I love a good word game. I have fond memories of playing word games against my family growing up, although I’d be hard-pressed in my adult life to remember the names of most of them now. iPhone games that remind me of those games usually earn a cherished place on my phone. Letterpress is a great example of a game that never left my iPhone or iPad once it got on them.
With that tradition in mind and the winter upon us, I was really excited to try out Freeze It, a word game that reminds me of games like Boggle — but it’s been made for the ground up for iPhone. Read on to find out how the game works and whether or not it’s worth giving it a shot.
Playing the Game
Freeze It is all about speed. The name of the game is moving faster than your opponent and getting more points by guessing words for each category. The game moves in a series of rounds, so it’s turn-based, and you can play with up to four people.
When it’s your turn to play, the game is going to present you with a board of letters and several categories: Animals, fruit/vegetable, country/capital, brand name, and the like. The categories are the same with every turn you play, but the letters are always different. Some letters give you extra points, and longer words give you bonuses. In that way, it’s not too different from the point system in Scrabble — although because the letters are digital, they’re a little bit more flexible in terms of variety.
The game is set to a timer, and you only have a limited amount of time to guess words in each category. It sounds easier than it actually is — it’s at once a sort of trivia game and word game combined, and it can be difficult just come up with a brand off the top of your head. (Worse yet, not all brands work — for example, a brand of my favourite Scotch didn’t work at all.)
When you’re done, assuming there’s time left on the timer, you hit the Freeze button and freeze the timer for your opponents, shortening how long they have to play as well. And this pattern continues for three rounds, until there’s a victor.
It’s actually a very well-done, thoughtful game. I haven’t played anything entirely similar before (at least, not in recent memory), although it wouldn’t surprise me if something similar existed, and it offers a nice few twists on the popular word game genre. With friends and family, this game is a real blast. I think it’s fantastic that it can handle up to four players — even playing with three is a huge perk over the usual two-person limit.
The game uses Game Centre to match you up with players, which is a great little match, but it means that it encounters similar problems to what Letterpress encounters: players will take forever to play, or simply not play at all. This isn’t Freeze It’s fault, but it’s an unfortunate side effect of using iOS 7’s built-in system.
There are, however, some qualms I have with the game. The first is its over-use of the cold theme. I know the game is called Freeze It, but the blue theme and all the little aesthetic touches is a little much. The problem isn’t that it looks bad — overall, I don’t think it does, but I know it’s a matter of taste. The problem I have is that all that blue prevents me from immediately getting into the game and enjoying it.
It’s not just because things are blue. It’s because they’re literally drenched in ice. It’s partially a mental thing, but if the game looks like it’s covered in ice, it makes any slow pace feel like the game is literally frozen. So any lag is basically unacceptable. It’s a tiny thing, but a noticeable one.
There are other elements of the game that don’t stand out as totally perfect to me. I understand perfection is unattainable, but I think the game might be priced a wee bit too high. I understand it’s free, but there are enough in-app purchases in the game that the $1.99 price point for a premium user package seems just a bit much. If it were priced at an impulse buy of $0.99, I would have no problem forking it over — even if it was just to try it.
The rest of the in-app purchases are largely gravy. If you never purchase any of them, it’s probably not going to interfere with your enjoyment of the game, which is great. If you do purchase the premium package, you’re basically getting unlimited games and more game modes, plus turning off an in-game advertisement for a charity.
I do have to say this, though: I applaud the developer for supporting a charity in this way. Bonus points for that, absolutely. I almost feel guilty paying to get rid of that advertisement, and I can’t decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.
The Bottom Line
I’m harping a lot on a great game here, because Freeze It is a ton of fun. It’s a game that rewards fast-paced thinking, and it’s perfect for playing with the family around the Christmas season. What it really needs is an iPad app, and I have no idea if that’s coming or not, but if it was coming the game would feel like a little bit more of a staple — and even my iPad-toting, but smartphone-hating father could get in on the action.
As things stand, despite interface problems and a slightly overpriced in-app purchase for the premium user package, I have no problem recommending Freeze It. As a game, it’s entirely worth trying, and I can see your friends and family really enjoying it with you this winter. I know mine will.