Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome. Here is one cool enough to keep you busy until Monday, at least.
SpellTower ($1.99 Universal, $0.99 Mac) is an intelligent word game that serves to strengthen one’s vocabulary as well as challenge it . Played on a screen where word search intersects with Tetris, this game will prove to be just as entertaining as it is challenging.
The objective of the game is to find words hidden in jumbles of letters laid out across a screen that looks like a crossword puzzle that is already filled out. Like traditional world searches, words can run forward and backward, up and down, and even diagonal. Unlike traditional word search games, however, words can be formed out of a series of letters in any pattern whatsoever. It’s sort of like assembling your own Tetris shapes using letters that form words to make the pattern. Once you form a word, the letters that make up that word disappear from the screen, with the remaining letters falling down to fill in the space left behind.
As each game progresses the word choices decrease since you cannot play a given word more than once in each game. Additionally, a number in the top right corner of the letter will appear indicating how many letters the word must have in it on order for that letter to be used in that word. For instance, if there is a number six (6) in the top right corner of the letter “A,” you can’t play the word APPLE, but you could play the word APRICOT.
Not all of the game mechanics work against you. You will notice that some letters are emphasized with a blue background. If you include a letter with blue shading, then the entire row will disappear. You will further notice blank spaces scattered across the screen. If a word includes a letter adjacent to one of these spaces, then that space will disappear as well. It is important to note that each word is worth points. And the more points a word is worth, the more letters will be taken out. So a six-letter word could take out a dozen letters depending on how many points it is worth.
There are advanced playing modes that make the game more challenging. The simplest is Tower Mode. Here you are presented with one screen full of letters that you need to eliminate. You will find that it is almost impossible to completely clear the screen. Then there is Puzzle Mode. With each turn in Puzzle Mode, a new row of characters is added to the bottom. When a column of letters reaches the top of the screen, the game is over. Ex Puzzle Mode is more of the same, except you just start out with letters on the screen having higher numbers in the top right corner. And finally there is Rush Mode. Time is against you as rows are introduced to the screen every few seconds, even if you have not found a word. The rows keep stacking up, forcing you at times to make quick decisions just to clear as many letters off of the screen that you can.
Then there is the multiplayer Debate Mode. While both the iOS and OS X games support GameCenter, multiplayer is limited to iOS only. The connection is established via Bluetooth, so you will need to be in close proximity to your opponent. In Debate Mode, not only is time against you as it is in Rush Mode, but each word you find will drop letters on your opponent’s screen and vice-versa. The goal is to fill up the opponent’s screen, ending their game before your screen gets filled up.
While the Puzzle and EX Puzzle modes lend themselves to the same calmness as doing the Sunday paper’s word puzzle, the faster pace of the Rush and Debate Modes do add a bit more anxiety to the game. It is also among the first games to support the Retina display and GameCenter on both iOS and the Mac. A great weekend addition for the well-rounded gamer and their word-challenged friends.