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Prolific puzzle-makers POWGI (Puzzle on Word Games Inc, in case you were wondering) return this month with ‘Flowers’. Published by Lightwood Games, if you’ve played one of their titles before, you know what you’re getting: a single but original take on word puzzling, worthy of the back of a Sunday Times newspaper, presented in spartan black and white. There will be cute puns after each puzzle, and – my word – there will be a lot of puzzles.
But something is different this time round. Moderately, at least. What separates Flowers by POWGI from their other titles is that you will be absolutely rattling through them. Rather than watch a screen with a furrowed brow, trying to solve a single puzzle over five minutes, you’ll be marching through them at a rate of about thirty seconds each. Our record was fourteen seconds.
We cannot overstate it: this is not a bad thing. This is a POWGI title where you’re working at speed, and it’s a change of pace, rather than an abandonment of everything they stand for.
A Flower puzzle is a simple thing. You get given two letters that sit in the centre of the flower. These two letters will be common to all of the words you are about to make. On the right-hand side of the screen, you are given fragments of words, sometimes two letters, other times three. Your job is to create words from these fragments, using the letters at the centre of the flower as a kind of bridge between them.
As an example, one puzzle has TA at the centre of the flower. On your list of word fragments, you have a ‘PO’ and ‘TO’. There you go: you can add the PO first and the TO second to make POTATO. You might add ROTATE, INTAKE, UNTAPS and NOTARY to complete the flower. The puzzle is done, you’re given your POWGI-approved joke, and then you’re onto the next one.
Everyone will have their different approach, but we liked to work through the list of fragments methodically, first of all checking if it’s a feasible ‘starting fragment’. Take that TO of POTATO, for example: we had a quick skim to see if the TO could have been at the start of the word (TOTALS was the only one we could think of, but there was no LS, so we consigned it to the mental list of ending fragments). Once we’d found a potential starting fragment, we were scanning through the list for a matching ending fragment, and then – boom – we’d submit it and move onto the next one. Fourteen seconds. Try to beat us.
What makes Flowers so satisfying is that POWGI have made it flow so well. Select a starting fragment and the cursor will flip to the opposite side of the flower, ready for you to add the ending. Complete the ending, and the cursor will skip to the next word to be added. Everything is seamless – with a couple of small exceptions – and it helps to make the game feel like the speed-puzzler that it is. You are on a conveyor belt of puzzling.
The ‘couple of small exceptions’ occur when you make a mistake. Flowers by POWGI flows like caramel when you are doing things correctly, but less so when things are wrong. There is no ‘undo’ button, so changing your last entry means cycling round the petals of the flower. It’s the farthest point from where you are, basically, and you have to use the analogue stick when – up to that point – you had been using the d-pad. It’s a bit messy, and we couldn’t help but hanker for an undo function. There’s also a ‘Fix’ mechanic, which lets you press LT and RT at the same time to spot errors. For whatever reason, this triggered inconsistently. We had to jab them a few times for Flowers to recognise it.
Generally, though, Flowers by POWGI works like a dream. It will be interesting to see what the broader POWGI community makes of it: it’s not challenging in the slightest, after all. It’s more a gentle mental workout – a series of processes. The closest it gets to difficulty is when there is a starting fragment that could feasibly be more than one word, or when the words get a bit more out there. We had to write down a few to look up later. Weirdly, the latter puzzles, where you have three-letter fragments rather than two, are easier rather than harder, as there are far fewer permutations.
As with all POWGI titles, you are getting value: 240 puzzles available from the start, without any need to complete one to unlock another. Achievements are scattered among the puzzles, so it’s a game of achievement roulette. You certainly won’t be questioning whether the £6.69 is worthwhile.
We expect Flowers by POWGI to be more divisive than the average POWGI title. Rather than serve up a number of knotty puzzles to be unravelled, these are to be done at speed. They’re easy, they’re swift, and you’ll get through dozens in an afternoon. It took a bit of calibration, but we enjoyed the laid-back nature of the puzzling here. But if you were hoping for something a touch more devious, then POWGI has a range of other titles that will be more for you.
You can buy Flowers by POWGI for £6.69 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S