing your game before you wake it up again) it’s infinitely preferable to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with the other method.
Once you’re off and running, the game comes into its own and actually does prove to be quite a challenge. It’s a little “American-centric” in some of the clues and words, as well as the spellings – a pity that they couldn’t have gone to the extra effort of providing a proper “English” version of the game but it’s to be expected, I guess.
I don’t count myself as much of a textual genius but I have to say that each of the difficulty levels is much like the last, and the game’s a little on the stingy side with its achievement awards. Another annoyance is that the same words crop up time and time again, perhaps with the clues slightly differently worded but right across the difficulty settings from easy-peasy to rock hard you’ll actually begin to second-guess the answer to a lot of clues because you’ll have seen the answers so many times before. I don’t claim to have played the game for thousands of hours either, so it’s annoying to think that the game’s dictionary of words is so piffling and small. One last negative point – the damned sound – or more accurately, the teeth-grating music that cannot be disabled unless you disable ALL the in-game sound effects too. Design sloppiness like this should’ve been banished from game design heuristics a long long time ago, so it’s bloody annoying to see it cropping up here in a game with Konami’s name attached to it.
Coffeetime Crosswords is actually strangely addictive though. This could be because I’m something of a word-puzzle nut, but it could also be because it does make you feel an ounce smarter than most Xbox Live titles, and does exercise your grey woolly matter a little more than the average offering. In fact if you’ve got like-minded buddies who like to stretch their inner thesauruses, you can team up on Live to solve puzzles co-operatively.
In all honesty though it’s too pricey and the standard text input method will drive you absolutely crazy within ten seconds of trying to enter a word. With that, and the repetitiveness of the answers at times and the Americanised dictionary it’s a title destined to be consigned to the “below average” bin.