Let me save you some time: If you like Texas Hold ‘Em poker and you like Scrabble, just go download Word Ace [App Store Link]. There. You don’t even have to bother reading the rest of this review.
For everyone else, Word Ace is probably worth a download anyway. Why? It’s free. You can play it online with your friends or strangers. And most importantly–it’s amazingly fun.
Self Aware Games, developer of Taxiball [App Store Link], recently contacted me with a promo code for Word Ace Pro [App Store Link], the $0.99 version of the free Word Ace. Up until that point I was completely unaware that Word Ace even existed (sorry–browsing the middle of the “Top Free Card Games” list on the App Store somehow escaped my to-do list). So I checked out the game’s App Store page and read the reviews, it seemed worthwhile so I downloaded it and gave it a try. I played. It was fun. I played some more. I realized almost an hour had passed. Then I asked myself, why is this free? This game is more fun than games I’ve spent $3+ on, and…it’s free!
I emailed the lead developer asking what the story is with the free vs paid version, and he simply said that the paid version is there for fans of the game to be able to show their support by paying for it. That’s it. Pro players can also purchase additional chips for real money, but that’s not necessary since even regular Word Ace players get 1,000 free chips every day just for opening the Game and pressing a button–again, it’s all for fans to show their support for the developers.
If you’re scratching your head wondering why I really haven’t been going into excruciating detail about Word Ace yet, that’s because I’ve told you everything there is to know about it already in the title of this review–it is quite literally Texas Hold ‘Em poker combined with Scrabble. Instead of the cards being a standard deck of playing cards, they are cards with one letter on each along with a point value. You simply bet in rounds (you can fold, check, raise, etc–all the standard poker stuff) and hope that your constructed word is #1) an actual word and #2) has a total point value greater than or equal to the words of the other players on your table.
It really is that simple, and it’s insanely addictive. You get bonus points for making longer words, and some letters have negative point values because they’re more useful–and that’s where some strategy comes in: if using a letter costs you 2 points but lets you make a word that’s 6 or 7 letters long, the +5 or +20 point bonus greatly outweighs the cost.
But seriously–it’s Texas Hold ‘Em meets Scrabble. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Still not convinced? It’s F-R-E-E and you can play online right now with your friends or with other players. Give it a try–unless you have a vocabulary of around 4 words and/or absolutely hate the play style of Texas Hold ‘Em, you’ll probably fall in love with this gem of a game.
Are there any downsides? It depends on your perspective. By design, there is no ‘valid word checker’ feature, so you may end up thinking your word is correct when it turns out that it’s not (this happened to me upon first playing). The game uses the standard Tournament Word List dictionary that Scrabble uses, which essentially means no proper nouns and no foreign words and includes a whole bunch of words you probably never even knew existed. The game currently doesn’t make this clear (and is a source of the vast majority of negative reviews about Word Ace on the App Store), however in the next update there will be a much more thorough explanation of where the words come from.
If you ran away from the rest of your family or friends once the Scrabble game came out of the closet when you were a kid, you probably won’t love Word Ace but should give it a try anyway since again, it’s completely free and really fun. The Tournament Word List has some rather odd words that could lead to some frustration when someone beats your surefire winning hand with a word that sounds like it came from outer space (here’s looking at you ZINGANI), but that’s part of the excitement of the game.
Overall Word Ace is yet another reason why the iPhone is one of the best gaming platforms around right now and is highly recommended–unless Scrabble gives you nightmares. This is also only the initial release so look forward to higher stakes action and even more features in the future. Word Ace isn’t going to be leaving my iPhone for a very, very long time…if ever.
Panappticon Verdict: 99/100 — Addictive. Fun. Free. Texas Hold ‘Em meets Scrabble means an infinite amount of replayability whenever and wherever you want to play it. If you hate Scrabble or word games or if you just can’t spell you might not love it, but give it a try anyway.
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