January 25th, 2012 | By David Geeson
Lexiv; Noun – An indie game on the Xbox Live Marketplace that utilises a unique blend of tower defence, RPG progression, linguistic challenges and city building mechanics to create an experience unlike any other.
Okay, so I couldn’t resist that opening but after playing around for 10 hours on Lexiv that really is how my brain started to work. When I first picked the game up I was pleasantly surprised by what greeted me. What started out like a more intense version of scrabble quickly evolved into something entirely different, mixing mechanics that you wouldn’t think should work into a fantastic blend of fast paced cerebral fun.
The basic gameplay of Lexiv revolves around building a city from words, if you think that sounds simple then you’re sorely mistaken. To build your city you need a combination of word types; Nouns serve as homes for your population whilst Verbs are their place of employment. To take it even deeper you have to consider Adverbs and Adjectives; an Adjective will boost the housing capacity of a Noun and an Adverb does similar to a Verbs employment level. Pretty soon I found myself deeply engrossed in trying to perfectly balance my city.
By adding this level of complexity to the game the creators did a fantastic job of elevating it up past a simple Scrabble-esque experience. Rather than just creating any old word you need to heavily consider the balance your city needs, throw in a happiness bar and constant attack by marauding planes and you have something that can consume hours without you ever noticing.
But it doesn’t stop there, as the game progresses you’ll come across missions that require you to reach specific targets or do very specific actions. The wealth of side levels that feature throughout the campaign progression bring with them endless variations that keep the gameplay fresh. One mission you might have to fill in a specific square on the board whilst another will have you forming a specific set of words. The most surprising inclusion into this varied level design was the odd tower defence levels. These really brought a new perspective on the game as it completely changes not only your play style but the way in which your brain solves the problem at hand.
Overlaying the levels themselves is a meta player progression system, every level will reward you with experience and occasionally a new perk. As you level up you will gain abilities to help you and in-game perks that change how certain core mechanics work. The finest addition in terms of abilities is the blueprint ability; this allows you to place letters ahead of time therefore making those longer words easier to pull off. It’s far and away the most useful feature of the game and really shows the strength of the game’s design.
The constant shifting nature of the gameplay is a real strength of Lexiv, it serves to keep you constantly engaged throughout. The game, by the way, is surprisingly long. Lexiv is split up into 4 ‘worlds’, each consisting of 15+ levels. Just finishing each level’s main objective can take anywhere from 5 minutes up, with the bonus objectives varying in length depending on difficulty and player skill.
Accompanying the delightful gameplay is the outstanding soundtrack. Lexiv‘s bright and melodic piano pieces act to relax you and really set the mood of the game. The art style may not be the most outstanding or unique but it does its job fantastically, everything is cohesive and has its place.
I really can’t sing the praises of Lexiv enough, the game offers hours upon hours of deeply cerebral fun. It’s RPG-style player levelling gives you more than enough of a reason to come back time and time again and the game, whilst taxing, is never a chore. The satisfaction of beating a level in Lexiv is rewarding in the classic sense as well as giving you the vague feeling that you learnt something. If you love crosswords, if you love tower defence, if you feel your vocabulary is extensive, or if you just want a challenging but rewarding experience; then this is definitely the game for you.