I’ve always liked word games, like Scrabble, crosswords and, more recently, word apps. There are loads out there to choose from, and so really it comes down to what preferences you have. Do you like your games to be cryptic or straightforward? Timed or not? Challenging or easy?
I came across the Lettercraft app in the App Store, and it seemed to be right up my alley – a simple, timed game that would test my vocabulary knowledge, while becoming increasingly difficult as I moved my way up.
With a flight to take in my near future, I was trying to find some apps to keep me occupied on my travels. Lettercraft made the cut, and so I downloaded it not long before I boarded the plane.
I went to see how long it would keep my interest.
How it works
Get ready to put your device into portrait mode, as that’s the only orientation used by this app. Once you get to the main menu, you’ll see three playing options: “Play,” “Survival” and “Multiplayer.” If you choose “Play,” you’ll be embarking on a series of timed games where within a certain set of rules, you have to create as many words as you can before the timer runs out.
It gets even more tricky as you furiously try to think of valid words, in that certain letters will begin to change color, meaning that you had better incorporate them in a word soon before they turn red. The minute they’re red, you have seconds to use them before they disappear, reducing the number of viable active letters you have left.
You start off with a grid of 25 letters, and you tap on each one in sequence to spell out a word, which you’ll see appearing above the grid. If you hit the wrong letter, tap on it again to delete it, but of course you’ll be losing precious seconds at the same time.
When you’ve created your word, swipe across your screen from left to right. If it’s a valid word, it will go green, and the letters you used will be replaced by new ones in the grid. If, however, you get a red bar with “MEH,” “NOPE,” or “WHOOPS” in it, that means you’ve created nonsense, and you have to try again. Not only will you have lost time, but if you used a red letter in a panic to spell a made up word, it will immediately disappear, giving you no chance to save it.
The early levels start off pretty easily, setting a low bar of minimum points to earn one, two or three stars. It also only asks for words that are at least three letters long, or include a popular letter like “E.” At the end of each level, the app gives you a point total, and the number of stars you attained. It then takes you on to the next challenge.
By the time you’re up around Level 20, it’ll be looking for minimum 5-letter words, or for you to use the very awkward letter “J” in everything you create. You get a reprieve sometimes, with the odd level allowing any word to be valid, but then you’re on to 6-letter behemoths or, I dunno, only words featuring double “Z”s? I haven’t yet got into that particular stratosphere.
If you tire of the timed game, you can always try “Survival” mode, where you can take as long as you want, but will only survive for as long as you have a viable number of letters on the grid. That means you have to try and keep red letters at bay as much as possible.
“Multiplayer” allows you to play against other players, but before you do, you might want to really familiarize yourself with the app and get your speed up, otherwise you might be in for a nasty shock.
The bottom right hand corner of your screen has a switch icon, which when tapped, takes you to the game’s options. These are few and largely uninteresting; basically toggles for volume and difficulty. The remaining icons along the bottom pertain to multiplayer invitations, other related apps by the same developer, stats and leaderboards.
When I played it
Well I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a wordsmith, but all of my confidence flew out the window once that timed game began. Long, multi-syllabic beauties were all but gone, and I found myself flailing at the letters, coming up with such impressive creations as “CAT,” “THE, “PLAN,” and “HET.” As if those weren’t bad enough, the app was having none of my “PINH,” “GLAST,” and “MUNT” attempts, garnering me “MEH”s and “NOPE”s all over the place.
I would just randomly tap at the first three letters that caught my eye, and hope that I’d find a way to complete them as a valid word. Sometimes I’d get lucky, and rubbish that I’d put together just happened to be a word that actually existed in the English language, but more often than not, when I made a stab in the dark, I’d end up with nada.
It just took some getting used to, and my skills improved exponentially after the first two levels. It’s all about keeping the panic at bay.
This is a well constructed, simple but challenging app. If you enjoy word puzzles and games, and want to see how your vocabulary survives under pressure, then Lettercraft is a great app to choose.
Inexpensive. Simple to learn. Good way to keep your word skills sharp.
You may flounder under timer pressure.
- Cost: First five levels free, then $0.99
- Seller: Marco Torretta
- Devices: iPad, iPod a Touch, iPhone
- Rating: E for Everyone