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Deja Review: Quarrel (XBLA)


We're of the firm opinion that your time is too precious, too valuable to be spent reading a full review for a game that was already reviewed many, many years ago. What's the point of applying a score to a game that's old enough to be enrolled in the sixth grade? That's why we invented Deja Review: A quick look at the new features and relative agelessness of remade, revived and re-released games.

Quarrel was originally planned for XBLA, and then all the publishing deals fell through. Then Ignition took it on and began working with developer Denki on an iOS release -- which ended up coming out first. That makes this XBLA version, which was the original version, a re-release. Weird!

What isn't weird is playing this on XBLA. It's still just as difficult to battle over territory by quickly spelling out anagrams, and just as satisfying to capture your opponent's soldiers by doing so. The combination of fairly quick board-game design and online play is an obvious winner, giving it a decisive advantage over its portable counterpart. Even if you're playing alone, new modes offer experiences not found in the iOS release.

Gallery: Quarrel (XBLA 1/25/11) | 10 Photos

What's new this time around? People! Unlike the iOS Quarrel, the XBLA game has multiplayer -- specifically online play for 2-4 people. You can still play against Quarrel's cast of AI players, all of whom have different skill levels, but it's so much more fun to play against a real person whose mental lexicon isn't mathematically determined. And whom you can talk to while you capture his or her land.

That's the main addition, but there's other stuff too, like a set of "Challenges" that place you in predetermined situations and task you with completing them. Like, for example, giving you just one territory on the side of the board and making you turn it around and capture three of your opponent's. There's also a series of "Showdowns" against single AI opponents, in addition to the "Quick Match" and world-conquest "Domination" modes available. This is all basically gravy, but it's ... entertaining gravy. It's nice to have options available for solo play that are exclusive to solo play, so you aren't just wishing you had some friends.

How's it hold up? The XBLA version lacks the touch controls of the portable, which is suboptimal for very quickly picking letter tiles, but it's a minor issue. With a maximum of eight tiles at your disposal at any time, it's not much of a chore to scroll through them with a d-pad.

Other than that slight complaint, the XBLA game is arguably the superior version of Quarrel. That may change with the long-awaited iOS multiplayer update, but that will just bring them closer to parity. This game is every bit as enjoyable on the couch as it is on a train.

As for how the game holds up after its initial release: It has, of course, only been a few months since the iOS release, but I don't see Quarrel aging any time soon, unless we all get implants embedded in our brains that render us capable of processing all anagrams.

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