Whether you're a hardcore iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad gamer or just need something to kill time or secretly make meetings less deathly dull, word games are not only addictive but available by the truck load in the App Store. Letterpress, Words With Friends, and Scrabble are all equally addictive and, frankly, no-brainer buys. But even if they're cheap or free, no one has unlimited time so the question becomes, which iOS word game is the best?
Letterpress vs. Words With Friends vs. Scrabble: Gameplay
Letterpress by Atebits is a completely new twist on word games and reminds me of the popular iOS game, Welder. When you launch Letterpress for the first time, you're given a description of how to play. From there you can start a game with any of your friends on Game Center. After you start a game you're presented with a brightly colored five by five grid of letters. The object of the game is to create words out of the letters you're given. Each word must be at least two letters long and the same word can't be played twice. You also can't play a prefix of a previously played word (so you can't play MARBLE if someone has already played MARBLES). Once you create a word you can submit it, the tiles on the board will turn blue. Your opponent's tiles will show up red. (Assuming you're using the default theme.)
The game ends when all tiles on the board are colored. Then, whomever has the highest score wins. To gain an edge over your opponent you aim to surround a letter with your color. That will lock the surrounded tile to your color (visually it looks darker or more intense). Your opponent can still use that tile to make words, but gets not points for it.
Even though the game is ridiculously simple, it's extremely addictive and can vary greatly in challenge depending on the skill of your opponent. The real key it to try and lock in as many tiles as you can or your competitor will just steal them right out from underneath you.
An in-app purchase lets you unlock themes and have multiple games going on at once.
Words With Friends, purchased by Zynga, is socially aware version of Scrabble. Once you start a game your letters are available along the bottom of the screen, as well as a few options and the current score. The object is to use all your tiles before your opponent, and get the highest score for words you play.
Along the board are colored areas labeled with letter codes such as DL, DW, TW, TL, etc... These are areas that award double or triple points. If none of your current tiles allow you to play, you can swap them out but it'll use one of your turns to do so. Using all your tiles in one play also earns you additional points.
Zynga being Zynga, Words With Friends also has a few add-ons you can purchase to enhance game play such as Tile Pile which will tell you what tiles are remaining in the game. The Word-O-Meter will also give you the ability to see how strong your word is before you play it. You can choose to buy them as you need them or purchase infinite use of them for a one time fee of $14.99.
A game of Words With Friends ends when you or your opponent completely runs out of tiles. And just as in traditional board games, you'll be docked for any tiles you have remaining at the end of the game.
Scrabble by Hasbro is exactly what you'd expect from a digital version of the popular Scrabble board game. Even though Words with Friends was made to be very much like Scrabble, there are a few key differences in the original. The main one is that you have the option to play with 3-4 opponents instead of just one in Words With Friends (or Letterpress).
As far as game play goes, you get the exact same letter coded board you see in a traditional game of Scrabble as well as what you see in Words With Friends. You want to go after the coded tiles to maximize your score wherever possible. And as expected, the game will end when a player runs out of tiles.
Unlike Words with Friends, which charges extra for it, Scrabble shows you to the bottom right of the word exactly how many points you'll get for playing that word. Of course you can always do the math inside your head but most likely, you'd rather just know than sit their guessing or figuring out how many points a word will score you.
When it comes down to game play, which game you prefer is going to be a personal preference. Words With Friends and Scrabble are very much alike (again, Words with Friends was made to be like Scrabble). Words With Friends, however, is more fluid, is arguably a better designed app, and seems to attract more players.
While Scrabble is the original, I did have trouble finding friends that were using the Scrabble app which meant I ended up playing against random opponents more often than not.
Letterpress is a completely different kind of word game. If you're tired of Scrabble or Words with Friends and want a fresh take on the word game genre, Letterpress is it.
Letterpress vs. Words With Friends vs. Scrabble: Multiplayer support
Letterpress has built-in Game Center support which lets you match up with any Game Center friends or helps find you a random opponent. As of now, Game Center is the only way to match up with people or find friends. There's no Twitter or Facebook support. Since most people probably don't have a lot of friends using Game Center, you'll either have to bug them to join, or settle for getting matched up with random people.
Words With Friends has both Twitter and Facebook integration which makes it easy to find friends to play against. From within the app you can easily view which friends on your social networks are already playing Words With Friends. If you're in the mood to play a quick game or can't find anyone to play with, you can also choose to match a random opponent off of Words With Friends' own servers.
Scrabble tries to push its own native game play service, Origin, which is anything but user friendly and can actually be downright annoying. The up side is that Scrabble also has support for Facebook, single player against the computer, and random opponents. Even so, I've found it extremely hard to find actual friends playing the game where tons of my friends are playing Words With Friends. I'm not sure if this is just contributed to good marketing on Zynga's part or if people just prefer Words With Friends. Either way, if you're looking to play more than a one on one game, Scrabble is your only option. So again, if you're okay with playing against random opponents, you won't be affected but if you prefer playing against people you actually know, Words With Friends is a better choice.
Words With Friends supports multiple platforms across both iOS, Android, and computer as well as integration with both Facebook and Twitter which makes the odds of you finding a friend to challenge quickly much more likely.
Letterpress vs. Words With Friends vs. Scrabble: Pricing
Letterpress is available now in the App Store for free and is a universal download for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch The only limitation on the free version is that you can only play two games at once. A $0.99 in-app purchase removes the two game limit, adds themes, and gives you access to previously played word lists. At $0.99 you really can't beat it.
Words With Friends offers a free version of their iPhone app, but unless you want to be inundated with annoying popup ads, you'll probably want to purchase the $2.99 version. If you'd like it for the iPad, you'll need to shell out an additional $2.99 for Words With Friends HD. Both the free and the paid version have the same default feature set but the paid version makes the ads go away.
There are additional add-ons that you can buy as in-app purchases such as the Word-O-Meter and Tile Pile. You can purchase each at $2.99 which will give you 99 Word-O-Meter uses or 10 Tile Pile uses. The Ultimate Play Pack will get you unlimited use of these features plus Word Count for $14.99 which seems quite steep in my opinion.
Scrabble has a free, ad-supported version as well as a paid version for iPhone and iPod touch for $1.99. If you'd like to add the iPad counterpart you'll have to fork over an addition $9.99 which is far more than the Words With Friends iPad counterpart. Aside from that, there aren't really any other additional expenses to incur. So depending on which features you want to be able to use, Scrabble may be a cheaper option in the long run.
When it comes to price, Letterpress has the best offering across iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. At $0.99 to unlock every feature the game offers, there's no contest.
Letterpress vs Words With Friends vs. Scrabble: The bottom line
Letterpress, Words With Friends, and Scrabble are all great for killing time and can be incredibly addictive. While Words With Friends and Scrabble are very much the same game with different interfaces and price points, Letterpress is very different. Not only is the concept different but the actual game play experience is completely different.
Words With Friends has the largest network of any of its competitors and considering you don't really need all of the extras in order to play, it isn't a bad deal. Unless you're friends are Game Center geeks, this is where they'll likely be.
Scrabble just doesn't have the network or fluid experience that Words With Friends does which makes it hard to recommend over its competitor. Unless you absolutely want to play against up to 4 people at once, you're better off playing something else.
Letterpress is a refreshing take on word games. While options beyond Game Center would be nice, the quick pace makes it the best time killer of the bunch.
If you're into classics, go with Words with Friends and also try out Letterpress. If you want something new, just go with Letterpress.