Paperback is part Scrabble, part deck-building game. That certainly makes it an interesting concept and one that I’m sure is pretty fun in its original tabletop game form. As an iOS game, however, I’m not entirely sold.
Each game of Paperback has you start with a deck of letter cards, with the purpose being to create words from them. The story behind this is that you’re an aspiring author trying to make it in a tough publishing world, up against many rival authors. Each time you make a word, you earn some money, which can then be used to buy better letters to add to your deck.
Some of the tiles are simply one letter tiles, but many others have two letters which must be used in the order they’re displayed. That makes things a little trickier but also gives you more scoring opportunities. Slowly, as you build up better scores, you can buy fame cards which work as wild cards, allowing you to use them as any letter you want. At the end of the game, the player with the highest level of fame wins.
It sounds pretty appealing, and it initially is. You’re essentially writing pulp fiction novels and, while you can’t see the full results, there’s a kitsch charm going on here, as reflected by the game’s visuals.
It’s a reasonably fun twist on the word game genre, although it takes a little time to truly understand the scoring going on. For instance, some cards also offer bonuses or can only be used in certain situations. Adaption is everything here. Much like with Scrabble, longer words aren’t always automatically better. At least, not when you’re dealing with a special tile or two. That means it’s a little tougher to think through. While you might only have five letters plus a bonus to work with, there’s a lot going on. With some of those tiles offering two letters, the potential is vast, but mastering how to use them well is much trickier than conventional Scrabble ways. There’s more depth going on here, and it’s welcomed.
Where Paperback struggles is in its execution. There’s no online multiplayer, which is a substantial issue here. Instead, you can pass your iOS device around between 4 players, or you can compete with the AI. The AI offers different difficulty levels, but it’s hard to see a significant difference between them. The experience could have been pretty tough here, given the complexities of the scoring system, but it’s not apparent. Instead, it’s a little monotonous playing against soulless AI. Passing the device around works well enough, but being able to play from a distance would immediately give Paperback more credence.
There’s a lot of potential here, and word game fans will appreciate what Paperback is trying to do. Being able to create complex words is certainly welcomed, and it’s challenging to get the most out of it. However, being so restrictive in terms of who you can play against means it’s not reaching its true heights. This could have been a game that was ideal for a more tricky strategic word gaming experience. Instead, it’s one you’ll save for when friends are visiting but nothing more than that. For many, that won’t be enough.