Review: Wordsler


I'm a puzzle man, and I know what I like. Games with lots of swirling graphics, overflowing with coloured blobs, information to take in, decisions to be made and hidden consequences to any action made. Wordsler is none of that. It's just a deck of cards and some letters. Can it make me happy? It appears the answer is yse (and the pun is intended).

Author: Slocan

Version Reviewed: 1.00(0)

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Wordsler is an interesting mix of anagrams and a patience card game. All you need to do is make words from letters, but it's how those letters are given to you, and the choices you can make, that result in an interesting game mechanic that lifts this above a simple anagram challenge with a twist,

First up, the letters. They're printed (I know it's digital, but you see where I'm going) on 58 cards - although there are a handful that have letter combinations such as "er" and "qu" to make it more complicated and easier in the same breath. Eight cards are dealt out and you can use each card once to make as long a word as possible.

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Once you make a word, those cards are removed, and replacement cards are dealth. Each card has a points value (like Scrabble tiles, but with different values) and you also get bonus points for the length of the words you create. Which is where the tactics and forward thinking comes in to play. Since you're going to get through the majority of the cards in a game, the points score for the cards is going to be broadly the same.

The variation, the ability to challenge and beat the high score, is going to come from the length of the words. That means you need to think smart about which letters you use, because these are the ones which are going to be replaced on the next deal - if you're going for six, seven, or eight card words, you'll need to keep a hold of popular "parts" of words - Steve probably knows the technical names (Verbs? - Ed) , but holding on to "i n g" is a smart idea if you can't get a seven letter with the other five cards.

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Like a puzzle game where you unlock a mental technique to progressing through the game, Wordsler becomes much more fun once you spot that it's more than eight random letters and you can influence the game. My gaming brain is tuned into graphical thinking, and not literal thinking, so it took me a few games before I spelt "eureka". This time gap between starting to play and having the penny drop is a small concern for Wordsler - without instant appreciation people might move on to the next game.

I wonder if some more time on the graphics would help? While the basic look of letters on playing cards is easy, some stylish calligraphy, polished backgrounds and thinking about the actionable elements in the user interface may help people to play the game a bit longer, and give them more chance to make the cognitive leap toward the strategy that gives Wordsler its longevity.

The core implementation of the game is good. The bits around it, the polish, need a little bit of work, but I suspect that it would be time well spent by Slocan. The longer people play, the more they like the game, they like the developers, and can build up a relationship with them, and are happy to explore their other titles.

-- Ewan Spence, Aug 2011.

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