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Word Up Dog

For: Android   Also on: iPhone, iPad

Deeper underground

Product: Word Up Dog | Publisher: Sarah Northway | Format: Android | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Word Up Dog Android, thumbnail 1
Word Up Dog is cool in the same way that your dad's drunken dancing is cool. Or David Cameron chilling with One Direction is cool. Sure, it's kind of sweet that it's trying - after all, kids must love that mid-'90s hip hop aesthetic, right? - but, it's still no less mortifying to behold.

Thankfully, there's a pretty solid game behind Word Up Dog's try-hard facade. It's part word-puzzler and part arcade outing, dumping you into a series of underground caverns and asking you to dig through dirt, collect letters, and earn enough bones to make good your escape.

Each of Word Up Dog's seven grid-like, labyrinthine levels consists of open passageways, dirt blocks, and impenetrable stone. Scrabble-like letter tiles and juicy bones are almost always buried within the earth, so you're going to have to get your paws dirty in order to proceed.

Can you dig it?

Bones are a scarce commodity, though - and, to make matters worse, each square of dirt you dig through reduces your total tally by one. In order to meet your quota for each stage you need to use your letters - gathered at the top of the screen - to spell out words in exchange for bones.

There's a basic bone-to-letter reward ratio at play, but to really rake them in you need to tackle the game's intermittent word challenges. Here, bonus bones are earned by meeting different criteria within a strict time limit, such as making words of a certain length, or using a specific letter.

It's an odd mix of genres, for sure, but it's surprisingly compelling too, thanks to the ever-present threat of your dwindling bone count. As the game's demands grow, so too does its scope for strategy. Letter tiles grow scarcer, for instance, meaning it's increasingly important to consider your movements, avoid unnecessary digging, and scope out specific letters to create longer words.

In the mix

There's a nice line in variety too, with later levels raising the challenge by introducing new hazards, such as enemies that swap your vowels for consonants if you get too close. Thankfully, helpful vendors are at hand, supplying power-ups that range from destructive dynamite to speed-boosting rockets - for a price.

If there's any major complaint - aside from the awfully misjudged hip hop aesthetic - it's that Word Up Dog's scant seven levels are over before you know it, with only end-of-stage score tallies providing anything like a reason to return.

Still, there's a quaint charm to Word Up Dog's tonal misfires - and they're easy enough to ignore as the game expands its enjoyable word-building core. It's far from essential, yes, but Word Up Dog's sure-footed combination of disparate genres makes for an inventive little diversion with solid puzzle appeal.
Word Up Dog
Reviewer photo
Matt Wales | 26 February 2013
A curious blend of arcade action and word puzzling that's surprisingly entertaining, despite its awkwardly misjudged psuedo-hip hop facade
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