You Should Play: W.E.L.D.E.R.
[These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.]
So, you do the crossword puzzle every morning. You?ve got your Word of the Day screensaver. You think you?re pretty good with words. Let?s see what you come up with when you?re behind the controls of an industrial word-making machine.
Ayopa Games?s W.E.L.D.E.R. is kind of a cross between Boggle and Tetris. Presented with a grid of lettered tiles and a finite number of ?swaps? (the ability to exchange the places of two adjacent tiles), you have to form words of at least four letters. When you create a word, it flashes and its tiles are removed from the grid, causing more tiles to slide into place and rewarding you with sweet, sweet points. Form a certain number of words, and you?ll finish the level?your reward for which is a new level, with a more daunting grid, a higher required number of words, and fewer swaps to start with.
That might provide an hour of entertainment or so, but W.E.L.D.E.R. has plenty of other tricks up its sleeve: power-ups, tiles that can?t easily be swapped or prevent other tiles from appearing, special swaps that can be used to switch non-adjacent letters, and more. Along the way, you can rack up Gigawatts, currency which can be used to purchase power-ups that help get you out of jams. (You can, of course, buy more via in-app purchase, but the game certainly doesn?t require you to.)
Even if you do think you?re pretty handy with words, W.E.L.D.E.R. can be surprisingly challenging, especially when you?re made to think in terms of the limited number of swaps at your disposal. Sure, big words might really rake in the points, but if it takes you ten swaps to make one, is that worth it?
Ease in: With all these various options and powers, it might seem like W.E.L.D.E.R. is a tough game to learn. But the game takes the smart approach of gradually introducing new concepts along with new levels, building on what?s come before. In the early levels, you?ll have relatively few options, and each time the game brings in a new option, it?ll give you a little tutorial about how it works.
Challenge a friend: Once you?ve more or less mastered the single-player, you might be ready for a bigger challenge. W.E.L.D.E.R. lets you take on another player online via Game Center, in an asynchronous mode that sees you and your opponent competing to form words on the same grid. (And, naturally, trying to make it as hard as possible for the other person.)
Take it with you: W.E.L.D.E.R. works on both iPhone and iPad, and once you start down its dark path, you?ll likely want to keep playing wherever you go. Fortunately, you can save your game to iCloud and pick it up where you left off on your other device.
Learning is fundamental: Play the game long enough and you?ll start noticing something: You?re probably creating words by accident?words that you, even with your doubtlessly enormous vocabulary, may never have heard of. Good news: You soon will! Tap on any entry in the crawl of created words at the bottom of the board, and W.E.L.D.E.R. uses iOS?s built-in dictionary to give you a full definition.
Gorgeous: The developers took the industrial/steampunk theme and ran with it, yet it never seems to get in the way of the gameplay itself. Every button and dial looks and behaves realistically, and the satisfying ka-chunk sound of new tiles sliding into places feels just right. Even the background noise of an idling engine is so spot-on that I kept occasionally glancing out the window of my office, sure that there must be a truck parked outside.
Developer: Ayopa Games
Platforms: iOS (Universal)