Word puzzle games have long been popular among casual and social gamers. Arkadium, in conjunction with Merriam-Webster, is launching a new one for Facebook called Writer’s Blox. That doesn’t mean it’s a standard issue title, though; the game doesn’t feel anything at all like the trove of word scramble titles currently peppering the space.
Instead, the game is more like a combination of Scrabble and Tetris, and it’s surprisingly challenging and fun, with virtual zero problems.
Players start out with an empty board that is reminiscent of a Scrabble board: it’s a basic grid with randomly placed spaces for word and letter multipliers. In addition, the player is granted a sizeable collection of letter blocks, and tasked with placing them in the grid spaces to form words and score as high as possible. Users can spell a word either from left to right or top to bottom with each letter earning 100 points before multipliers. Any letters that are used for two words are worth 500.
This is where the Scrabble aspects end and the game takes a very different turn. First off, new letters do not have to be placed next to existing ones. Second, there are a slew of Tetris-like blocks that the user must deal with. For example, one block might be an L-shape with three letters, while another might be a box with four. Obviously, this makes the challenge significantly harder, as any letter placed that forms a word not found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary will score zero points for the entire word.
Thankfully, users can undo everything that they’ve done and even save their layouts to come back to later. Additionally, the primary social mechanic is leaderboards and the challenge to score higher than one’s friends, or, if they don’t play, all other global players. What makes this relevant is that only this highest score, for the current puzzle, will be displayed. Even should the player place something poorly, this will not change, and the game has a nice feature to revert the puzzle layout to that of their high score.
Unfortunately for word game advocates, there is only one free puzzle a day (called the “Daily Freebie“), with a new board layout, letters, and shapes coming the following day. In truth, however, it is already extraordinarily hard to use every single block successfully, thus one puzzle is more than enough. Should players want more, they can use Facebook Credits to purchase extra “Big Blox” puzzles.
These are, more or less, the same as the Daily Freebie, except much harder. The reason is that users have larger, and more, block shapes to deal with. It’s certainly a nice addition, and Arkadium is kind enough to give users a freebie of this puzzle challenge right from the get go, before charging for it. Should users like it, they can purchase more for one, seven, or 30 more days. However, like the Daily Freebie, only one can be played per day.
In the complaint department, the only significant issue is that the social mechanics are rather dull. The whole, “beat my high score” concept is not only old, but it’s never felt all that social, unless highly competitive friends are in the mix. Even then, there’s a disconnect that makes the multiplayer feels very impersonal. That said, leaderboards are fine, but it would be nice to have more.
Beyond this, the only other qualm is that the game never actually tells the player how much letters and words are worth. As the game looks like Scrabble, one would expect point values on the letters. One has to consciously hit the “Help” button to see what is worth what. It’s not a big deal though, as the score updates as soon as blocks are placed down.
All in all, Writer’s Blox is a phenomenally challenging and enjoyable puzzle game. Moreover, even though the player only gets one puzzle a day, they can easily spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to arrange the blocks into the maximum potential score. Granted, the social elements are a bit dated, and there are some extremely minor user feedback complaints, but nothing terribly significant. In fact, users don’t’ seem to mind eithe,r as the games monthly active user count has recently begun growing drastically over the last few day, rising from virtually nothing to over 94,000 MAU.