Review: Equal Words


Word games are a bit of a guilty, time-wasting pleasure for most of us - they certainly keep the old grey matter chugging away and while away tiresome waits when needed. And Equal Words is beautifully constructed and pitched, almost the perfect mobile game, with just the clumsy cross-platform port that lets it down.

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The idea behind Equal Words is that a batch of words/names with the same number of letter (hence 'Equal') are scrambled vertically, so that any first letter can go with any second letter, and so on. You have clues as to what each word is supposed to be and the grid is dragged down column by column to solve words in turn.

As you'd expect, there are hints available if you get stuck (revealing letters) and when you've run out of hints you can get an infinite amount more for a £2.29 in app purchase. Which seems very reasonable, given that it's - by definition - a one time thing. The other in app purchases are to get more puzzle packs, at £0.79p each - again very reasonable and it will take you a few weeks of playing to need more puzzles in the first place. 

In other words, perfectly conceived and perfectly pitched in terms of freemium mechanics. This is how mobile games should behave in terms of giving (gameplay) and taking (money).

Now to the implementation, which (as I say) is by no means pixel perfect on Windows 10 Mobile and Windows Phone 8.1:

Screenshot, Equal WordsScreenshot, Equal Words

You'll spot the overlap of virtual controls and the playing field immediately, but it's not a huge issue because the controls get swiped away on your very first gesture. Swipe the letters you want down and then 'Check Answer' and so on, filling in the answers above. All very clear and addictive.

Screenshot, Equal WordsScreenshot, Equal Words

Some of the free level packs and (right) the premium packs, though 79p each is hardly breaking the bank!

Screenshot, Equal WordsScreenshot, Equal Words

Asking for a hint, here going for just three letters - got to keep up some challenge! You get 25 hints for free, which should keep you going for a while... (right) Aha - solved it! The remaining letters at the bottom are wildcard random letters, thrown in to confuse you on the harder levels...

Screenshot, Equal WordsScreenshot, Equal Words

There are 24 puzzles per level pack and you can play them in any order - your main challenge in all this is not a timer or other people, but yourself, it's (literally) a brain teaser! (right) in addition to the regular and premium puzzle packs, there are weekend puzzles released each week for free - perhaps make solving these part of your weekend morning routine?

Screenshot, Equal WordsScreenshot, Equal Words

A solitary help screen gets the game machanic over well enough, though I do think some expansion here is needed in terms of hints; (right) Equal Words keep a record of the most recent puzzle packs played, so that you can get back to them quickly.

In terms of implemention, porting this across from iOS has meant that a) the whole phone screen isn't used, and b) more seriously, the swipe down nature of the game mechanic for letters gets instantly recognised by Windows 10 Mobile as the gesture to dismiss virtual controls, so these are gone immediately for each puzzle and then you have to bring them back manually as needed.

So, Equal Words is demonstrably imperfectly implemented here for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile, but still a cracking game that I had a lot of fun with. No time pressures, no involved accounts or sign-ups, just casual word puzzling at its best.

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