Sunday, June 6, 2010

Word Spasm -- It's no Griddle, but it'll mostly do for now

I've been taking a look at some game portals on Facebook recently and all complaints aside, I've managed to discover a game or two here and there that has captured my attention.

MindJolt brings us Word Spasm. It's like Boggle in a number of ways, and the leader board takes me back (almost) the the incredibly fun times that were Griddle before it got yanked.

Word Spasm is like a mash up between BoggleBookworm Tiles, and a gem matching game (forget the name, but it might be Jewel Quest) where you have to fill in a certain number of board tiles before you can move to the next level.

On the plus side:

  • Games are quick, so spoiled/sub par turns don't feel that painful (and there are easy ways to fail as I'll note below).
  • Keyboard accelerator is present. I'm amazed that there are still word games out there that do not let you type words in.
  • Leader boards are reasonably well designed to encourage both social play with known friends, and to provide "stranger" top scores to inspire the more hard core competitor (like me).
On the minus side:
  • The keyboard accelerator is suboptimal when it comes time to choosing a particular letter path. Unlike in Boggle where you just need to submit valid words (doesn't matter which 'L' tile you use if there are 2 or 3 valid ones), this game sometimes makes you care which tile you use when there are multiple options because you need to make sure that a certain percentage of tiles are used at least once. There is an option to Tab through various valid permutations, but this is frustrating and inefficient -- especially when time is running down.
  • When time starts running out, the game just gets plain unplayable. A huge countdown timer displays over the playing surface. Although it is translucent, it is RED AND SCARY and completely distracts me. It effectively means that I hit the Game Over point when there's 10 seconds left because I can't play at all during that time.
  • Although the basic rules are fairly simple to learn, there's no good way to uncover some of the scoring rules either officially or through embedded forums and discussion groups. Certainly I can try to optimize my score by trying different strategies, but I'd rather have a few hints or be able to chat with fellow players to collectively discuss the scoring system as opposed to having to break it down systematically.
  • The lack of forums and discussion groups also highlights the real lack of community features here. I became completely addicted to Griddle precisely because there was always a group of people playing and we could briefly chat and congratulate each other between each round as we were checking the results of the previous round.
  • More of an annoyance: The "gratz" messages the game displays each time you complete a level have spelling and grammatical errors. Kind of ironic for a word game :)

No comments: