Monday, April 14, 2008

Text Twirl: A decent head-to-head version of Text Twist

I'm a big fan of most word games... and an especially big fan of Text Twist. The basic premise of the game is to anagram various words from a 6 letter rack. You have a certain amount of time and score points based on the number of words you guess, with more points for longer words. You also get an "extended play" if you guess the 6 letter word -- after the round ends, you get a new 6 letter rack.

The game was quite fun and the 6 letter rack would get "harder" each round. One of my quibbles with the original game was that I couldn't tell what dictionary it used. Personally, I play a lot of Scrabble, so I like to use TWL/OSPD4.

Once of the nicest features of Text Twirl, a recent Facebook addition, is that it lets you select amongst various dictionaries, including SOWPODS and TWL. The single player game is also fully featured, unlike competitor: Word Twist which has a sub-par single player experience (you only get one round even if you guess the 6 letter word).

Like Scramble, I love Text Twirl because you don't really have to worry about all the cheating that goes on with Scrabulous. Yes, technically, you could cheat -- but because the game is timed, you really need to want to cheat as opposed to just being lazy.

Text Twirl's user interface is as delightful and easy to use as the original Text Twist. Simply type letters and press the "enter" key, or press Space Bar to shuffle the letters.

That said, there are a few quibbles:

  • There doesn't appear to be audio feedback. One of the nice things about Text Twist is that you got audio feedback for "correct" vs. "invalid". This meant you didn't need to pay attention to the on screen text messages as you played the game. My one complaint with the audio feedback on Test Twist is that they didn't have separate sound effects for "already played" vs. "invalid".
  • Once out of every several times I load the application I am directed to the "Start a game with friends" page instead of the "my current games" page. This is annoying because you get the "start a game" page (which is intended for you to spam friends with invites) when you are simply expecting to take your next turn in a game you are already playing. I see why they do this (and why Scrabulous can afford not to do this since it already has a huge active user base) but I still disapprove.
  • Current Leader board functionality (like Scramble) is lame for the competitive player. The top players are so clearly cheating that it makes overall leader boards useless. One nice thing is that the Friends portion of the leader board has been better thought out than in Scramble. At least top scores are recorded instead of cumulative scores -- this rewards better players (who get higher average scores) over prolific players (who get lower average scores but play more games). Still, the experience is far inferior to my beloved (but sadly defunct) Griddle.
  • There doesn't seem to be a current/completed game inspector where you can view individual boards to see what words you got/missed after the game is over. It's nice to be able to study old games and see patterns that emerge, but this simply isn't possible right now (all you can see are winner/loser and final score).

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