Work has been slowing down recently, and there’s one of two things I could have done about it. I could have diligently, and pro-actively sought out new tasks at work, maybe even sorted out all those things that have needed to be done for ages”¦ or I could have stayed sat down, done very little and faffed about with my iTouch. It didn’t take a great deal of mulling over before I arrived at the easier and much more satisfying conclusion of just checking out some new iTouch/iPhone apps.
I’d heard a fair bit about ‘Words with Friends’ so I took this opportunity to download it, and try it out with the help of a few equally occupationally-weary co-workers. It has been an absolute godsend, and not a day goes by for me that doesn’t have at least 2-3 games on the go at once. There are 2 versions of ‘Words with Friends’, the free version and the paid version. The main difference being that the free version doesn’t have the slight inconvenience of showing ads after each turn. Personally, I find the ads are not so much of a distraction that would require me to spend any money to remove them, but if you did want to you’re only talking about a couple of pounds or dollars for the paid app.
Ok, for those of you not aware of this. ‘Words with Friends’ is an iTouch/iPhone/Android App from Zynga that emulates the popular word based board-game Scrabble. From a rule perspective there isn’t much, if any, deviation from the standard rules. You get points for creating words, with extra points being given for landing on double or triple word or letter scores, or using all of your letters etc.
For me, I am quite a word freak. To me there is a certain buzz that I get from using certain words, like ‘parabola’ and ‘systemic’ for example. It’s probably this lexicological (another word I like) enjoyment, that’s my main trigger for liking this app so much.. So, if you get all your jolly’s from games involving gunning down terrorists, rather than scoring 114pts for the word ‘quid’, then you may not be with me on this.
The interface is as bubbly and colourful as you would expect from any other Zynga game. You can create a game with someone you know via their Facebook profile or by entering their user name, or you can ask ‘Words with Friends’ to find you a random opponent. Once your game has started, the same simplicity is duplicated within the control method. You then have up to three days to take your turn, so you can spend as much time as you want playing. The controls are simple, just drag the letters you wish to use on to the board and press submit, your points are then calculated and the turn switches over to the other player, who will then get a pop-up informing them of this. You have the option to switch letters if you’re stuck or resign the game if you want. Simple.
There are a few things to be wary of. I almost said issues, but that would be a poor choice of words, as you’ll see.
Firstly, Zynga is an American company, so the dictionary used for the game is also American. It took me several goes, before I took this into account, so donut instead of doughnut and zee instead of zed etc. There is also, no way to change the dictionary to another, at least at this point
Secondly, the app does not and cannot stop people cheating. Unless, you’re face to face you can still get away with using any of the various Scrabble help sites to give you that edge. Plus Dictionary’s can still be used. Even apart from all that, which you could argue is probably not even an issue anyway, there is no limit to the amount of ‘wrong’ attempts you can have. As you enter a word, if it isn’t in the dictionary you get a pop-up stating ‘That it isn’t an acceptable word’, so you can have another go, and another and another. Basically, you can just keep throwing out any words until you get one that’s right. For those not aware, in the board game, you are not allowed to check a word in the dictionary before it is placed. If your word is challenged by the other player and it’s not in the dictionary then your letters are removed and your turn is forfeit. Maybe that approach wouldn’t be viable in this game but I think being able to just keep trying an infinite amount of letter combinations until you get one right, isn’t in keeping either. Maybe changing it to allow three wrong word attempts, before the turn moves to the other player would be a better approach. The consequence of attempting to place an invalid word is an important factor in the board game; Do you risk trying that unlikely word for more points, and risk losing a turn, or just put down a simpler word for a smaller but less risky amount of points.
With that said and done, this is a nice little game and it’s very easy to use. Plus, it improves your vocabulary, whether you want it to or not. In this world of high-octane, big-budget, adrenaline-pumping action games, it’s nice to know there’s still at least a small place left for your classics.
If you fancy giving it a go, you can access it from here
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Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife and his player 3. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.