*Note: the following review comes from the writer’s personal experience as a proud owner and avid user of Zynga’s multi-player Words 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 Words with Friends application on the Apple iPhone 3GS model.
Since its founding in 2008 by tech-guru and brother duo Paul and David Bettner, the Dallas, Texas-based Newtoy company (later acquired by Zynga in 2010) has strived to bring high quality entertainment to the most popular mobile device operating system platforms on the market. For users running Apple’s iOS or the Android OS, there is a fun, interactive and dangerously addictive word game taking the mobile device gaming world by storm. It’s called Words with Friends, and it’s just one of three in Zynga’s popular “Games with Friends” series. The more recent Hanging with Friends (a unique spin on Hangman) and Chess with Friends (the first to debut in the series) have picked up steam as well, with the company citing “millions of online users” competing against each other in Words with Friends and Chess with Friends every day.
Granted, Words with Friends isn’t the only multiplayer, interactive game out there on the iPhone or Android OS market, but it is certainly one of the most classically addictive and unique. Once installed on your mobile device, you will need to set up a user name before you begin challenging fellow Words with Friends users to games. Beginners familiar with Hasbro’s popular Scrabble game will have a leg-up on the competition when adjusting to Words with Friends, although there are plenty of differences between the two games.
A typical Words with Friends board is littered with specific spots for double and triple-word points, as well as tiles for double and triple-letter points. For the first move of a game, the starting player must play his/her first word on the star tile located at the center of a blank board. From here, similar to Scrabble, opponents must build from the first word played. New features in the latest update to the app will warn you if the word you attempt to play is not an actual word.
The game also features the option to “pass,” or skip your turn, which comes in handy when you have no where to lay down a letter. To the right of the “pass” icon is the “shuffle” option. Tapping this icon will shuffle your letter tiles into a random, differing order. Next in the row is the “swap” feature, which allows players to trade one or all of their tiles for different letters. Finally, to the far right, is a “resign” icon, represented by a small flag. Tapping this will automatically end the game at the current score.
As with most multiplayer games on mobile devices, you will either need a wi-fi, 3G, 4G or Edge connection to play. To start a new game, simply tap the green plus mark icon (+) in the top righthand corner of the app. You will be greeted by five options for creating a game. From here, you can choose to challenge a Facebook (or Twitter) friend, a random opponent (the app will search for an available opponent for you), search for an opponent by user name, or to challenge someone from your device’s contact list. The final option is titled “Pass and Play.” This will allow you to hand one of your games off to a friend for local play.
One of the great things about Words with Friends is that it lets you have, well, words with friends. There’s a handy chat feature built right into the app, designated by a small chat bubble icon in the top right hand corner (while viewing a game). Tapping this icon will flip the board over and allow users to converse about everything from the weather to how bad their letter tiles suck. Visually, the Words with Friends chat feature is the mirror image of your iPhone’s standard SMS texting app. Talk about feeling right at home!
One of the downsides to this type of game is its gameplay length. For players who are accustomed to lightning fast mobile gameplay, this may not be the app for you. Because it is a game driven by players taking turns, you may wind up waiting anywhere from an hour to a week for your opponent to make a move. For this reason, the majority of Words with Friends users play multiple games simultaneously. The ability to support several games at once is just one more reason this app is so popular.
It can be difficult, on occasion, to place your tile exactly where you want it to go. I attribute this to the fact that the camera will zoom in once you move a tile to a desired location. Though not often, your tile may wind up one space over from where you intended it to land. No worries though. You can fiddle around with your tiles and build your word for as long as you wish before tapping the “play” icon. Once you select “play,” you will be asked to confirm your move with a “submit” or “cancel” option. Your word’s points are tallied up based on the individual point value of each letter tile (these points are designated on the tiles themselves) as well as on any double or triple word or letter tiles on which you may have landed. Your word and its total point value will be displayed at the top of the screen along with your username. It will read something like this: “jdgivens played MAG for 8 points.”
Words with Friends is available in your iPhone’s App Store for an amazing price of $1.99 (the same price for Hanging with Friends & Chess with Friends). There is also a free version, but I recommend coughing up the two dollars to avoid the hassle, annoyance and clutter of in-app advertisements. The game is well worth the price, the user interface is simple and visually and graphically appealing. Once you’ve amassed a decent amount of opponents, you’ll be challenging them to rematches at the end of every game before you know. Words with Friends is perfect for keeping your mind sharp and active, passing time on long road or plane trips and especially for interacting regularly with friends and fellow Words with Friends players. Download and install it today and start having some words with your friends!