At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey Xbox 360 UTV Ignition Games Denki 1-4 (Xbox Live)
Requirements Also on...
Xbox Live Gold subscription for online play. iOS

Quarrel review

For someone who does a lot of writing, I find assembling words to be quite challenging. Not in the sense of constructing a sentence, but in forming a word from a random jumble of letters. This means that while I'm fairly good at the numbers portion of "Countdown", I rarely get the full 9-letter word and "Scrabble" was never my forte. Enter Quarrel, a word-building game involving a random jumble of letters.

It can therefore be surmised that I'm not particularly good at this game, and yet to Denki's credit, I still found it to be a lot of fun. The secret to Quarrel's success lies in its charming presentation and addictive mechanics. Quarrel is a sort of mix of the two popular board games Scrabble and RISK. You have a map that is divided into sections that are owned by each player. To win you need to conquer the map, one section at a time. All players have a number of troops in each section who will face each other when a battle is initiated. However, instead of success of failure hinging on roll of a pair of dice as in RISK, victory here depends on your vocabulary.

Time to conquer the map

Time to conquer the map

The winner of a Quarrel battle (which I guess is a 'quarrel') is determined by the highest scoring word submitted by a player. The words are formed from what are essentially Scrabble tiles, complete with the similar scoring rules. So 'J's and 'Q's are the important high-scoring letters to look out for. You get a selection of eight tiles to choose from, and each troop in your invading posse represents another letter you're allowed to play. If you take five troops against four, then you'll be able to form a word up to five letters in length to their maximum of four, but because of the different values of the tiles it's very possible they will beat you unless you can make the most of what's in front of you. Both combatants get the same selection of letters, so the quarrel is fair and the victor deserves the spoils.

Of course, having more letters available to you makes things easier, so it's good to keep troops moving around the map, and deploy any of the extra units that become available to you for each battle you take part in. Or even the ones you don't take part in - a game can consist of up to 4 players, but each quarrel is a one-on-one affair, so the other two get the full 8 tiles to try and form a high scoring word from in order to get some bonus treasure to pick up those troops. The quarrels are often tight affairs, and you're left with nerve-wracking pauses until the winner is revealed - if the scores are identical it's the first to submit who wins, providing another bout of anxiety. Sometimes it's better to submit something that might not seem to be worthy of a victory just to ensure you beat your opponent who can't form anything better. These moments are key to what makes Quarrel fun; while the rush to construct words is my downfall, it makes games exciting even when you're on the losing side.

The best I can come up with is 'fuse'

The best I can come up with is 'fuse'

The main focus of Quarrel is around the battles themselves, but there's still quite a range of single player modes to complete. Showdown is a collection of increasingly difficult one-on-one battles against the AI, and probably a good place to start as you get used to forming words quickly. Domination similarly involves a bunch of battles that get more challenging as you progress, but they include up to three opponents. If you want a real test then the Challenge modes provides scenarios you need to tackle, such as fighting back from the last remaining space and winning multiple quarrels in a row. However, I often found myself most enjoying the Quick Play mode which allows you to fill a spare 10-15 minutes in your day.

It has taken Quarrel a while to become available on the Xbox 360. It was originally made for the Xbox Live Arcade, but unfortunately the service requires a publisher in order to get released. So Denki went down the route of releasing the game on iOS last year where it became a huge success, and now UTV Ignition has picked it up. The fact that it was designed for the 360 means its transition is a lot smoother than for other smartphone games which try to map a touch-screen to controller buttons. Despite the time pressures while playing it's easy to construct words with the console's pad, and it feels like a natural fit. Quarrel's XBLA release also benefits from a price point we rarely see these days; 400 Microsoft Points, or £3.40.

Words are mightier than swords

Words are mightier than swords

Quarrel seems aptly set up for multiplayer, so it was surprising to see it missing in the iOS version, but it's present and correct on XBLA. Xbox Live battles can also feature up to three others, and the games work pretty much as they do in single player. The only difference is down to Microsoft's policies. While the offline modes let you form any word that's in the "Collins Official Scrabble Dictionary", including words such as 'f**k' and 's**t', the online version is not so liberal as words that are deemed offensive are blocked by Microsoft's Xbox Live word filtering policies. That might seem fair enough if you want to allow children to play, but there's no way to let adults have the full vocabulary, and worse still, there's some completely harmless words like 'train' and 'help' which also suffer from the filtering. Of course, it's not Denki's fault as they have to use the official filter without knowing what's banned or why if they want to use Xbox Live.

However, Microsoft's silliness doesn't get in the way of Quarrel being a hugely enjoyable game offline or online. With its bright and colourful visuals (complete with the obligatory Avatars), it's appealing to all ages, and even though it can be challenging, it should provide fun to all too.

Ratings

Overall Quarrel is a game that publishers didn't think would sell, but its success on iOS proved them wrong. While it has taken a long time to reach the Xbox Live Arcade, the wait is certainly worth it to experience this fantastic word-based game on the big screen. 9/10

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