A week after the Steam Sale ended I found a little game on sale called Lexica. My wife loves crossword puzzles and this appeared to be a crossword puzzle type game. The size of the screenshots lead me to believe it was a game designed for mobile, so I picked up her phone and searched for it. Turns out, there’s no Android version of this small game. Still, for $2 I went ahead and bought it for PC. One can almost never go wrong with word games, and Lexica has a clever way with words. It’s also lacking a human element that I think is becoming too common in games development. I’ll explain this in a moment, but for now let me tell you about the game itself.
The object of the game is to assemble the words of a crossword puzzle. All of the letters are given to you, but they’re scrambled. Those letters surround the board and can only be moved in two directions: either up and down or left and right. This means that any given row can have several blanks that the letter can go into, so figuring out what the words are makes for interesting gameplay. I don’t know if this gets more complex as you solve each puzzle, but there are usually some gimmicks in games like this.
As of this writing, I’m in love with the game. It makes for a perfect evening of gaming with my wife and even our small children can grasp how it’s played, though they may not have the vocabulary to know the words. Each puzzle is timed for competitive purposes, but right now the game seems to be very basic. There’s no multiplayer mode and no scoreboards, but it has Steam achievements and a community to compete with.
While it doesn’t seem to have a strong long-term presence, this isn’t a bad first iteration of a word puzzler at all. I think the next prudent step would be to port this thing to Android because it seems perfectly designed for mobile devices. I’m still quite perplexed that it’s for PC, but that’s fixable. For now, if you enjoy word search puzzles, pick this little gem up. It’s a great way to spend 5 to 10 minutes and an easy game to share with another person.
Some Interesting Notes on the “Developer”
In my search to find the website of the developer of this game, something I always do when I encounter something new that I like, I quickly realized that – like many “indie” games these days – there’s no developer. Not in the sense that we use the term in game blogging.
There are several components to the game development process that brings us games like Lexica. First, a game maker is hired to do the work of actually creating the game. In this case Vexus Puzzle Design are the designers who created the puzzles in Lexica. Apparently they create all sorts of word search puzzles that are published in dozens of places, from newspapers like the New York Times to Steam games like Lexica.
The other piece of the game development puzzle here is Merge Games, a publisher. They help indie companies get their games distributed to international markets. We’ve all played games by indie developers who have used their services, games like Terraria, Binding of Isaac, Gemini Rue and Limbo. Their role is publishing.
This isn’t a strange arrangement and it’s clearly quite common in the world of games development. What makes this interesting to me is how increasingly my games are made by no one. There are no humans named in it’s development and there are no websites for the team responsible. These are, instead, manufactured products in the strictest sense of the term, made strictly for sale and profit. Again, this isn’t strange, but it’s very interesting to observe these trends in the gaming industry.
For a consumer like me, when I find a good product I try to get to know the company behind it. Most of the time, it’s so I can find more products to buy. If I liked the first game, i want more games just like it so I search. When I reach dead-ends like this it just drives home the fact that the industry is increasingly a faceless place. Not to be too nostalgic or naive, but I enjoy knowing who the game developers are and I enjoy supporting them. When I run into stuff like this, it takes out just a little of the joy and magic I find in games.
Lexica is a very decent game, but learning all of this about the its development made it perfectly clear why it’s so featureless. It is quite literally the digital version of a word find from a newspaper. Ideally, this game would be on mobile (because it’s PERFECT for such a thing), but since there’s no humans behind it, since it’s just a manufactured piece of software designed for a quick buck, it’s wound up on PC strictly (for now). There are n multiplayer aspects despite it also being an ideal game for multiplayer. There are no scoreboards, which such games will usually have. These things make sense when there are no passionate people behind the development of the product.
So what do you think of this? Does this diminish some of the magic of games, knowing that – for all intents and purposes – a robot made this game, probably for pennies on the dollar?
Scree Tags: #lexica #gamereview