KrissX Review

By Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Feb 03, 2010

While history is filled with examples of when mixing two seemingly different things leads to something special (e.g. peanut butter and chocolate), KrissX's word game blend is an incongruous mess.

The Pros
  • At 25MB, it doesn't take up much Hard Drive space
  • Unscramble over 3,500 words
The Cons
  • Slapdash presentation and boring design
  • Annoyingly simplistic gameplay
  • Did I mention boring design?

Xbox Live Arcade hasn’t exactly been overflowing with puzzle games recently, so it's understandable that developers would want to address a neglected market. KrissX (short for “crisscross”) blends elements from crossword puzzles and Jumble, which are two games typically found in newspapers. Sadly, it would have been better if the developers simply focused on one or the other, as the combination effectively neuters each game's strength.


X Marks the Slop

KrissX is a hodgepodge of questionable design decisions. Case in point: You have an owl mascot that is apparently just there to watch you. It doesn't tell you to “give a hoot, don't pollute,” nor does it try to determine how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. This mascot-without-a-purpose is only one of the strange features in KrissX.

Another bizarre element is the inclusion of only three or four outdoor scenes as backgrounds. Hot air balloons? Winter woods? Sounds great! There are only two voices in the game, one male and one female, both with wildly different accents. Also, the music perfectly fits the action -- for a medieval strategy game. These are examples of a perplexing lack of focus, which is a recurring theme in KrissX. Instead of feeling like the type of game the once-impressive Konami should be attaching its name to, KrissX reeks of a low-budget title thrown together in a week.

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Hooked on Phonics

The heart of the problem with KrissX is not its dirt-cheap production values, but the insulting lack of a challenge for those who enjoy word games -- you know, its target audience. Unscrambling words is fine, but since you are given clues, there's little skill involved. Crossword fans won't appreciate having the grid already filled out, which removes the puzzle-solving aspect of their favorite game. There is no obvious advantage to KrissX's design, other than it might appeal to younger audiences scared to do a "real" crossword puzzle.

The main game (or Quest Mode as it’s known) features a series of puzzles that generally share the same format: five or six mixed-up words arranged in a crossword layout. The goal is to swap letters to complete each word as quickly as possible. The fewest number of swaps leads to potential scoring bonuses, but you have to "work" for them by quickly tapping buttons. Colored stars will periodically fall from the puzzle and you must tap the corresponding buttons to activate their bonuses. It's not a welcome distraction.


Letter Imperfect

Perhaps realizing that the standard puzzles would bore most audiences before they finish the Quest Mode's 150 stages, Regolith tried to enhance KrissX's replay value by offering different takes on the basic premise. In between the standard puzzles, you will occasionally have to arrange letters in a set number of moves or arrange a block of jumbled words to fit specific clues. There are also groupings of themed puzzles, such as countries, states, and house and home.

The themes only make the puzzles easier, since you not only get a clue -- as usual -- but you now know the specific category a word is part of. Other options include both a time attack and "timeless" mode, but puzzles tend to repeat, so you'll eventually encounter the same words and same pitiful clues. After seeing such gems as "like seashell" (answer: shell) or "not insincerity" (answer: sincerity), you'll want to move onto something more exciting and intellectually stimulating, like Hangman with your five-year-old sister.


Alphabet Poop

KrissX would be a tough sell at 200 Microsoft points, let alone the eye-popping, head-scratching 800 it actually costs. Plus, there’s the fact that the game’s also available on Facebook where a browser-based trial game lays out everything KrissX could possibly offer you. Wordsmiths new to Xbox Live should seek out Boggle and Scrabble, then hope PopCap brings the far-superior Bookworm and Bookworm Adventures to XBLA in the near-future. KrissX is neither a refreshing take on tried-and-true classics, nor is it addictive, which makes it a poor puzzle game at any price.