Friday, December 3, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Words With Friends Review

Grade: A
Price: free and $2 versions

After doing the news post on Zynga's acquisition of Newtoy, I realized I'd never done a full review of Words With Friends. I don't play it that much, simply because I'm pretty wired into Scrabble and its ability to allow play from iOS to Facebook. That's not to say I don't like it: I do.

Words With Friends is a very good game, with effective matchmaking and connectivity. The interface works well, and the game loads quickly and functions smoothly. Unlike some of the confusing setup issues with Scrabble's matching system, which requires you to begin creating a new game in order to continue an old one, Words With Friends just pops you right into the action.

You can get into a game almost instantly with either friends or strangers. There's an integrated text chat system, and the ability to play 20 games simultaneously. These don't have to be "live" games: push notifications let you know when your opponent has made a move, so games can be played over the course of minutes, hours, days, or even weeks.

The bonus square distribution is different in Words With Friend than it is in Scrabble, which requires an adjustment in strategy for those of us hardwired into Scrabble. My style tends heavily towards board management and blocking, and the WWF layout is different enough that it takes some time to adjust. The point values are also different in places, with J worth 10 points in WWF rather than 8 as it is in Scrabble.

Some pretty obvious features are missing. A point count for the letters in your current move is mysteriously absent. Sure, you can do this in your head, but why should you have to? There's also no shuffle button for your tray. I like Scrabble's ability to just shuffle your tiles around as you look for ideas. Words With Friends allows you to shake in order to shuffle, but this is needlessly awkward when a button would do fine.

For multiplayer word gaming, Words With Friends does work better than Scrabbles multiplayer functions, and perhaps the new connection with Zynga will bring a WWF app to Facebook.

NOTE: The free version is burdened with an aggressive advertising feature, which is removed in the pay version. 


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