KrissX Micro-Review: Fun With a PurposeS

I keep wanting to pronounce this game "Chris-Ex" but I'm reminded it's "Kriss-Kross." Whatever the case, it's a set of brain-teasing acrostics with goals and rewards that shrewdly incentivize their completion. It's just a little young for most tastes.

Loved
Smart Words: KrissX draws on a strong vocabulary any mother would be glad to hear her son or daughter use. The puzzle clues can be a bit oblique but at least, by invoking multiple meanings, they get the mind thinking of all possibilities when the scrambled letters make no sense. From about level 35 on in Quest Mode I found myself running into one full-minute stumper per level, partially because I was reading the clues too literally.

Spice and Variety: KrissX starts you in its "Quest Mode," through which completing levels unlocks other game versions. While Quest Mode is timed, it's not as fast-paced as the Time Attack, where being fast on the face buttons to catch falling tokens (which add back time) is as important as quickly resolving the correct answer. A deeper, more difficult untimed mode is the third unlock and, finally, themed puzzles will become available. These are acrostics whose clues and answers invoke countries, U.S. states, capitals, etc. While some words are repeated a little too frequently, I got up to level 41 in the quest mode and it still felt like I had a ways to go. The falling tokens add a hint of arcade action to the game, and the badges and achievements reward performance qualities (chiefly speed) that don't depend on test-taking acumen.

Hated
It's Full of Stars!: Kind of a minor quibble. There's all sorts of cascading stars and mouseovers and stuff that create a very cluttered landscape when you're trying to move on to the next word in the puzzle. Moving to an unsolved word automatically brings up the word-balloon hint, and I found myself referring to it first, rather than reading the letters and intuitively piecing up what I saw. I'm not sure which method delivers more learning, Yeah, crosswords have hints, but crosswords also don't come packaged with all the letters scrambled around.

KrissX is not an adults' game. Anyone with a bachelor's degree from an accredited university is probably going to have an easy time with it. I'm no educator, but I think someone with a seventh-grade reading level will find it in their wheelhouse. Playing it, I thought back a decade ago, and of my cousins from upstate New York. Their mom and dad are Princeton grads, and computer and tv time is well regulated. KrissX would have easily suited the tone of that household. Purposeful and thought-provoking, but still fun.

So a parent of someone 12 years or younger can buy KrissX with the confidence it will deliver a learning experience that doesn't baby the user or pander to his developing values or short attention span. Sounds like damnation by faint praise, I know, but this is edutainment, which walks the line of being either boring or an embarrassing with-it parent. While I wouldn't call KrissX an addictive puzzler or a sophisticated challenge for adults, it was fun to play and if, at 36, I can say that, maybe someone one-third as old can have an even better time.

KrissX was developed by Regolith Games and published by Konami Digital Entertainment for the Xbox 360 on Jan. 27. Retails for 800 Microsoft Points ($10 USD). A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played all game types.

Confused by our reviews? Read our review FAQ.