Words have never been so wonderful.
In Words of Wonder, an evil gray curse has stolen all the color from the Words of Wonder book, and left the fairytale landscape colorless and barren. It’s up to you to restore the colors of the world by traveling the land and spelling every word that crosses your mind. I knew that being an English major in college would let me save the world one day!
The gameplay in Words of Wonder is simple and fun, with a good amount of variety that’s introduced at regular milestones. Players use their mouse to connect adjacent letter tiles in a grid-like board and form words between 3 and 8 letters long. The longer the words, the bigger bonuses you’ll unleash, like special 2x and 3x combo tiles, and volatile cross-clearing tiles. Not only do these combo tiles grant insane score multipliers when used in a word, but they also blow up a few of the surrounding tiles as well; and using two bonus tiles in the same word will really get that game board moving. In each level, you are given a certain number of moves to complete your main objective in, and any moves that are left over after a level ends are converted into explosive bomb tiles, which do wonders towards giving your score a final Word Burst boost, and helping you snag that perfect 3-star rating.
The game features a gorgeous world map that is slowly painted in with each level you complete, and spans across a number of fantasy environments, like a fairytale castle, sandy dunes, and a deep and frightening sea. All in all, this leads to 75 fantastic and challenging levels, with the promise of more to come in future updates. The absence of a time limit while you spell (except for a few levels later on in the game) makes Words of Wonder an incredibly relaxing experience, and combines the word-based gameplay of Bookworm with the laid-back vibe of Bejeweled. The serene cartoony visuals and calming Disney soundtrack paint a warm and friendly atmosphere, and it really puts your mind at ease so you can concentrate on forming those big 7-letter words. The social aspects are limited to sending your Facebook friends free energy, or a number of other gifts which are all said to be “coming soon.” I’d love for my friends to be able to send me some power-up boosts, thank you very much.
There are several different types of levels that you’ll encounter in the game, all of which encourage you to think outside the box and spell your words in fresh and innovative ways. The beginning levels have you spelling any words you can to clear increasing quotas of tiles, but pretty soon you’ll move on to freeing specific tiles from ink, and dropping quills to the bottom of the board. Some of the later levels can be particularly tricky, especially with the introduction of more rigid letter boards, but luckily your owl mentor will provide you with a number of nifty power-ups to help you through your writer’s block. These power-ups include granting you additional moves in a single level; a hammer boost that lets you clear one specific tile from the board; and a shuffle boost that rearranges the whole game board if you’ve spelled your way into a corner.
As I moved into the second chapter of Words of Wonder and started to bring color back to the spooky fairytale woods, I anxiously waited for the moment when some free-to-play gotcha tactic or energy restriction would completely halt my progress. But here’s the thing: that moment never arrived! The game uses one of the best free-to-play models I’ve probably ever seen on Facebook, and even the in-app purchases feel fair and warranted, and not some huge rip-off. Each time you want to play a level, it will set you back 10 energy points. Energy recharges at a rate of 1 energy point every 5 minutes, but you can buy 10 energy points at once for the price of a single gold bar. You can purchase 10 gold bars for a measly $1, and you start the game off with a generous 20 of these bad boys already to your name. The only misstep here is in the cost of buying more power-ups (299 gold bars for a single cross-tier tile power-up?! Are you guys being serious right now?). But even so, these aren’t required to move on in the game, so it doesn’t really upset the balance of the overall gameplay.
I always know a game has earned a 5-star rating when I literally have to pull myself away from it to write the review, and even now, I’m still itching to get back to the strategic spelling gameplay that this magical word game has to offer. Words of Wonder is the perfect combination of Bookworm and Bejeweled, and runs flawlessly on the Facebook platform with an admirable free-to-play model and hours of wordy enjoyment.