Writer’s Blox proves that being at a loss for words can provide hours of fun.
Since there’s probably a large segment of the population that never opens a dictionary until they need to prove their Scrabble play isn’t bogus, it only makes sense that a giant lexicon like Merriam-Webster would be willing to lend their name to a similar diversion. In this case it’s Arkadium’s Writer’s Blox, a new word game that bears a superficial resemblance to Scrabble while spelling out a new direction for the genre.
Scrabble’s influence is most easily seen in the board itself, which contains eight evenly spaced squares where you can place your letters to win points for your words. As in Scrabble, there are options to amplify your score with word or letter bonuses, but unlike Hasbro’s masterwork, these are randomly placed for each puzzle. The letter pieces themselves provide the most noteworthy divergence—these can be moved at will throughout the board at any time on any space and often come in Tetris-style segments of two or more letters. It’s not possible to see the values of each letter block on the piece itself, but the score automatically adjusts for each new word. In addition, it’s not necessary to connect your word clusters as in Scrabble, so if you want to start a new cluster on the other side of the board for that full-word bonus, you can.
Since the current object of Writer’s Blox is to make as many points as possible, the connected blocks add a very challenging twist to the familiar recipe because you must use them as the game presents them. For instance, an E and a D could be joined vertically, and the combination could be easily added to any number of words. On the other hand, you could receive a nightmarish square composed of four consonants (such as X, C, J, and sometimes Y), which must somehow be worked into your puzzle.
The good news, however, is that you can save your game and rearrange your pieces at any time throughout the day for a higher score. In fact, Writer’s Blox lets you save two different versions of each puzzle, so if your new experimental configuration isn’t scoring as highly as a previous layout, you can simply click on one of the two buttons at the bottom to revert. Alternatively, you can always undo everything you’ve already done.
Enjoyable, challenging frustrations are common, and the hours you’ll spend on one puzzle blunt the game’s decision to only provide one free puzzle a day. Writer’s block, Writer’s Blox reminds us, is a fairly common affliction, although it also reminds us that the hunt for the best word can be enjoyable as well. On days when you get letter pieces such as the scary consonant square, it’s possible to spend the entire day on the puzzle and never complete it. There’s always the option to buy additional “Big Blox” puzzles (which are even more challenging), but the “Daily Freebie” should keep most players busy for the whole day.
Socially, Writer’s Blox doesn’t have much going for it (yet), which may come as no surprise since it’s sponsored by a dictionary. If you’ve completed a particularly awesome word (say, “metonymy”), Writer’s Blox believes your friends will want to hear about it and thus gives you a chance to post the definition to your wall. Fat chance, at least with my Facebook friends. This same option also directs you to the word’s entry at Merriam-Webster’s website, just in case you happened to create a killer word that you honestly didn’t know the meaning for. The most prominent social feature is a leaderboard, which, while simple, works along much the same lines as the wildly popular Bejeweled Blitz formula. Since each player receives the same letter blocks for each Daily Freebie, Writer’s Blox fosters a friendly competitive spirit as you try to outdo your friends with the same choice of letters. An option to send your friends gifts is promised, but there’s currently no clue as to what these gifts may be.
Word games remain as popular as ever, as partially evidenced by Amazon’s recent decision to release Scrabble as one of its first Kindle games, and Writer’s Blox proves that it’s possible to improve or complement its inspiration’s play style for Facebook. Writer’s Blox’s innovations neatly avoid any accusations of being merely derivative, and the game’s steady climb in popularity makes it a game to watch, play and enjoy. In the end, Writer’s Blox is—what’s the best word?—exceptional.
Aw, it doesn’t fit.