Wordhunters is a vocabulary-based PlayLink party game for the PlayStation 4, developed by indie studio thumbfood.
The game involves 2-6 players (or Wordhunters, if you will) competing to collect letters and construct their “secret word”. In order to achieve this, players must travel to a selection of cities around the world, stepping up with their diction and wit to become the victor of a range of competitive word games.
Across the game’s small handful of twenty real-world cities, rendered beautifully in a bright, colourful and quirky artistic style, fifteen entertaining word games await your adventuring party. With a range of speed, skill and challenge-based themes across them, there is an opportunity for everybody in the room to shine. There is, however, an unfortunate exception…
Perhaps it should be obvious in that this is a words-based game, but Wordhunters is not the most welcoming experience to players who suffer from dyslexia. Whilst I had no problem competing across the range of games on offer, my partner struggled to effectively participate in around half of the experiences on offer. In particular, the timed game modes were a bit of a struggle. The ability to extend the time provided on these games would have been a welcome option to resolve this issue, but sadly no such provision exists. If the pressure applied in some of the mini-games was optional, the experience would feel much more welcoming to all kinds of players. As it stands at the time of writing, however, the game doesn’t quite manage to live up to its claim to be accessible for the “whole” family.
Outside of the above issue, however, Wordhunters is indeed an entertaining party game which makes excellent use of the PlayStation 4’s PlayLink system. It is quick, easy and fluid to set up and play the game using your mobile devices, whether you have a mobile phone or a tablet to hand. The need for an app is questionable when compared to similar party games such as the Jackbox series, but the model serves its purpose and it takes no time at all to get to grips with how the game works.
Each game lasts around 15-20 minutes, depending on how quickly you can craft your four-letter secret word. Each time you win a minigame, you can take any two letters that you need for your word, as long as they exist in the name of the city you are currently visiting. The only problem in this respect is the fact that the game does not do you any favours in helping you to reach this goal. I found myself trapped in a 20-minute stalemate with my partner during one of our games, simply because none of the cities on offer contained the letters we were looking for. The game’s system for moving the game forward seems to be entirely random, but this does at least avert any bias in the direction of any given player.
To keep you entertained between games of “Alphabetty Forgetty” and “Disemvowelled”, Amy the Aviator is on hand to host your upbeat experience. Imagine the perfect children’s entertainer, with bad jokes and a perky attitude practiced to a tee, and you probably have something close to Amy in mind. Nevertheless, even when playing with adults, Amy serves her purpose well, and the quality and clarity of the voice actor makes learning new games both a swift and an easy experience. Throughout the numerous games of Wordhunters which I played over the course of a few days, there was little repetition in Amy’s library of banter either, which kept the experience fresh and encouraged replayability by avoiding repetition.
Wordhunters succeeds as a family-friendly party word game. A bright and welcoming artistic style is met with a positive tone and just enough variety to keep the experience entertaining and fresh for an extended period of play. The use of Playstation’s PlayLink system suits the game well and getting to grips with the setup and control systems takes no time at all. The only hiccup which Wordhunters falls fell of is not being quite as inclusive as it wants you to believe that it is. Dyslexia is certainly a barrier to enjoyment, albeit a fixable one with just a few small changes to the in-game settings. If the developers are able to take on board this constructive criticism and work on this aspect of their game, they truly will have created and exciting and compelling party game for the whole of the family.