Words With Friends: Get Hooked

You probably know Zynga best for their popular Facebook game FarmVille, the one that all of your non-gaming friends play. It’s those types of apps that Zynga does really well, and one of the classic staples of their roster is Words With Friends.

Essentially, this is Scrabble — just don’t talk about it (Like in Fight Club, rule No. 1, don’t talk about Scrabble). But instead of passing your board back and forth between your competitor, Words With Friends (or WWF for short) is more of a casual game that can span across days if you want. So what makes this Zynga special so fun? Talk it out after the break.

The Rules

If you’ve ever played Scrabble, then you get the gist of Words With Friends. You start off with a slate full of seven tiles, each one representing a letter in the alphabet (or a blank tile for a wild card). Each letter has a point designation in the top right corner, which is assigned based on how difficult it is to place the tile. For example, “Z” gets a 10, because there’s a limited number of letters that use “Z,” while “E” is one point for the opposite reason.

See? Just like Scrabble. Except don't call it that.

See? Just like Scrabble. Except don't call it that.

You form words with these tiles, basing at least one tile in your word with another word already placed on the board, until you create a crossword puzzle of sorts on the screen. To make things more interesting, there are score multipliers on the screen, including triple word and triple letter scores, that raise the points accordingly. If you get creative, you can get some pretty big numbers with simple words — I played the word “Sexy” once, with the “S” ending a 7-letter word on one side, and hitting a triple word score at the end, netting me 96 points.

What Makes it Fun

WWF has been a staple on Facebook for a while now, and you’ve probably seen it come across your feed once or twice and wondered what all it was. On Facebook, it used to be about playing your online friends, with no way to reach out to other people. Now anyone can play WWF, whether you’re on Facebook or not.

That said, WWF uses Facebook and Twitter as feed sources for your games. Your Facebook info is entered into the system early on, and then the app tells you how many friends have been playing the game, plus when they last played. Out of the 315 friends I have on Facebook, 61 are playing WWF, making it pretty easy to find a partner.

Finding friends to play against is easy — assuming, of course, that you have friends.

Finding friends to play against is easy — assuming, of course, that you have friends.

What makes this different than Scrabble is the length of time needed to play the game. Since WWF is made to be casual, you can play whenever you get free time, with no requirement on getting a move done within an allotted period. For example, a writing friend of mine and I hammered out three games over the course of a weekend, while my wife and I played more casually and only played one game over a week.

For me though, I really enjoy being able to play multiple games at the same time. It used to be that if I wanted to play a game of Scrabble (whether it was on the iPhone, iPad or with the physical boardgame) that I was limited to one-on-one or one player interactions. When my opponent would take too long to pick out a word, it would just irritate me and try my patience, mostly because I’m a jerk.

Finding and subsequently getting friends onto Words With Friends is pretty easy.

Finding and subsequently getting friends onto Words With Friends is pretty easy.

WWF doesn’t have that problem. I can challenge 40 people at the same time and it doesn’t matter, I can answer their responses whenever I want, on my time. That’s awesome.

Added Features

This is Zynga we’re dealing with here, the king of in-app purchases, so there are a few here as well. The problem I have in this situation is that the add ons actually give you or your opponent an advantage over the other.

In-app purchases are a load.

In-app purchases are a load.

There are two options that I found in the WWF store. First, there’s the Word-O-Meter, which judges how strong your words are, then the Tile Pile, which lets you know how many tiles are left. The first one costs 32 tokens (their arbitrary monetary system) and the latter is 10.

The other catch here is that the monetary system comes in completely random numbers. Seven tokens costs $0.99, 15 is $1.99, 23 is $2.99 and 40 is $4.99. If you want both of those add-ons in your app, then you’ll have to pay 42 tokens. The cheapest option is to buy one 40 and one 7 token pack, bringing you up to $6 for your purchases. Including the cost of the app, you’re at $10 for the game and add-ons. Does that seem fair?

Final Thoughts

I love word games like Words With Friends, and being able to play them with my friends online is a really neat and new way to tackle the genre — something I really appreciate. The real issue I have here is with the in-app purchasing, which not only gives you or your opponent an edge, but is also excessively priced. Each item is given a cost specifically requiring you to over or underpay, making you buy multiple token packs in the process, which just isn’t right. I didn’t expect anything different from Zynga based purely on reputation, but it’s still disappointing.

That’s really the only reason why I can’t rate this game higher. My enjoyment factor is about as high as it gets, but those purchases just bring it all crashing back down to Earth.


Summary

It's like Scrabble, except legally they can't call it that. Play against your friends at your own pace.

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