Quest Exclamation Points!
The exclamation points being referred to are like this:
They appear to guide you to the next part of the quest so you needn't check your Journal so often.
"This is New" Sparkles
The sparkles are animations that draw your attention to an icon at the bottom when there's something new to see there, e.g. if you acquired a new skill you might see something like this (but animated...):
The full text reads:Instructions
Word realms is a role-playing game where you explore an unfamiliar land that is threatened by a shadowy figure known as Lord Nightmare. During your quest to end Nightmare's reign of terror, you will battle foes, uncover new challenges, solve dream-based minigame puzzles, and (of course) collect an awesome, towering pile of cool loot.
When you are not in combat, you will see an action bar with six icons at the bottom of the game screen. The Map [M] lets you pick a location to explore. The Dream Jar [D] (which you will acquire early in your adventures) lets you experience the dreams and nightmares that you've collected from the game's characters. The backpack is your Inventory [I], which lets you equip your gear and perform crafting (once you learn how). The human figure is your Character [C], where you can see all your stats and select skills. The book is your Journal [J], which records information about the game's locations and enemies. And finally, the wrench is your Options [O] menu, where you can change various aspects of the gameplay and interface.
Exploring a location from the Map will often take you directly into combat, which is a perfect segue into the next topic.
In Word Realms, combat is resolved by making words out of letter tiles. Each letter in a word does damage to an opponent; common letters like vowels will do small amounts of damage, and less-common letters like X and Z will do more damage. You and your enemy will take turns using valid English words to damage each other, and the last one standing wins the fight.
During a fight, you can select letters from your collection of tiles to make a valid word. Letters can be selected by clicking a tile, or by simply typing that letter on the keyboard. To remove a letter from the word you are typing, click on that tile in your word, or hit backspace. Click your word score, or hit ENTER, to submit your word. As long as it is a word found in the game's dictionary, you will do damage to your opponent.
If you can't find a good word after a moment of searching, try reshuffling your tiles by pressing the TAB key.
By default, a timer will limit the amount of time you have to make your word. The timer will appear as a dial at the top of the screen; if the dial fills before you submit your word, you will forfeit the round and let your opponent have a free attack on you. (You can disable the timer in the Options screen if you would prefer to play a more relaxed game.)
Some combat skills and items will attach effects to you or to your opponent. Effects are represented by square icons to the left of the combat area for you, and to the right for your enemy. A red number on the icon tells you how many rounds the effect will last. You can mouse over the icon to see what the effect does.
Your fighting prowess will be based on your character's experience and base stats. You can click the Character icon (or type C) to see your character's primary stats.
The "Vocabulary" attribute determines the number of letter tiles you will have to work with during a round of combat. Certain skills or consumables will also allow you to draw extra tiles during a fight.
Your other two primary attributes are "Strength" and "Intelligence." Strength is the primary attribute for Warriors, and Intelligence is the primary stat for Wizards. These determine your hit points (HP) and mana points (MP), respectively.
HP represents how much damage you can take in a fight before you are defeated, and MP determines how much energy will be available to you for casting combat skills. On the combat screen, your hit points are shown at the top left of the screen with a red bar, and mana points with a blue bar. Your attack and defense stats are visible on the left side of the screen. Your opponent's HP, MP, and other stats are on the right side.
Your character also has two secondary attributes, "Attack" and "Defense," which can be viewed on the Inventory screen (type I to view this screen). Attack and Defense are used to calculate damage bonuses for you and your opponent during combat.
Your Attack stat is the combination of your primary attribute, plus the power of your weapon, plus any enchantments, effects, or passive skills that may modify it. Your Defense stat is determined by adding up the power of all your armor (again, plus any other bonuses you may have).
During combat, your base Word Score damage (or your opponent's!) will be increased if the Attack stat is higher than the Defense stat (plus bonuses). Each point of difference will increase the base damage by 5%.
Example: Suppose you are a terrible bully, and are picking on a monster half your size. Your Attack is 20, and your opponent's Defense is 10. You play the word SAVOR, which has a base word score of 12. But since your Attack is 10 higher than the enemy Defense, you get a (10 x 5%) = 50% bonus to your attack, meaning you deliver 18 points of damage.
Combat Skills and Items
During combat, a combat action bar will appear at the bottom of the screen. This bar has six icons on the left side for using combat skills (corresponding to keys 1 through 6), four icons in the middle for using consumable items that you have readied (keys 7 through 0), and icons on the right for skipping a turn and running away (- and =). You may use the keyboard or mouse to activate these abilities.
Skills and consumables can also directly increase your word score, or give you other benefits in combat. To change the combat skills and consumable items that will be available to you during fights, visit the Character page and the Inventory page, respectively. Mouse over a skill or item icon to learn more about what it does.
On your Inventory screen, you can mouse over any item to see what it is and what it does. If the item is a piece of equipment, mousing over that item will show a comparison between this item and the gear you have already equipped in the appropriate slot. Clicking a piece of gear will equip that item within the relevant slot. Clicking an equipped piece of gear will unequip it.
To sell an item, simply drag it onto the $ icon, or simply hold down the CTRL key and click it.
Later in the game, you can acquire special tools that will allow you to craft new items on the Inventory screen. Items marked "Crafting Ingredient" can be dragged into the left boxes in the Crafting interface (or simply hold down ALT and click on the item). Some crafting recipes can be made using only one item, while others require two different ingredients to be combined.
Every dream is a mini-game of some kind, with different rules and a different kind of gameplay. Instructions for each dream can be found by hitting  or clicking on the blue '?' icon on the action bar.
Thanks again for playing! If there a part of the game that is confusing, and is not covered by these instructions, please tell us.
Shows player statistics. 'Nuff said?