August 24, 2013
Whether we’re creating the news or consuming it, we all have one thing in common: words. And, I would venture to say, a love of words.
That’s why one of the best ways of taking a break from the news is by playing a game that involves words. The three I like best are SpellTower, W.E.L.D.E.R. and Letterpress. The first two are available for iOS and Android. Letterpress is iOS only, but there are Android imitators that appear to be similar.
SpellTower: Think of this game as a cross between word-finder puzzles and Tetris. There are a number of different modes of play, but they all involve finding words in a grid of letters. You can connect the letters in any direction and the words can be as short as three letters. In Tower mode, the letters disappear as they are used and the others tumble into their place. Eventually you run out of letters that will make words, and you get your score. It’s a relaxing experience. If you want to get the adrenalin flowing, there is Puzzle mode. In this case, a row of letters drops every time you make a word, so you’re under pressure to make sure the letters in the grid don’t reach the top. Things really get hairy in Rush mode where the rows keep falling regardless of whether you’re making words. The game has a multiplayer option, where players — each on their own device — go all-out in a Rush mode battle. I haven’t tried this, but it could be a good way to blow off some steam.
W.E.L.D.E.R.: Once again, you’re presented with a grid of letters to make words from. In some ways, it’s more restrictive because the words have to be at least four letters long and they have to read top to bottom or left to right. To create the words, you swap adjacent letters. You’re only allowed so many swaps to get to a pre-determined number of words in each level. There are a few tricks you can use, such as reversing groups of letters, but you can only use these special moves a few times in each level. Of course, the levels get progressively harder and you may find yourself forced to trade in “gigawatts” to gain enough swaps to stay alive. You build up gigawatts as you’re rewarded for good playing, but even so you can eventually run out. And this is where to game may lose its appeal. To get more gigawatts you have to pay for them, which makes me a little suspicious of whether the game is truly winnable or made just hard enough that you’re forced to pay to carry on. So far I haven’t had to do this, but be warned.
Letterpress: There is only one way to play this game — and that’s against a friend . . . or random stranger. So if you’re a loner (and hey, some of us are), this one is not for you. Again there is grid of letters, but you can tap letters anywhere in any sequence to form a word. Tap Submit and the letter-tiles flip to your colour. Then it’s your opponent’s turn. You get a point for each tile. The thing is, though, that the game not just about making words — it’s about defending territory. When you surround a tile it becomes defended, and your opponent can’t use it. This aspect leads to all kinds of strategies becoming available, some which are chess-like in their complexity. It’s best, then, to find a friend who plays at about the same level or you might find yourself embarrassed.