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Word Rescue – PC

Word Rescue – PC

The Apogee Software Series, Part X

word-rescue-1Platform: PC (DOS)

Developer: Redwood Games

Publisher: Apogee Software

Release Date: March, 1992

Genre: Platformer, Run-and-Gun

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

By my librarian’s hairbun! There’s another global crisis on our hands, Baconeers: The Gruzzles have been jumbling words and deliberately misspelling them in their effort to feel better about their poor literacy! As you can expect, this is causing mayhem across the world, both in books and in the real world! The mail service is going postal as letters disappear before they can be sent, addresses are vanishing and getting people lost a street from their house, and word puzzle authors are stuck making Sudoku puzzles since everything else is being swiped out from under their pens!

While the Internet may be able to function without so many words, think about the horror once the Gruzzles realize that they can burgle Internet shorthand! OMG! Looks like it’s time for a Word Rescue, pronto! And not only is this Apogee title another educational one, it’s also the last one in our Shareware Saga! Let’s get spelling like a bee before the letters start falling off of this review! (It gets hard to write once that starts happening…)

Wait, they can't read, but they're stealing specific words from books? You know more than you let on, Gruzzles...

Wait, they can’t read, but they’re stealing specific words from books? You know more than you let on, Gruzzles…

For those of you who liked Math Rescue, Word Rescue is the first in the two-part series by Redwood Games, made for preschool, kindergarten, and very young elementary-school children as a way to teach them vital literacy building skills like word association and proper spelling while keeping it approachable and fun. The Gruzzles and their “steal letters and numbers so we don’t look bad for not knowing what they are” scheme originated here, where they trapped words and their meanings in question-mark boxes and hid them across many levels.

A child of no more than eight, you’re helped out by Benny the Bookworm (though he may be more of a caterpillar, if he’s a butterfly when Math Rescue rolls around), who gives you a kid-friendly way of handling the Gruzzles, pouring icky slime on them so that they decide to give up chasing you and go home to take a bath. Together, you explore everything from neighborhoods, castles, pueblo dwellings, and many more as you snag the words back from these mischievous burglars!

When you touch a question mark box, the rest of them show the possible meanings of the word, even in areas you've cleared boxes out from before. Don't forget where they are!

When you touch a question mark box, the rest of them show the possible meanings of the word, even in areas you’ve cleared boxes out from before. Don’t forget where they are!

Those of you who’ve been around the block with these Apogee-sponsored games before know what to expect with Word Rescue‘s gameplay, that being platforming that handles well, with very receptive guidance both heading up and down from the jump arc. These were not only the days before floaty controls made platforming harder, these were games made for kids, and the point isn’t to make it deliberately hard, the point is to help them absorb helpful knowledge just by playing the game!

That said, it does play like a game made for the younger kids, with a much easier learning curve than Math Rescue and no real options to spice up the gameplay by asking Word Rescue to throw more difficult words at you. Along with matching words to their meanings, you also get points by finding book pickups and collecting letters to spell out the level’s special word in the right order (and no, it’s not spelling NUKEM, that word is surprisingly difficult to spell even though it’s easy to remember, at least it is in Duke Nukem II). When you find all of the words, Benny reveals the key to the next level. Sadly, bonus areas and secret levels don’t show up in this installment, but still, it’s a solid performance for a children’s game.

Maybe the Riddler should try teaching first-grade spelling, his question mark strategy seems tailor-made for it.

Maybe the Riddler should try teaching first-grade spelling, his question mark strategy seems tailor-made for it.

In ways of teaching kids, Word Rescue fine-hones the style Redwood Games uses to help children master their spelling and definition lessons, that of course being the simple reward system. If they get it right, the word is added to the bar at the top and they get points. If they get it wrong, they have a Gruzzle to deal with, so they know they got it wrong, but it’s not hard to gather up more slime to calm down the Gruzzles, at least compared to the later Math Rescue.

