Words With Friends is a simple game which will both test and expand your vocabulary

Words With Friends is a hit, and for good reason. Scrabble aficionados and casual players alike have flocked to this game. While Words With Friends takes a lot cues from the classic word game (to the point where it often feels like a blatant ripoff), it’s constant one-on-one setting and it’s friendly approach make it easy to pick up and play. While light on features, most word buffs and novices will find enjoyment in this title.

There’s a lot which can be said about Zynga’s word game, despite it not being as deep as others. What separates Words With Friends from other word games is the emphasis placed on social interaction. With Facebook integration and a bright green notification when someone talks to you in the game chat, the social experience is well-emphasized, whether you’re playing with friends or with strangers.

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The game itself plays just like Scrabble, but there are many minor changes. The board is the same size, but there’s a new letter distribution, letter values are different, and the double/triple letter/word squares have changed places. Those who play Scrabble with any regularity are likely to notices these differences, but they’re just as likely to fly under the radar for the rest.

If by some chance you’re not familiar with Scrabble, here’s how the game is played. Both players draw seven letters from a pool, at random. On his or her turn, the first player will place a word on the center of the board and add up the points listed on the letters, taking into account letter and word multipliers. After the first turn, you build the game like a crossword puzzle. Each new word played must connect to past ones and all adjacent letters (excluding diagonals) must form valid words.

Sure the actual gameplay of Words With Friends isn’t anything groundbreaking or original, but the real joy comes from the asynchronous gameplay. Like many Facebook and social games, there is no need to have both players playing at the same time. Yes, both players being active will make the game run quicker, but there’s always that chance of a game running long. A quick game suddenly slowing can be frustrating, but Zynga has a feature to keep things moving: The ability to play your games on both Facebook and the mobile app. Games you start on your computer can be carried over to your phone/tablet and played at your convenience.

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Both the Facebook and mobile apps are wonderfully presented. The Facebook app is fitted with sidebar that shows your active and completed games. There’s also a top menu that allows you to create a username, mute the sound, find help, or post a challenge to your wall. There are also options to visit the store, use the chatroom, and various controls (such as shuffle tiles in your hand, or confirming the word you played). The mobile app includes all the same features but optimizes the layout for the vertical screen.

Words With Friends is free, and the base game may be hearty enough for most. Some people might want more, in which case they’re able to check out a few underwhelming premium options. You can remove video ads, get instant feedback on how many points a word is worth before playing it, and get the chance to see how many of each letter remain. There’s also a Word-O-Meter, which shows you how good your word is compared to others you can play. These features are neat, but their effects are quite dim, especially for seasoned players.

Words With Friends is an enjoyable experience. It’s not known for its originality, but the straightforward and friendly approach creates a great time for anyone into competitive word games. Some people will be turned off and go elsewhere, like faster-paced games or the classic Scrabble, and that’s understandable. But for those who like to pit their skills against friends and have a dozen games going at once, Words With Friends is definitely something you should check it out.