March 31, 2010

Apps Weekly: Words With Friends + Words With Friends HD

In the tradition of mail chess, Newtoy has an iPhone app that somewhat resembles that game but electronically, and that's Chess With Friends. I'm not too good at chess, but I do like a bit of Scrabble, and thankfully, Words With Friends is there to fill that void.

Words With Friends
Free with ads, $2.99
Newtoy, Inc.
Compatible with iPhone OS 2.2.1 or later

Arguably, this game is a bit like Scrabble, but the twist here is that your opponent is a real person, and he'll take his time to think about his next move. And what I mean by that is that your opponent might take longer than a minute to a day before he gives you his move. While one could say that this sluggish pace could be a bit of a turn-off, a person with a busy lifestyle is actually the perfect candidate for this game. If you gotta go to a meeting in the middle of a game, you could always exit the game and get some work done. Don't worry, your opponent will understand (and if you're really worried about your opponent's patience, you can just say that you have to leave through Chat).

This screen is basically the home screen of the game, but when you first run it, you'll be asked to put in your e-mail address and username. After a few seconds, you'll be able to start creating games and making moves.

I don't exactly know the mechanics that determine whether you or the other player goes first, but whatever the case, this leisurely paced version of Scrabble plays as you'd expect. There are score bonuses when you have tiles in either the Double/Triple Word score or the Double/Triple Letter score, and you can swap some letters off as well as pass a turn when you're really stumped.

In a smart move, the app also features some in-game chat so as to maximize the "social" aspect of the game. You can talk about movies while in a game, or trash talk to some random dude you're playing against. Heck, you can do these things simultaneously, because the game allows you to create up to 20 simultaneous games so chances are, you won't end up too bored when a player is not online (as marked by the googly eyes near the Chat button). If you want to play with your actual friends, you're given the chance to do that as well. You can post an alert to your Twitter or Facebook account, so your friends can go online and play with you.

Whatever the case, this game is a perfect game in this fast-paced world. When you're resting from that exhausting run for a promotion or grade, you'll be able to be comforted by the fact that your Words With Friends game will always be waiting for you- that is, unless you ignore it for 7 days.

That's not to say that the app is the most perfect app. For one thing, there's quite a bit of lag during gameplay. I've also encountered a bug that forced me to pass several turns (a letter that was stuck on the board), and the game does crash sometimes. Still, push notifications work flawlessly in notifying that you have to make a move in the board. Still, just making a move takes more than a minute to do, because the sending is just a ridiculously long wait. Is it because it's loading an ad? Oh ads, you annoy the hell out of me.

But that's where the $2.99 version comes in; the full version eliminates those annoying ads that pop-up after every move you make.

Still, I think Words With Friends is one of the better games out there, and I hope I can play with anyone reading this some time.

Rating: 7.5/10

In one of the laziest attempts at a "preview", I'd like to cover the companion iPad version of the game I just reviewed, which is Words With Friends HD.

You can get a taste of the sheer expansiveness that the iPad's resolution offers by clicking the screenshot on top.

Obviously, it will feature a much more comfy way to play this game, and the Chat feature will actually not be all that intrusive to the gameplay, as it will only appear in a little window. The game looks like fun on the iPad and it seems that it will launch alongside the product this Sunday.

Developer Newtoy will be holding a little party at the Apple Store in Frisco as they will be giving away some promo codes for this game. Sadly enough, no actual iPads to give away, but you might want to consider joining a certain Twitter giveaway if you really want one.

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