Lexi-Cross is an interesting game. Think the red-headed stepchild of Battleships, Scrabble and Wheel of Fortune, but with a little more soul than the average ginger.
It’s a futuristic take on the gameshow genre, complete with cyborg host and robot contestants, and even the android simulacrum of Vanna White has rocket boots. You start the game by choosing from any planet in the solar system as your home base (be warned: this will affect your choice of head, for a start) and filling out the rest of your profile. This enables you to assemble your L.I.M.B. game avatar, which is fun, but not a crucial part of the gameplay.
The main part of the game is three rounds played by two players: You can play against the computer or play with a friend – on the same PC or via modem – or watch the computer play against itself.
You each start with a large expanse of blank squares that you have to turn over. These will give you vowels, safe tokens, peeks into your opponent’s rows and columns, and letter-blanks that act as crossword blocks. This is the somewhat frustrating part of the game, as the five vowel tokens are quite hard to find, and empty squares and squares that reduce your score will end your turn, and Lose Turns take your next turn away as well. There are plus and minus tokens that add to or remove from your cash score.
Once you’ve exposed enough squares to form your crossword clues, you can turn to the Pick A Letter option, which brings in the Wheel of Fortune-style section of the game. The wheel spins, and you either get an amount of cash to go with the letter you select, go bankrupt, or end your turn. There is also a Reveal Row and Reveal Column that can happen once per round. Eventually, with the help of any vowel tokens you might find, you fill in this selection of verbal clues. But wait! That’s not the end of the round. Each word is a clue to the real puzzle, which you can try to solve at any point in the round. Once you’ve figured that out, hopefully before your robot or human opponent does, you go to the next round. And that’s pretty much it – after three rounds there is just the option to play again. There’s no end of game score screen, which is something of a disappointment.
In all, quite a cerebral game with a lot of replayability, nice colours and cute sound effects. Give it a whirl and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did: covered in green Martian tentacles and humming the Star Wars theme.
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