Although it’s not up there in the hysteria stakes with Angry Birds, Words with Friends is, I have to confess, kind of addictive. This social word game has been a winner since it was introduced in 2009. Now after undergoing a serious overhaul, it’s much improved and better than ever. With its interface now much easier to navigate, the added new features makes for simplification and fun. Most prominent among these features is a single-player mode called Solo Play, which allows players to play without an Internet connection, so players can practice their word skills while they’re on an hours-long flight or waiting for friends.
New Words With Friends is essentially an Android and iPhone alternative to the classic board game Scrabble. You can choose to play against a friend from your contact list, find a friend by username, play a random opponent, or pass-and-play with a friend on a single device.
Now, in case you don’t know, as with the classic board game, Scrabble, you are given seven lettered tiles out of which you must create words–vertically or horizontally–on the board. Your goal—more like obsession—with the assistance of the cavalry-like aid of a number of scattered bonus squares, is to score more points than your opponent before the tiles run out. The great thing is that you can play completely calmly at your own speed, and to help players become even better at their game, you can even choose to play several games simultaneously, either with friends or against random opponents from around the world. Additionally, there’s a fantastic built-in chat function that allows you to banter, trade and bait. The app will even notify you when it’s your turn, although of course, you can use the option and disable it.
There are other, similar games available. Not much difference between any of them, really. It’s really a matter of popularity in that Words With Friends has more users and therefore more choices of playmates. What would really make a difference to me (and pisses me off to the point of irritation) is that I can’t carry my jumbo Webster’s with me wherever I go. Zynga have included a new in-app dictionary powered by Dictionary.com, which allows players to check the definition and pronunciation of 170,000 words, but, quite frankly, it’s just not good enough. New Words With Friends really could use a more thorough built-in dictionary and perhaps a two-letter word reminder list. Sure some maggot-brained Scrabble ‘purists’ like to snigger and put their noses up in the air, but, really, it’s a game! And, really, for all the folks out their bemoaning each successive generation’s shrinking vocabulary, perhaps something just flew over your head. New Words With Friends is still a worthwhile freebie.
Both the Facebook and mobile apps are wonderfully presented. The Facebook app comes with a custom sidebar that shows a history of your active and completed games. Additionally a top menu allows you to create a username, mute the sound, find help, or post a challenge to your rivals. Other options take you to visit the store, use the chat-room, and various controls let you shuffle tiles in your hand, or confirm the word you are considering playing. The mobile app carries the same features but optimizes the layout for the vertical screen.
According to the blurb on Google’s Play Store, at least 7.5 billion minutes are played on the app every month and, since day one, more than 58 billion words have been played. Pretty amazing, actually. Users can download New Words with Friends for iOS and Android for free, and Android users can sign in using their Google+ or Facebook accounts.