Word Wonders Review
Words With Friends was a great idea and all, but all it really did was repackage Scrabble. That's a common occurrence in the App Store, unfortunately, so when a brand new word-centric puzzler hits the market it's easy to assume it will subscribe to the same set of rules all the rest of the word puzzlers do. In the case of Word Wonders: Tower of Babel, convention is turned on its head. The excellent head-scratcher from Dreamfab is a breath of fresh air that weaves together the most addictive elements of RPGs and word games to create an exemplary mixture of tile-flipping goodness and grinding that just feels right.
Your quest begins at the base of a tower that encompasses five levels for a convenient 50 word-flipping challenges in all. Each challenge finds you matched up against a different opponent and a starting board with a new word each time to get the ball rolling. The typical Scrabble rules and basics seem to apply as you must build from the tiles laid out in front of you. There are no normal, simple point bonuses here to contend with -- instead, you've got to be mindful of the symbols and magical imbuements on the tiles themselves for a swift victory.
You've got seven letter tiles on hand with which to whip up words, and each of those are rocking the same symbols: skulls, bolts, etc. These symbols represent potential damage that can be dealt or energy that can be earned. Staying mindful of each tile's placement and maximizing possible combos is the key to victory. You'll need to decide which stats are more important to you, between dealing damage and storing energy for later, which adds a nice, layered strategy to it all. But the roleplaying elements don't stop there.
As you progress through individual challenges and the tower itself, you'll be granted upgrades to health, maximum energy, and the types and potency of the potions you can create using specific alchemic recipes. Potions are integral to victory and can often and swiftly decide the winner of a duel faster than a few sets of words can. Potions will enable you to take on considerably more powerful opponents as well as extend your life force and augment your abilities. You'll nab a few of these concoctions after besting someone in battle or by creating your own combinations using items collected throughout exploration and other battles. The effects of these potions range from gaining additional hit points or dealing more damage. In the stead of potions, which are consumable every round until you've exhausted your supply, you can opt to cast spells that use a bit of the energy accumulated across several turns.
Using spells, potions, and a combination of strategic letter placement, you'll dole out damage in massive waves to your opponent. And though the beginning of the game may seem ridiculously simple, gradually the difficulty will dial up -- so if you're thinking you'll just breeze through with no problem, think again. But that's part of what gives Word Wonders its charm, and what will keep you coming back for more even if you continue to fail. And you will, time and time again, but with such a robust set of options for play, it's hard to keep away.
Aside from the quickfire word bonanza potions, and smattering of other content you can utilize the boost board to upgrade your character in the ways you see fit. You can play boost tiles earned throughout normal play (or purchase them) and augment your abilities or allow custom upgrades. It's an intuitive system that feels rewarding, and it's nearly as exciting to dish out upgrades as it is to best your opponents.
Word Wonders is a fundamentally sound experience with little in the way of frustration or samey mechanics -- initially we did find some freezing in later levels, but it did clear up and everything was smooth sailing from there. It's aesthetically pleasing, quick to start up, and packing value and fun in droves. Put down your games with friends and cut yourself a slice of delicious word pie.