It’s a shame that Redwood couldn’t go back and implement some design changes to teach more spelling lessons to the kids who weren’t feeling mentally-stimulated enough by the main game, like they did with the different math lessons, but then again, I probably shouldn’t be talking. I was one of those kids who was reading books in the fourth-grade class while I was still in second-grade, and I could read by the age of three. In normal circumstances, elementary school programs like this would be just what I need to learn the basic elements of reading and writing, and in that respect, I think it does top notch work.

Benny must have lived in Professor Oak's handbook once upon a time. And ate the "how to identify a child's gender" section.

Benny must have lived in Professor Oak’s handbook once upon a time. And ate the “how to identify a child’s gender” section.

When it comes to graphics, Word Rescue is approachable and stimulating for young minds. The environments are colorful and detailed, but not excessively so. Everything is recognizable, from the possible platforming zones to the set piece items, and especially the Gruzzles themselves, so the kids know they’re there and can have Benny tag them with the bucket before they get too close. The graphics are strictly 2-D, with the background existing on the same layer as the level. No special fleshes, not that this game really needs any, as much as I’d love an updated version of this done in the style of Math Rescue.

The sounds are simple computer blips and bleeps, nothing fancy. And the music is laid-back and easy-going, kind of jazzy like the intro to the kid’s shows that air at six in the morning that you probably watched while waiting for the school bus to arrive to take you to school, or if you’re old enough, while waiting for your own kid to be picked up for school. Everything is just fine for a kindergarten-age youth who wants to play something fun that the parents can approve of, and that’s all Word Rescue really needs to have, just the pull that gets the kid playing that a couple of times a week will do a lot of good for their fundamental language skills.

4 out of 5 teachers would probably recommend this game to their kids. The fifth teacher probably still makes his son copy the dictionary.

4 out of 5 teachers would probably recommend this game to their kids. The fifth teacher probably still makes his son copy the dictionary.

So at the end of the day, what’s Word Rescue got to say? It’s a very handy kid-friendly title that can still be fun and helpful for both kids and their parents today, introducing young minds to the world of words and how to use them. It’s free of the overthinking that some of the modern programs have, trying to teach children too much at once or in a style that makes it painfully obvious that it’s simply an extension of the classroom. This game and Math Rescue are enduring examples of how to do educational games the right way.

You don’t need kooky and unrealistic characters or grating songs that even the kids playing your game wish they could skip past, that sort of thing just insults your children’s intelligence, and anyone who says otherwise has likely never had nor cared for children their whole life. The proof is simple to divine: If you were a parent watching your kid’s educational show, and you can’t stand three minutes before changing the channel, why would you expect your son or daughter to do the same? Save yourself a headache and pick up a copy of Word Rescue and its sequel Math Rescue, both by Redwood Games, both excellent at teaching children how to read and do math. The kids, be they siblings, cousins, or students in your class, will thank you for it.

Word Rescue and the sequel Math Rescue can both be found at the Redwood Games home site for $30 apiece, though you only pay $12 buying it via email. And like Math Rescue, there’s an enhanced version called Word Rescue Plus, which gives you 45 new levels to play with, though the words are still the same as before. Each game has three parts, more than enough content to keep the kids and their parents occupied and learning for many an afternoon! (And again, huge props to Redwood Games for keeping these games available even now in 2016. Together, we’ll help today’s youngest generation prepare for the next Gruzzle scheme! …My bet’s on Pi Rescue, where they steal the mathematical constant and modern architecture as we know it collapses around us…or they just start stealing sweet confections from bakeries across the world. Either way, I’d still play it.)

Check out these other Apogee Software titles reviewed by Action Zero.

Written by Action Zero

Action Zero spends his time relaxing in his Stratocaster-pink Starjammer, listening to New Retro Wave tracks and planning to get back in touch with the Hell Riders of the Milky Way for some beers and an intergalactic drag race or two. Played by Reb Brown in the historical documentary “Space Mutiny”.


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  1. It’s likely that they oversaw development and allowed Redwood to use their resources. It handles a lot like Duke Nukem II, so I wouldn’t put it past them.

  2. Is Apogee possibly responsible for the art content of these games?? I know they’re just publishers, but I swear the art style insanely similar throughout all of their published games, regardless of the developer.


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