Launched last year in Sweden by MAG Interactive, the word-finding game Ruzzle has recently shot to the top of the games category in Google Play in the U.S. It’s not a mystery why it’s popular, since the game combines fun, brisk word searching with highly social competition.
A Different Kind of Word Search
If you’ve ever stared at the letters in a word search and seen words coiling around each other, but missed the “right” ones, then you will love Ruzzle. In this game, you’re presented with a four by four grid of letters, and you have two minutes to build as many words as you can. But instead of only moving in straight lines, you spell by dragging your finger between any adjacent letters.
At first, you’ll be stuck with two letter words, but soon you’ll be skating across the screen going up, down, left, right, backwards, and diagonal to build longer and more impressive words. Each letter is assigned a point value, like in Scrabble, and advanced players will probably focus on using the most valuable letters. For extra points, be sure to make good use of the point modifier letters, like double word and triple letter.
Because Ruzzle gives you so many different ways to make words, game play is deeply satisfying. One way I like to measure a game’s success isn’t how much I want to play it (addiction is pretty easy to achieve), but how many in-game experiences I recall later. I’ll probably remember the time I managed to spell “bastion” for quite some time.
At the conclusion of each round (there are three if you play against another player), the game shows you a list of all the 200-odd words that were available, and how to make them on the screen. Though this might seem humiliating, it’s a great way to get better at the game. Ruzzle also has deep statistics, showing your performance over time along with your highest-scoring and longest words. Unsurprisingly, the game has extensive achievements, the most amusing of which is for “[swiping] a distance of 10 meters.”
Ruzzle is deeply social, with the option to challenge Facebook and Twitter friends to a game. I didn’t opt for this, instead letting the game assign me to a random player. While each round only takes two minutes to complete, you can only move on after both players complete the round. This seems odd, since the game judges the winner on a best-of-three system and the outcome of each round has no bearing on the next. The game will alert you when it’s your turn, but it can drag out otherwise fast play.
For the shy, or anti-social, you can also play Ruzzle solo in “practice mode.”
While many word games only focus on an English-speaking audience, Ruzzle provides support for ten languages. While this is a great start, it’s only European languages that make use of Latin script. Hopefully, future versions will provide support for more alphabets. In the meantime, it’s also a fun way for non-native speakers to bone up on their vocab.
While $1.99 might seem a bit steep for a word game, the price gets you slick, responsive interface. It looks and feels very iPhone-like, and the level of polish is greatly appreciated on the Android platform.
Despite a high level of competency in creating the app, the game has one big issue: its dictionary of acceptable words. Ruzzle goes in the opposite direction from Scrabble’s limited bank of words, and embraces pretty much any utterance—including some which qualify as slurs or just inappropriate. On the one hand, it’s a word game and the focus is on playing well and not enforcing social norms. On the other hand, it’s actually harder to play a game if you don’t know which words work.
Ruzzle is a solid, well-made word game that plays fast and fun. Its unique play is both satisfying on a physical and mental level, and it’s addictive as all get out. The game’s support of nearly a dozen languages is great, and adds a whole new level of play for those looking to learn something new. After only a few hours with it, I never want to put it down.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc