Six-sided Scrabble that fits in your pocket

Re-inventing classic concepts, even board games, can take a lot of effort. How does one take a standard crossword game and twist it into a whole new experience? If you’re developer Nathaniel Gray, the answer is quite simple: put it in a hexagon. Think of HexaLex as a six-sided game of Scrabble and you’ll be completely ready to tackle everything the game has to offer.

Rather than taking place on a four-sided board with four-sided pieces, HexaLex takes the popular Scrabble formula and gives it a six-sided spin. This means words can be created in six directions, creating opportunities and challenges unique to the HexaLex experience. Players will have to watch out for creating little two letter words when placing larger ones, for example, because neighboring pieces will usually work their way into your placement.

Such obstacles may sound daunting, but the game is surprisingly forgiving about the two letter words it allows. Words like “od” and “ut” and “sh” may not sound real, but they’re all considered acceptable choices – and it turns out they’re real words, too. Thanks dictionary.com!

HexaLex HexaLex

The basic gameplay, as stated, is pretty much identical to Scrabble. You’ll be given 7 lettered tiles, with each letter assigned a point value, and you’ll place these on a board to form words in a way that connects with other words. Certain placements will result in a higher score, such as a triple word score or double letter score, and the player with the highest score once all the tiles have been played is the winner.

The game offers a number of little assists, but nothing so extreme as to nerf the experience. You can check out a list of those two letter words, for example, or shuffle and re-arrange the letters on your tile rack to give you a fresh look. You can even search words in the in-game dictionary before playing them – just don’t expect HexaLex to hold your hand and spell out words for you.

While we enjoyed the neat twist HexaLex offers on a tried and true formula, word games of this nature live and die by their multiplayer, and it’s here that HexaLex falls flat on its face. Games like this are at their very best when you can have a dozen games going at once, usually with total strangers. But HexaLex doesn’t let you play with strangers. Whether it’s through Facebook, email, or just knowing their HexaLex login, you’ll have to find someone you already know with the game if you want to get something started, and it handcuffs the entire experience. The developer has informed us that adding in online matchmaking is his number one priority, and should appear in an update soon. In the meantime though, the lack of online matchmaking simply can’t be overlooked.

Still, the AI manages to offer a decent enough challenge, allowing you to tackle a game with up to 4 players of varying skill. AI settings range from easy to HAL 9000, so there’s a comfortable level for every player out there, regardless of skill level.

While we were understandably disappointed by the multiplayer, it’s not enough to sink the entire experience. So long as you can convince a few co-workers to pick this one up, you’re bound to have someone to start a game with. And even if not, the AI offers up a challenging enough experience that you can enjoy HexaLex quite a good deal when flying solo. If you love games like Scrabble and Words with Friends and are desperate to try something new, you’ll find HexaLex to be money well spent.