Game Reviews

Text Express: Word Adventure review - "A compelling narrative that feels like a true labour of love"

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Text Express: Word Adventure review - "A compelling narrative that feels like a true labour of love"

Life doesn't always turn out the way we want it to, but whether we're meant to leave the painful past behind or charge full steam ahead into the future, life is an adventure nonetheless. This beautiful sentiment is what makes Text Express: Word Adventure one heck of a ride on mobile - and it's not even the kind of game you'd expect to experience all those feels in.

The crossword puzzle-slash-narrative adventure takes a well-loved casual word game genre and adds its own twist with an engaging story, but while that interesting mix feels unique at first glance, is it really all it's cracked up to be?

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The game features lovely 3D animated scenes that not only add a layer of emotion to every part of the story but also liven up what otherwise would've been just your average crossword game. Tilly, the spunky protagonist who's about to embark on the adventure of her life, takes players on a journey from her humble beginnings in an abandoned train graveyard of sorts as she fulfils her lifelong quest to experience a world she's only ever read in her parents' journal.

Aided by her trusty BFF and with the blessing of her sweet Grandma, Tilly boards her train and sets out to see what else is out there, wide-eyed and curious and ready to open her mind - and her heart - along the way. Throughout Tilly's journey, players will encounter a colourful cast of memorable characters and unlock a host of varied locales they can explore - all these while they're learning about new words and expanding their vocabulary at the same time.


The core of the gameplay is all about stringing letters together to form words to fill up a crossword puzzle on the screen. You can spend in-game currencies to get various hints, upgrade your letters for more points ala Scrabble, or even hit the handy undo button to erase a mistake that may have broken your winning streak combo. There are no timers here, so you can squeeze those brain cells at leisure until you get your "Eureka" moment. Other game modes include collecting souvenirs, discovering new locations, customising your train, piecing together parts of Tilly's dreams and so much more.

What makes the game stand out from other similar titles in its genre is the fact that each crossword puzzle is in theme with the overall narrative of the game, with words relating to whatever the task at hand is at the moment.

The background for each puzzle also features animated scenes that evolve as you progress through the story - for instance, you'll accompany Tilly while she searches for parts for her train and actually get to see her doing so in the background while you connect your letters. You might even chance upon Tilly looking bored while her friend Eleanor develops photos in a darkroom for her, or catch a glimpse of various critters in the background as you attempt to take photographs of them for your collection.

These subtle but meaningful touches add to the overall engagement factor of the game, even more so because the story here is the heart of the title. I won't spoil anything for you, but I was immediately invested in Tilly and her plight right from the get-go - she's such a compelling protagonist that I wanted to root for her and see her journey through no matter where the tracks took her next.


Casual games are supposed to be great pick-up-and-go pieces that you can dive into when you have a couple of minutes to spare during your daily commute or when you're itching for a quick break from work. The non-committal nature is, in my opinion, what makes casual games casual, but with Text Express: Word Adventure, it's not enough to spend a few minutes on a puzzle or two mainly because the story is just that good.

I've always said that I'm hugely a narrative-driven gamer, and I tend to look for the smallest stories even in games where the narrative doesn't necessarily take centre stage. In that sense, this supposedly simple crossword puzzle game took me completely by surprise - I wasn't expecting it to tug at my heartstrings the way it did, and in a word game at that.

Here's where it gets a little ironic for me - I found myself wanting to rush through the word puzzles just so I could move on with the story to find out what happens next. The problem is that you get level-locked at certain points, where you'll have to do a bunch of other tasks - or side-quests if you will - until you hit the right level before you can move on with the main storyline. It's not exactly the game's fault for making its narrative so darn compelling, but doing so lets the word puzzle aspect fall a little bit by the wayside as an unfortunate consequence.

Of course, that's not to say the word puzzles themselves aren't fun - they have just the right amount of challenge and simplicity, with the perfect hint of that frustratingly satisfying "tip of the tongue" feeling when you finally figure out the word you actually knew all along. I absolutely adored the dictionary function you can tap into with each puzzle as well - here, you can keep track of all the words you've already guessed and discover what they mean in case you're looking to strengthen your vocabulary.

Text Express: Word Adventure isn't a game you can just breeze through in a single go, mainly because there's so much of the story you can discover. I've been playing the game for a little over two weeks and I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the overall narrative. It's a great pick for when you're looking for something more meaningful in your typical casual game - plus, you might even learn a new word or two along the way.

Text Express: Word Adventure review - "A compelling narrative that feels like a true labour of love"

Text Express: Word Adventure is a deeply narrative-driven word puzzle on mobile featuring vibrant characters and an even more colourful protagonist. Level locks might keep you from progressing through the story, but you can opt to dive into other game modes while you're waiting for the next chapter in Tilly's compelling adventure.
Catherine Dellosa
Catherine Dellosa
Catherine plays video games for a living and writes because she’s in love with words. Her Young Adult contemporary novel, For The Win: The Not-So-Epic Quest Of A Non-Playable Character, is her third book published by Penguin Random House SEA - a poignant love letter to gamer geeks, mythological creatures, teenage heartbreak, and everything in between. She one day hopes to soar the skies as a superhero, but for now, she strongly believes in saving lives through her works in fiction. Check out her books at, or follow her on FB/IG/Twitter at @thenoobwife.