Do you enjoy the territory domination in Risk? Do you like the brain-training word formation in Scrabble? Would you like to play both at once? If you answered "Yes," you might want to take a look at Denki and Ignition's Quarrel on Xbox Live Arcade, an incredibly polished war of words that is now available for 400 Microsoft Points ($5 US).
First released on iOS, Quarrel's gameplay is centered around groups of eight jumbled letters that can be rearranged to form anagrams (the words that use all of the individual letters), in addition to a slew of other shorter words. Regardless of the gameplay mode, you and your computer or real-world opponents will each be given different territories on cute, tropically-themed islands. It's your goal to attack your opponents and take over their territories until you eventually control the entire island.
Each territory can hold up to eight individual troops, with each troop giving you access to one letter in your "answer." Say you're given a set of letters with the anagram "Favorite," but you only have five troops on your territory. You could then only make a word up to five letters long (Favor, for example). Letters are assigned point values like in Scrabble, so just because you may be outnumbered, if you can use a "unique" letter like an X or Z, you could still earn enough points to win the encounter.
Even though the gameplay setup is incredibly basic, it works really well for fans of word games in general. There are tons of gameplay modes to choose from, from the basic Quick Match (against up to three computer or living opponents via Xbox Live), to the career mode of Domination that lets you take over the entire Quarrel world, one different map at a time. The Challenge mode gives you specific stipulations to meet while playing, while the Showdown mode gives you a more challenging, heads-up experience against one opponent at a time.
As the iOS version of Quarrel is lacking entirely in multiplayer (an odd, but large oversight), the simple inclusion of it here is an automatic positive, but currently finding someone online is as much of a challenge as actually coming up with great words. Once you do find an opponent or two, the turn order is randomized, meaning that players who are stuck going last might have a boring time of things, as they'll have to wait quite a while to go on the offensive. Still, if you're involved in defenses or play along as two other players battle it out, you'll have the chance to earn bonus troops that can be called in at the beginning of a conflict if you're feeling too outnumbered. All the while, you're met with charming graphics, sound effects and troop models. Each player is given a random army, comprised of aliens, ninjas, robots and so on. There's a great attention to detail here, which makes it all the more disappointing that the game hasn't taken off with the online community just yet.
Quarrel is a game that seems to just "work," regardless of its console. Sure, this Xbox Live Arcade version instantly tops that on iOS as you can actually play with other humans online, but this gameplay setup is so intuitive and downright fun that it would work great on a platform like Facebook as well (actually, I would love it if that happened). For the $5 price tag, even those with a passing interest in word games would do well to pick this one up.
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Have you tried Quarrel on either 360 or iPad? How do you think this word game stacks up against the other games in the genre? Sound off in the comments.