*Note: the following review comes from the writer’s personal experience as a proud owner and avid user of Zynga’s multi-player Hanging with Friends word game application for the Apple iPhone. The writer is not receiving payment from Apple or the Zynga company. The writer is running the Hanging with Friends application on the Apple iPhone 3GS model.
From the same app developers who brought you the highly acclaimed Chess with Friends and the ever so popular and addictive Words with Friends, comes an entertaining and unique “twist on the classic ‘hangman’ that adds strategy, competition, and social features to gameplay everyone already knows and loves,” according to the app’s official web site. You might be thinking “That’s quite a reputation to live up to!” From one mobile gamer to another, take it from me, Hanging with Friends has stood on the shoulders of the Words and Chess with Friends success and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Though this initial attempt at the game has a few bugs to be worked out, one thing is certain, Zynga knows how to create and develop addictive word gameplay.
For players familiar with the basic concept of hangman, this game is a quick and easy learn. And if you’re coming from the world of Words with Friends, you will instantly recognize much of the same visuals and graphics, including the same yellow-orange, point-numbered tiles. What you will most certainly not recognize are the cartoony characters, avatars really, each hanging from five balloons, a guy or girl depending on the sex of the player. Your avatar is suspended over a pit of boiling hot, molten lava. Like hangman, your goal is to guess the word of your opponent, which he/she has selected from 12 randomly assigned letter tiles. Here, you will have five chances to do so. If you fail to guess the word completely, your avatar will lose one ballon and descend that much closer to his/her fiery doom.
One interesting addition to the game comes in the form of “lifelines.” When guessing your opponent’s word, you have access to three lifelines: the option to remove one of your former strikes, to make an incorrect tile vanish, or to provide a hint at what letters make up the word you are attempting to solve. Be wary though. You are only allowed to use one lifeline per turn. Throughout the course of the game you will be earning coins for scoring correct words, etc. Your coins may come in handy if you wish to reuse a lifeline during a later round. The app’s developers have hinted that there may soon be an option to spend your coins in a “store” with the option to purchase bonus items for the game and to make changes to your avatar’s appearance (clothes, hair, etc.).
One of Hanging with Friends better design features is in the avatar’s animated physical expressions, which change depending on the accuracy of your letter-guessing. If you guess a letter correctly, your avatar will smile. Guess incorrectly, and he or she will start to look upset, annoyed or even frightened as your excessive strikes inch him/her closer to the lava pit waiting below.
In the same multiplayer fashion that rocketed Words and Chess to overnight fame, Hanging with Friends allows players to challenge friends via Facebook and Twitter, as well as search for opponents by their username (if you already have a Words with Friends username, you can keep the same one), and to play against random opponents as well. As always, you may spend days waiting on some opponents to make their move. Fortunately, the Hanging with Friends app is capable of supporting up to 20 simultaneous games.
While some users and critics have complained of the game’s size and use of the iPhone’s screen space, I had no problems with the visuals. This first version release of the app did crash a few times, a problem which Zynga will no doubt update for users as soon as possible. There was an additional bug to be found in the game’s in-app messaging system. On occasion, the game would inform me that I was waiting on my opponent to solve a word when she had actually already solved it. This lag in the app is something Zynga will need to update in the future version’s release.
Just like Words with Friends, Hanging rings in at just $1.99 and is a great way for word game lovers to enjoy realtime gameplay and to interact with friends and opponents in a unique and entertaining way. Unlike Words with Friends, there is no official iPad version available for Hanging with Friends yet, but that will likely change as the game increases in popularity among users. For a couple bucks, this creative and unique spin on hangman just can’t be beat!