If you’re the word wrangler in your family with a fondness for tabletop classics such as Scrabble and Boggle, but you also enjoy a relaxing game of solitaire, pack your bags and boot up Word Travels, a new digital diversion that will have you spelling your way across the globe.
You progress from one locale to another by correctly spelling words. In fact, word creation is your currency for travel, earning the necessary miles to move from one of the game’s 54 locations to the next; score sufficient miles and you’re transported to a new landmark. Otherwise, the journey is delayed.
The mechanics are simple enough: You create words by clicking on the letters you want to use, typing them on the keyboard or dragging them to the desired location.
What makes playing Word Travels so unique is the way it blends word creation with different variations of solitaire. To complete each level, you use as many of the full “deck” of cards as possible. However, standard playing cards are replaced by those bearing letters. Use them all and you receive a travel bonus.
Word Travels doles out four modes of play that mix traditional card, tile and solitaire game elements together. And, you can switch between them at any time. These include Shuffle, Golf, Tri-Peaks and Solitaire:
- Shuffle, the easiest mode, deals letters from a deck of cards as you try to make the longest word possible with the characters given. As letters are used, more are dispensed Scrabble-style.
- Golf ramps up the difficulty by choosing the beginning letter. You draw additional letters from its playfield, selecting only those on the bottom row. Building long words requires strict attention to letters that will be unlocked as you remove those underneath them.
- Tri-Peaks features three side-by-side pyramids with only the letters on the bottom row exposed. As visible letters are removed, those above them are flipped over and revealed. It’s extremely difficult to clear the playfield in this mode.
- Solitaire, the hardest game mode, serves up a playfield of visible characters in seven stepped rows. Each row has a draw pile that deals one card at a time when a row is cleared, and a draw pile at the top of the playfield that dispenses cards in multiples of three.
Each mode features a tutorial to get you going. The game also offers a few extras. The longer the word created, the greater the travel miles awarded. Random bonus cards add multipliers to score additional miles, too. Plus, clear a playfield and you’ll receive a 250-mile bonus. Souvenir buck cards unlock up to 30 mementos, and the longer the word, the more souvenir bucks given.
What I appreciated the most in Word Travels is its partial highlighting system: When you’re assembling words, potential letter combinations are highlighted in yellow, while finished words appear in blue. This makes word creation much easier, even for words you never knew existed. With a dictionary containing over 70,000 words and associated definitions (displayed for each word created), I’m guessing you’ll discover a few you’re unfamiliar with. I also found its painterly-style graphics and soothing background music appealing.
Each destination awards you with a postcard and a brief story. Examined in your Passport, they’re a nice touch, but have no impact on game-play. The same is true with Souvenirs, which could have been more integral to the game, for instance, if extra points were awarded for creating words associated with each location and keepsake.
I also ran across a word recognition issue. For example, the game knew the word “sabbatic,” but not “sabbatical.” It also recognized “sun” and “day,” but not “Sunday.” Of course, don’t even consider spelling words that reference some body parts, unpleasant noises or similar “questionable” terms. They aren’t accepted.
Shortcomings aside, Word Travels is a fun, engaging game. If you enjoy word play, this journey is worth the fare.