I’m sort of coming to the conclusion that the iPhone is where some of the most interesting games are being developed.
“Interesting” has a few meanings in this context. First off, the various hardware features of the platform (multitouch, the directional sensor, and so on) have led to certain game interactions that you just don’t see on other platforms. Second, the ubiquitous networking makes multiplayer games, especially turn-based strategy games like Uniwar a pleasure to play, instead of a chore. Thirdly, the massive competition in iPhone games has led to a price war, leading to a market where consumers can buy scores of games, many of them excellent, for a few dollars. Or sometimes less.
Bee Spelled is in the third category. It’s at heart an iPhone translation of many of the mechanics from Popcap’s awesome game Bookworm Adventures. If Popcap had published BWA on the iPhone, I’d have bought it. But they didn’t. So I bought this instead.
(Popcap did publish a version of their original Bookworm, but the mechanics are completely diffferent. In Bookworm, you can only spell words from letters that adjoin. In Bookworm Adventures, and in Bee Spelled, you can use any letters that are visible in the current matrix. I actually can’t stand the traditional Bookworm mechanic, because I feel like I get stuck in a rut too easily in that game.)A game of Bee Spelled lasts 10 rounds against progressively stronger enemies (our hero bee is beset by cats and robots, for some reason). Spell a word, and you hit your enemy; if they can, they hit back. Longer words do more damage. Spelling longer words also gives you access to bonus tiles, which can burn or freeze the enemy, or heal your bee.
The game has a lot to recommend it. First, each round is comparatively short, so you can dispose of a game in about 10 minutes or less. Second, the dictionary they’re using for the words is fantastic. One of my perennial complaints about Bookworm Adventures is that it seems to know way fewer words than I do. The difficult level (chosen when you start a game) seems to affect the mix of letters that you get, although that could just be a coincidence: I felt like I got a lot more J’s and X’s when I played on Hard.
The game is not a complete replacement for BWA. There’s no overarching story, and no bonus items beyond the colored tiles you can earn.
My biggest criticism of the game is that parts of the interface look a little drab. The animated figures of your bee and its antagonists serve perfectly well, but the tile grid wants a bit more life — there’s a gradient and an edge highlight on the tiles, but it doesn’t really make them pop. The tiles feel, if you’ll pardon the pun, a bit flat. But for a game like this, if the biggest criticism I can come up with is “the tiles aren’t pretty enough”, that’s hardly a criticism at all.
Disclosure statement: Since I say nice things about the iPhone and iPhone games here, I will note that I hold long positions in AAPL. Screen shot provided by the developer.