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Wordrix is a fun puzzle, but a puzzling game

Wordrix screenshot

Wordrix is available for iPhone and iPad, optimized for iPhone 5, requiring iOS 6 or later. A kind of Scrabble for the iPhone lover, it is free but features an in-app store where the user can purchase coins to unlock different features (base pack starting at US0.99). This is a fun pastime that will predominately appeal to the casual gamer, but its increasing complexity will also find a niche among experienced and determined gamers. However, there are a number of oddities that may give players of all levels pause.

Meant to appeal to lovers of word games and puzzles, Wordrix features 72 levels of increasing and diverse challenges, divided into different chapters. Players must create words by dragging their finger across lettered tiles. Only connecting tiles can be used, and each letter is assigned a particular numerical point value.

The player is supposed to score a certain number of points per level, and words should be chosen wisely, as the number of moves per level are limited. In addition to rationing movements, players must also incorporate various challenges into game play, such as using all of the tiles covered by split ink. Wordrix also features "powerups," including the ability to erase a tile (replaced with a new letter), swap any two tiles, and be shown a high-scoring word. Differently colored tiles feature bonuses, such as doubling or tripling the value of a letter or an entire word.

Wordrix screenshot

Upon the completion of a level, the player will view a screen detailing the points they won, if the time limit had to be reached, and their all-time best word and score. Within 60 seconds I was able to score over 700 points and create a word worth 180 points ("freeze"). Within each level it is possible to win a bronze, silver, or gold trophy depending on how quickly the player wins the necessary number of points and in how many moves. Here, perhaps I could have been a little faster or a little more ingenious with my movements, as I only scored a bronze trophy.

Players have the option of viewing each chapter's levels as a whole upon completion. The highest-attained trophy is displayed along with any specifics of the particular level, such as its move limit (shown in the lower right-hand corner) whether it involved inked tiles or was timed. Clicking non each book will show more details, as well as an option to replay the level.

Wordrix screenshot

The iTunes description said the game was addicting, and that was certainly true! As a lover of words and language, I had to call upon both my extensive mental library and my powers of logic to figure out how to maneuver the highest-scoring words in sometimes very intricate ways.

Still, despite the clever idea, attractive graphics, and streamlined interface, there were several issues which left me scratching my head. I did not expect the game to have an Oxford English Dictionary level of linguistic finesse, but some of its word choices puzzled me. For example, two-letter words such as "no," "is," or "on" are not allowed, but what I first assumed were proper names ("Ben," "Tom," and "Lea") were actually extremely obscure words. Another was a form of Japanese currency. This did not really hurt my overall gameplay, but the seeming randomness made the game exceptionally confusing and less fun.

A far greater critique is the in-app store. While playing, I could not figure out why some of the powerups were being offered but were unusable. A closer look revealed the store was to purchase coins to use in the game to buy different features (including critical powerups). In fact, it was my lack of further powerups coupled with my unwillingness to shell out almost $3 for fake coins that made me stop the game after level 16. Making players pay good money for fake coins risks alienating players who appreciate the game's ingenuity and challenge, but are not committed enough to buy in-game coins.

Overall, Wordirx is a neat little game, a brainteaser for the electronically literate. Its seemingly obscure word choices and its play-crushing requirement to spend real money in exchange for fake (but progression-necessitating) money make it a puzzle in ways I doubt the creator intended.

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