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For more than six decades, the Jumble word game has been a fixture in newspapers and magazines around the world, and these days it is also available online. Fans of these puzzles already know what they're all about, but for those unfamiliar with the concept, the Jumbles are essentially a series of five anagrams. Four are regular words, while the fifth is presented as a cartoon clue and uses certain letters from each of the other words to comprise the final answer. They may not have the almost universal appeal that crosswords do, but they certainly do have a dedicated following, of which I am a proud member. In January of 2009, Destineer and UClick Digital Entertainment teamed up to produce a Nintendo DS version of the game, and thankfully, it's a pretty solid product.
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Jumble Madness is the game's title, and it includes both several single and multiplayer modes of play. First, there is the Daily Jumble, which allows you to select a day from the in-game calendar and play a standard Jumble word scramble, like the ones found in papers. Players can opt to play normally or to race the clock in a timed challenge, and there is one set of anagrams per calendar day. The Jumble Crosswords mode is handled the same way, only instead of traditional Jumbles it gives you clues and anagrams that fit into a crossword puzzle format. Daily Jumble has you move around letter blocks using the stylus, while Jumble Crosswords has you write the letters in a box. Both work fairly well, but on rare occasions the game has trouble identifying the letters when you're writing.
The third and final single-player play mode is called Jumble Madness, and it introduces a third play style known as Jumble Jong. Essentially, this is a copy of the WordJong game, also available for DS. In this play mode, you need to build words out of letter-inscribed mahjong tiles, and you earn a score based on the quality of your word. Wordjong was better overall, and its "Temple Challenge" mode was certainly better than the ridiculous, throwaway story that ties together these types of puzzles in Jumble Madness mode. However, considering this is a pack-in and not a stand-alone game, I can't really find reason to gripe. Playing through the single-player modes also earns the player Accolades for completing various feats, which gives you something to work towards. All in all, there's a decent amount of single-player depth here for a sub-$20 game.
Unfortunately, Jumble Madness does not support online play via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Multiplayer is limited to local multi-card wireless for up to four players. Among the play modes are a versus version of Jumble Jong, a game called Word Mastery in which players need to race to solve the most anagrams in a specific time limit, and Word Racer mode, in which players need to earn a set amount of points in order to achieve victory. It's a nice touch, especially if you know several other folks who are also Jumble enthus
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Graphics and Sound
The visuals in Jumble Madness aren't overly flashy, but they don't have to be in a game like this. They're simple and clear, and the text is easy to read, which is essential for a game like this. The music, on the other hand, is pretty poor. With the exception of the story-based Jumble Madness mode, which does include some alternate music, the same song plays throughout the game--at the main menu, during Daily Jumble games, in Jumble Crosswords mode, and so forth. It gets incredibly irritating over time, and odds are good you'll eventually follow my lead and just turn the sound on your DS unit all the way down.
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If you enjoy word or puzzle video games, or you're the type of person who always plays the Jumble in your daily paper, odds are good you'll really like Jumble Madness. It isn't perfect, though. Even though Jumble Jong isn't bad, I really wish they had left out the insipid and completely unnecessary story mode and just added more traditional Jumble puzzles instead. Wi-Fi support would have been nice as well. Maybe if there's a sequel, they can focus on the core content and give us online play, but until then, this is a good value for fans of anagrams and other verbal puzzles.