Quarrel is a word strategy game that originally saw release on the iPhone and has finally come to Xbox Live Arcade. On the surface Quarrel may sound similar to scrabble or words with friends but it incorporates elements of strategy games that make it unique to anything else on Xbox Live Arcade.
In Quarrel you will face off against up to three other players who are trying to control an entire level. Each level is broken up into several smaller tiles whose control is evenly divided among players. To control every tile and dominate the entire level you will have to capture each tile from your opponents by Quarrelling with them. While strategy games have you take over enemy territory by the roll of dice, in Quarrel you will have to win not through violence but by using your words.
A Quarrel is started by attacking adjacent enemy tiles. Each tile is made up of a specific number of soldiers. The number of soldiers you have on a tile determines the number of letters you can use in making a word before the time runs out. Once the Quarrel has been initiated, a sequence of eight random letters will appear. Both opponents will receive the same set of letters and must make a higher scoring word. The quality of the word that you create will be based upon your knowledge, how quickly you can assemble the word and how many letters you have available. Each letter is worth a specific point value based upon how frequent the letter is used in English words.
Players take turns attacking each others’ tiles until one opponent is victorious. In addition to attacking opponent tiles each turn, players can also move their soldiers to other tiles they occupy, reinforcing their positions. This becomes incredibly important when you have a tile with two soldiers next to an opponent with five soldiers. Without reinforcing your position the opponent could enter into a Quarrel with that tile and you would only be able to make a word with two letters.
Additional solders are gained at the end of your turn or by capturing enemy soldiers. Enemy soldiers can be captured by successfully defending a tile from an attacking opponent. If you create a better word without using every letter, available one or more of their soldiers will defect to your tile.
While the heart of Quarrel is a word game that matches your wits against an opponent, the elements of tile takeover and letter count add a level of strategy to the game that propels it beyond a simple word game.
Stylistically Quarrel is presented with bright vibrant colours which are cartoony and fun. Quarrel’s style coupled with the fun sound effects reminded me of my youth playing Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo 64. While the two games are entirely different, Quarrel’s presentation creates a similar atmosphere that should appeal to almost everyone.
While Quarrel’s presentation may be innocent and cute the game can actually become quite challenging when playing with four players. Quarrel can be played with up to four players over Xbox Live or by facing computer opponents in single player. The way that you choose to play and the strategy you choose to employ will need to be altered when played against multiple opponents. Errors on one opponent’s part can cause another player to begin to dominate putting you at a disadvantage. While playing several games online I began to enjoy the strategy elements of Quarrel more than the satisfaction of creating a great word.
Online multiplayer allows for both ranked and player matches with up to four opponents. It also features a leader board to see who the top word smith is. Normally I don’t mention the inclusion of a leader board in my reviews but with Quarrel I like to know how I stack up against the best players in the world. Single player features several different modes that increase the longevity of this title. The three main modes in single player are domination, showdown and challenges. Domination puts the players through a sequence of matches across Quarrel’s multiple levels and opponents. Showdown makes the player go head to head with each AI opponent featured in the game. Challenges puts the player in different scenarios that they must overcome. In a game like Quarrel I would expect the computer players to be easy to beat but they can prove to be quite difficult. The computer opponents present a challenge that word game players should enjoy trying to beat.
When I first learned about Quarrel I expected that the controls would suffer because of the transition from iOS to XBLA. The controls for the XBLA version of Quarrel are seamless. I could move fluidly between letters and navigate each level while commanding my soldiers to attack different tiles.
Quarrel isn’t only a great word game but the best word strategy game on Xbox Live Arcade. The added strategy elements give Quarrel more depth than the typical word game and create a varied playing experience. The difficulty of the computer opponents and the ability to play online will allow word game fans to spend a lot of time with Quarrel. With several different levels, randomized letters and the ability to play with multiple opponents there is a ton of replay ability. Quarrel’s combination of word game and strategy elements makes it a unique experience on Xbox Live Arcade, one that is well worth the price tag.
This review is based on a downloadable copy of the 360 version of Quarrel.