When it comes to word games, iOS has plenty to choose from. Zynga’s popular trio of “With Friends” games (Words, Hanging, Scramble) come to mind, as well as Hasbro’s classics (Scrabble, Boggle). Now, there’s a new challenger for the top word game spot: Zach Gage’s SpellTower.
SpellTower has received a lot of great press since its release in early 2012. The New York Times Magazine, IGN, Kotaku, and NPR Marketplace have all raved about the game, and it’s currently one of the top 50 paid apps available on the iPhone and the iPad. Let’s see what all the buzz is about and take a good look at this furiously addictive word game.
SpellTower’s home screen shows you the four different game modes on different colored ribbons. Swipe left to reach multiplayer mode (local only), and swipe right to reach the Options screen. The ribbon at the very top links you to its Game Center leaderboards. With over 90,000 ranked players, you’ll have your work cut out for you if you want to make it to the top.
Gameplay is ridiculously simple; just touch and swipe (or tap in sequence) across letters to form words at least three letters long. But like any good word game, strategy is key. SpellTower combines the word-finding fun of Boggle with the strategy and block-clearing satisfaction of Tetris or Collapse. Let’s delve into each of the puzzle modes in more detail.
SpellTower’s tutorial is the first “mode” of gameplay, and it gives you a quick look at how to play the game. Words must be at least three letters long, and longer words will net you more points. Words can be spelled backwards, forwards or diagonally, and some letters have word length limits or extra point values. As you clear words, they disappear from the board and a new row of letters appears. All puzzle modes include black blocks, which can only be cleared by forming words around them. The tutorial takes less than a minute to complete, and you can revisit it at any time from the Home screen.
Tower Mode is a full grid of letters and blocks. The objective here is to create words until you clear the entire grid (or come close). Once you’ve cleared as many blocks as you can, tap the Done icon at the bottom right to tweet your best word, see a full list of words you’ve created, reset the board with new letters, or quit and go back to the Home screen.
Puzzle mode starts out with five rows of letters. As you create words, letters are cleared from the board and a new row of letters will form from the bottom of the screen. If any of your columns reach the top of the screen, the game ends. You can also add new rows manually by tapping the Add Row icon at the bottom right of the screen.
Ex Puzzle Mode
Once you have accumulated 2,000 points in Puzzle mode, Ex Puzzle mode is unlocked. Like Puzzle mode, you’re started off with five rows of letters and a few black blocks. However, several letters have length limits, so you need to form six letter words or longer in order to proceed.
Rush Mode adds a bit more complexity to the regular Tower mode. You start with a wider grid of five letters. As you create words, The background changes color vertically until it reaches the top of the screen. Once it reaches the top, a new row of letters is added. The rows advance every fifteen seconds, so you’ll have to move quickly!
Debate mode for SpellTower is where two players can go head-to-head over a local Bluetooth connection. The Multiplayer mode is set up like Rush mode. As you create words and clear your board, letters are dropped onto your opponent’s board.
Given that the app is fairly new, there aren’t a lot of options available. You can change the color mode of the letters to “Night Colors,” which reverses the colors on all tiles. You can also change the volume level of the game (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%, or mute), although you could also just turn down the volume on your iPad instead.
The biggest drawback about SpellTower is that there is no online multiplayer mode. When you first download the game and you start getting the hang of the strategy, you actually don’t even notice this. SpellTower is Game Center enabled, so you can track your progress with your friends and see your ranking on the nine leaderboards provided. The app is updated on a regular basis based on user feedback, so it’s possible that we may see online multiplayer coming in the near future.
Looking for a word game that goes beyond a simple Scrabble/Boggle/Jumble clone? If so, then SpellTower is for you. The lack of options and an online multiplayer might be a deterrent, but that doesn’t detract from the fun or the challenge of the game. Hopefully, future updates will add more puzzle modes and features.
SpellTower is $0.99 (regularly $1.99) in the iOS App Store and requires iOS v4.2 or higher to run. Download the app from the App Store link below or by using the App Store button provided.
Maurice Cherry is a web entrepreneur, freelance technology journalist, and technology consultant for non-profit organizations and politicians. He is best known as the creator of the Black Weblog Awards, the world’s premier event for showcasing bloggers, podcasters, and video bloggers of the African diaspora. Maurice is also Creative Principal at 3eighteen media and an adjunct professor with DeVry University. Maurice is an honors graduate of Morehouse College, and currently lives in Atlanta, GA.