Countdown has a lot to answer for. Or rather, Des chiffres et des lettres has a lot to answer for. If you’re looking at either of those two statements in confusion, then you’re probably not familiar with the long-running British game show, or the French show it’s based on. I’ll summarise the core conceit for you: two contestants are presented with a random selection of letters, and compete to create the longest possible words from them. There are also number rounds, and the number of letters (and time allowed to form words) differs between regions, but the concept remains the same.
Of course, I’m being facetious. This sort of word game has been around far longer than the television programmes, and as long as humans continue to use alphabetic written languages (logographies like Chinese don’t work quite so well) they will surely continue. The arrival of computers able to contain and quickly scan through entire dictionaries has meant that there has been a constant supply of word-building games released for every system imaginable. As such, WordMix doesn’t want for company.
WordMix is easy to understand. Given six letters, which can be arranged into only one possible six-letter word, the player must try and find this six-letter word, and as many shorter words as can be constructed, within a strict time limit (set by the player: 1, 2, 3 or 4 minutes). The game can be played as one-off matches, or as a campaign of sorts: in this mode, ‘passing’ each level requires the six-letter word be found, or that at least three-quarters of the possible points be accumulated by constructing smaller words. Along with a limited supply of hints and level skips, and the ability to quit and resume at will, this mode is surprisingly addictive.
There’s also a very basic meta-game, with the points from every game played adding to a total score which causes you to “level up” – completely superficial, but surprisingly compelling. And, of course, there are online leaderboards. The game is nicely presented, the controls simple and effective, and the overall framework does a very good job of keeping the player interested.
But what of the game itself? The system is easy to understand, but there are certain pitfalls that word games have to look out for: are their dictionaries extensive enough? Are there logical rules regarding what words are legal, and what aren’t: i.e. where does the game stand on plurals, abbreviations, slang? On this, WordMix stumbles a little.
First up, it uses a US dictionary only, which is a bit irksome for any British, Canadian or Australian players, as it includes American spellings and slang, but misses out common words from the other English systems. It also seems divided on the issue of plurals, sometimes allowing them, sometimes not. Sometimes, it even includes only the plural form of a word: ‘dreg’ is unaccepted, but ‘dregs’ is. And then there are simple omissions: the game doesn’t recognise, for example, the words ‘nous’ or ‘soya’ (though it knows soy).
It’s not significant enough to break the game, but it would be nice if the rules were more clearly enforced, and if the dictionary was a little more exhaustive. Similarly, adding dictionaries for the other English speakers wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
There are a couple of other niggles: does a word game really need a loud musical number when it starts, without the option to disable it? For a game that’s otherwise perfect for use on public transport, that’s a bit of an oversight. Fortunately, once in the game proper the sound-effects are mutable. Also, the leaderboards are broken – while submitting scores works just fine, it’s impossible to scroll through them, so you can only ever see the top few scores, never your own. Unless you’re at the top, of course.
Despite all this, the game is fun – it’s a hard system to break, after all, and the overarching structure adds to the game. The ability to choose the length of each level makes it absolutely ideal when waiting for short periods of time, and the game mostly works well. And, of course, it’s free.
Note by the Developer :
To celebrate our initial release, we are running a weekly prize drawing for the next month. Anyone that downloads and plays the game this month is automatically entered into our weekly drawing to win a $50 gift certificate to Amazon.com. We will be notifying the weekly winners directly through the game. (Winners will also be announced via Twitter, if they provide permission.)
Version Under Review : 220.127.116.11
Website : cronos labs, Twitter : @CronosLabs
WordMix is a FREE game for Windows Phone 7
Our Rating for WordMix