Enough to satisfy your average word nut.
As a semi-competent writer, I have a certain love affair with words. I love learning new words when I read books or articles, and where better to display my etymological prowess than in the multitude of word games that have come out on mobile devices? The latest is W.E.L.D.E.R. from Ayopa Games, which melds word construction and word search to provide a competent, if somewhat basic experience, which most word nuts will enjoy.
W.E.L.D.E.R is set up somewhat like a word search game. The game is played on an 8×8 board with a jumble of letters filling all the tiles. It is your job to create a set amount of words and move on to the next level before you run out of “swaps”. Swaps are used when you move tiles around to create words, add letters to blank wooden tiles. You can swap horizontally, vertically and diagonally. There are also different kinds of swaps that you earn as you progress through the different stages: reverse swaps allow you to create words by rearranging them backwards to forwards, group swaps allow you to take groups of letters and move them together, and jump swaps allow you to swap two letters that aren’t next to each other.
You earn extra swaps as you earn points, and as expected, when you use longer words or words with difficult letters in them (say, Z or K), the higher the point value goes. Later in the game this gets important as the number of words needed to pass on to the next stage gets tougher and tougher. Using your swaps judiciously is important for success.
As you progress through levels, the word tiles begin to add attributes. In the first stage, for example, you simply have your basic tiles, blank wooden tiles, and then golden tiles (worth more points). Later on the tiles will have negative attributes, such as being “hot” and cannot be moved, or rusted—tiles that cannot be moved and must be used in a word, or no letters below the rusted tile will drop down.
The single greatest strength of W.E.L.D.E.R. is in its pick-up-play value. Over the weekend when I was reviewing this title, it was great when I got a spare moment to simply jump in, construct a few words, and then go back to whatever I was doing. The iPhone and the app itself does a reasonable job storing the game in its memory, so I never had an issue of losing a game I was in due to memory loss. If you’re a worrywart, though, you can push your game to the iCloud and pick up the game right where you left off on another iOS5 device that you have. Slick.
The only real problem with this game has to do with my own personal memory, and W.E.L.D.E.R.‘s inability to refresh it for me. With the three special kinds of swaps, I regularly forgot how to do reverse and group swaps, and there is no tutorial for the tap combination to those swaps outside of when you first start a level, which is unfortunate. This problem might not plague you personally (I lose my keys and phone at a prolific rate), but if you’re going to include a basic tutorial and you already have the graphics in place that show players how to use the swaps—throw that in the tutorial for idiots like me that need a refresher.
While W.E.L.D.E.R doesn’t really add a whole lot to the word game scene, it is a thoroughly competent effort. If you’re tiring of your favorite word puzzle game and are looking for something new, you’ll definitely get more than a few good weeks out of the title.