Word Trick is a Facebook-based Scrabble clone from Outplay Entertainment. The game has been showing activity since last October, but user figures have only picked up significantly since March of this year. The game is currently enjoying a spot in the “Trending” section of Facebook’s App Center.
Word Trick is an asynchronous multiplayer crossword game similar to Scrabble, Words with Friends and their numerous imitators. Up to four players take turns placing letter tiles on the board in an attempt to score as many points as possible. Each letter tile has a point value according to how “difficult” it is to incorporate into a word. Special squares scattered across the game board allow players to double or triple either the score value of the letter or whole word laid atop them. Once all the letter tiles have been used — or if there are no remaining available moves — the winner is declared according to whoever has the most points.
Word Trick’s twists on this formula are allowing games with up to four participants — Words With Friends only allows two, though Scrabble’s Facebook incarnation also allows up to four — and its “Word Trick” system. The latter, from which the game takes its title, sees certain letter tiles having a green glow rather than the usual yellow color, and using at least three of these special tiles in a word allows the player to multiply their score by two, three or four times its usual value. This provides players with additional opportunities to score large numbers of points and perhaps even the odds somewhat — one common criticism of Scrabble-like games is that it is very easy for an experienced player with a large vocabulary to utterly dominate a lesser player, making it impossible for them to catch up. The Word Trick system here at least provides players with additional opportunities to gain score bonuses beyond the special spaces on the board.
In terms of social features, Word Trick allows players to compete asynchronously against either their Facebook friends or random opponents. An in-game chat facility allows players to communicate with one another and also keeps a history of moves made and achievements earned. The player has the option of sharing their moves on their opponents’ Timelines — this option is disabled by default, but automatically enabled if their move takes them into the lead. It’s also possible for players to share achievements on their wall.
Speaking of achievements, there are way too many of them. A player’s first few games will be spent being constantly interrupted by popup windows celebrating the fact that they have started a game, accepted a challenge or laid a tile on a Double/Triple Word/Letter space for the first time. Once these have been earned, later achievements are a little more challenging, but in the early stages of play they are very obtrusive — particularly as they are “rewarding” players for doing things that are a natural part of the game rather than doing anything particularly noteworthy.
This pattern continues with a few aspects of the game’s interface — the game regularly nags players to Like the official App Page, and a distracting “Click Here” arrow pointing to the “Start New Game” button keeps reappearing even if the player is already in the middle of another match. These are small issues, but sometimes annoyances like this can be enough to put a player off returning.
The game is free to play and does not feature any currency-based monetization, though the game canvas is surrounded by advertising. There is also an iOS version of the game available in both free ad-supported and $1.99 ad-free variants — this version is cross-compatible with the Facebook edition.
Word Trick is a decent game that is well-presented, with smooth, crisp visuals and minimalist, unobtrusive sound. Its gameplay, while very similar to Words With Friends, offers enough small differences to make it a distinctive experience, and the additional opportunities for scoring presented by the Word Trick system provide the potential to make it a more balanced experience. The ability to play with up to three friends is also good for social play and viral promotion. The only questionable element of the game is whether its relative lack of monetization will hurt its profitability in the long run, but the game seems to be enjoying relatively good growth for now, so the combined income from advertising and the paid iOS version must be paying off for the moment.
A decent, if relatively unoriginal take on asynchronous crossword games.