Cooroora: A Way With Words




Genre:   Word puzzle casual game

Developer & Publisher:    Peter Hewitt & Mulawa

Released:  June 2008 



by flotsam


Peter Hewitt and his Mulawa enterprise have been around for several years now. Xiama, his first ďgameĒ, dates from 2000 and Cooroora is his fourth. That is, if you donít count the electronic jigsaws.

Cooroora isnít really a game, but more an electronic book of word games. However, if you like a wordy challenge you will likely find lots to keep you occupied here.

Peter hails from parts down under, and he uses locations from our Great Southern Land as backdrops to his productions. Not the glitzy tourist places, but the relatively peaceful bush and smaller towns that fill up the areas between our capital cities. This time itís the hinterland in southern Queensland around Noosa, known as the Sunshine Coast (okay, Noosa is a little glitzy). Twenty-four locations are visited in all.

A swarthy widow

It works like this: find the relevant location on the map and a 360 degree panoramic postcard of that location loads. Scroll through the scene (and occasionally go for a short wander) until you find the notebook computer. Click on that and the word game available at that particular location loads. A new location and puzzle will then be available, once you revisit the map.

There are all manner of puzzles: crosswords, how many words can you make from a group of letters, three letter words for body parts and quotable quotes to name just a few. Many are variants on traditional puzzles, others are brand new, at least in terms of word games. All of them have multiple puzzles available. If, for instance, you canít find enough words from one set of letters, simply move on to the next set of letters. The puzzle -- and the location you are at -- remain the same, but the letters are different.

This increases playability, and also enables you to focus on a particular type of puzzle if you want. If you particularly like cryptic crosswords, you can do all of those that are available.

Which might be a lot. One puzzle I recall said I was doing number 724 out of 1735. Thatís a lot of puzzling.

You can come and go between the locations and the puzzles as often as you like. You can half finish one, go somewhere else and do something different, come back later and have another go. Just donít hit the ďgive-upĒ button -- it automatically solves that puzzle for you. Another one of the same type will likely be available, but that is the end for that one. You could restart the game as a different player. But having had the puzzle solved, there would likely not be a whole lot of point.

Award showy wit

Points are awarded as you go. Gold, silver and bronze medals pop up when you achieve a certain portion of the solution. The complexity of the puzzle will determine how well you have to do to get a medal. You can stop altogether, having obtained a bronze medal, or keep working on it to get either a silver or gold and more points towards your accumulating total.

100 points is the maximum available for any puzzle, and you only get that if you completely solve it at your first attempt. Fireworks and an appropriate fanfare are an added reward. You can get gold medals for less than a complete solution, but not the 100 points.

The way some puzzles work you may not be able to get a medal, or a certain level of medal, depending upon how you go with the solution. For instance, I could keep working on finding the whole list of possible words from a set of letters and wrong words did not count against me. However, if I had too many unsuccessful attempts at the pair matching game, it affected the maximum score I could achieve. So too with a variant of Scrabble -- how you complete the Scrabble board may limit your total point score.

One additional screen has a pictorial representation of each puzzle you have access to. Visit that screen and go straight to any puzzle you like, and just pick up where you left off.

Withdraw Ė say ow!

The rules and objectives for each puzzle are explained by moving the mouse over the picture of Peter at the bottom of the screen; the map is accessed in the same way. So too the point scoring.  Most of the puzzles can be completed using either the keyboard or mouse Ė itís up to you.

Some of the puzzle explanations could have been a little more detailed, and with a few I had to experiment with the puzzle itself to be completely sure I understood the mechanics. The vast majority, though, are straightforward.

You can play Cooroora directly from the CD or load it on your hard drive. There is a very slight lag in loading some images if you play directly from the CD.

Apart from the little fanfares when you achieve a medal, this is a silent pursuit. Ambient sound does not exist, making the images, lush though they are, a little sterile. But as I said, this is a puzzle book of word games, albeit in electronic form. So donít expect a plot, or any of the other trappings of an adventure game.

The game saves your progress as you go, and with the way it is built you can revisit your progress over and over again in order to try and get that point total up. Or you can start again as an entirely different player. In keeping with the medal theme, you represent a country as you play. No prizes for guessing which country I chose to represent, and as no one else is playing the game in my house, that puts Australia on top!

Although I have visited every location to get access to all the puzzles, I am far from completing all of them or exhausting their potential. I suspect the game will sit on the hard drive for a while, being dabbled in now and then, when the mood takes me. Whilst I didnít think it was as strong as Peterís earlier games, it is what it is Ė a collection of word games. As such, Cooroora will appeal to all word game fans, and I am rating it on that basis.

B minus

Cooroora is an Independent production of Mulawa Dreaming and can be purchased here.

August 2008

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