Share This

Top Word Games

Whether you’re in the car on a road trip, waiting in an airport, or simply lounging about at your flat, games are a necessity on your iPhone, wouldn’t you agree? But much like everything else, there are some great ones (Plants vs. Zombies, Cut the Rope, Contre Jour, Fruit Ninja) and some not-so-great ones. We’re just as guilty of wasting 99 cents as you probably are on a game that looked terrific… and carried the distinct scent of digital rubbish once you actually tried to play it.

The same gaming philosophy applies to iPhone word games. For every well-designed, fun to play Scrabble or Words with Friends, there’s another Whirly Word or Ultimate Word Search, the latter of which uses so many different fonts in its design it looks like a website from 2003.  Ugh.

We’ve done an informal poll here at our PyxisMag offices, and have lined up what we think are the top five must-have iPhone word games available today (the aforementioned popular two not withstanding – they get enough publicity and are probably tired of the paparazzi anyway).

Just don’t blame us if you lose more than a few hours to each of these – we’re not claiming responsibility for anything except your increased vocabulary.

Helmed by the game’s host and mascot, the grinning, squeaky (but surprisingly non-annoying) Lex (a bookworm, of course – what else?), Bookworm is pretty much perfect for fans of both words and books. The basic premise is to link letter tiles together to make words, but it’s how the game is designed (as well as it’s terrific ‘library’ theme) that makes it far more interesting. In addition to the regular tiles, which vanish and shift as you eliminate them with your wordy creations, Bookworm also feeds in ‘Fire Tiles,’ a penalty of sorts for making words that are too short or too common. As you move through the levels of the game, the letters you get to choose from become more challenging. Bonus words are frequently posted by Lex on each level – if you can craft that word from the letters you have, you’ll get bonus points. You can choose from the Classic game or a Timed Game, which is quite a bit tougher as the Fire Tiles appear at regular intervals no matter how verbose you happen to be. Collecting ‘Book Lists’ is another fun element – as you play, you amass lists of words having to do with Insects, Colors, Vegetables, etc., which gives your gameplay even more goals. We think this is pretty much the best word game of the lot, and well worth the price.

This game also involves creating words using letter tiles, but in this beautifully-themed version, the tiles are stacked in a way similar to the Chinese game Mahjong, kind of a staggered pyramid shape that adds to the challenge because you have to remove letters by making words in order to get to the letters underneath that will allow you to make more words (got that?) Seven Oriental ‘Masters’ represented by various animals from a monkey to a panda (all in appropriate garb, of course) challenge you to the games, which are accessed by a daily calendar that offers a different word puzzle for each day. Extras include bombs that you can reveal by spelling longer words (the bombs can then later be used to blow up letters that are in the way of your goal), plus butterflies and other awards that you can collect as you move higher in the levels. It’s uniquely presented, just difficult enough, and fun, too.

The PC version of Big Kahuna Words is a little better than the iPhone version, simply because it’s easier to see all of the game’s detail on a bigger screen – but that still doesn’t minimise the appeal of this Hawaiian-Tiki word game hybrid. It’s pretty much an upscale version of jumble, in which you can link letters to make words across, vertically, or diagonally in order to destroy the ‘stone blocks’ that lie beneath the word grid (and, technically, underwater, hence the island theme.) A Tiki totem on the right stretches higher with each word you make, eventually rewarding you with wild cards, which also appear as green stars in the jumble grid and can be used as any letter. As you play through the different grids of letters, you will unlock various tropical fish that you can ‘keep’ and view later on a separate screen. And there are enough levels that it’s unlikely you’ll drown from boredom.

This starts out to be the most calm of the word games listed here – well, at least at the beginning. But what appears simple becomes both more appealling and more tricky as the game continues. Also set in a water environment, bubbles containing letters float up from the bottom of the screen and stick to each other in a horizontal arrangement. It’s up to you to strike through the letters to spell words and make the bubbles disappear. But move too slowly, and the bubbles build up and – game over. The extra fun begins when you start getting ‘Ice’ bubbles (which freeze the game with a crackling frost sound so you can get some extra time to stare at the letters). ‘Fire’ bubbles explode and destroy the bubbles directly around them. ‘Mutate’ bubbles shift the letters in their neighbouring bubbles, and ‘Multiply’ bubbles add to your score. The reflective bubbles and nifty ice FX make this a game with much more than you’ll first observe on the surface.

No, HexaLex isn’t another version of the mascot from Bookworm – it’s actually a word game on its own, a kind of hexagonal crossword puzzle that allows you to work with the letter tiles in three different directions. The big difference from the word games listed about is that this is really a camouflaged version of Scrabble albeit on a grid that will have you thinking even more than Scrabble usually does. The hexagon shape of the grid places your words in some interesting configurations, as well as giving you some equally quirky opportunities to link words together – and if you’re not interested in the online gameplay, no worries – HexaLex will supply a computer opponent (AI, for short) for you to while away the words with.   – Kristi Kates