These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.
When I think about the iPhone word games that have most enraptured me over the years, they're typically competitive turn-based affairs. Games like Letterpress and Words With Friends not only pit you against another player in head-to-head battles for term-building supremacy, but they also give you plenty of time to sort out the next answer from your small selection of letters.
That gives you a chance to stew on a response, or draw inspiration from the world around you. Or in the case of dirty, rotten cheaters, search for the next word online. If that's a frustrating twist, or that sort of play is just too slow for your liking, consider the recently released Four Letters. PikPok's slick, free game takes a different approach: It's you against your brain and the clock, as you're given mere moments to spew out words as each new set of letters pops into view.
Sounds easy enough, right? It's not like you have to spell out sprawling, multisyllabic monstrosities. How hard can four-letter words be? (Word, bird, hats, boat, etc.--not the other kind of four-letter word.) It's a different story when you're on the clock and have four jumbled letters in front of you, and while some letter sets yield a few different word options, some much less common terms (and less-flexible letter pairings) pop up to throw you for a loop. It's also a game in which speed is not only essential to keep playing, but rapid-fire play scores you more points.
Ready to test your speedy letter-merging skills? Here are three ways in which Four Letters stands apart from the word game crowd.
Surprisingly, it'll stump you: I've lost games of Four Letters on sets of letters that completely baffled me, yet could've made words that seemed really obvious after the fact. Problem is, in the heat of the moment, the awkward ordering can really mess with your brain. You pick the wrong letter to try and mentally start a word with, stall for a couple seconds, and then you're out of time. Game over.
Truly, your mileage may vary here, since success depends not only on your personal lexicon but also your ability to deduce words from unorganized letters. But Four Letters does a great job of getting you into a groove--and then shaking you out of it. Your overall timer adds precious seconds with each completed word, but a couple of slower responses will leave you scrambling to answer the next ones before time runs out. And the higher your score climbs, it feels like the less time you have to react. It's really tense!
Speed counts: Keeping your game alive depends on tapping out a word within a few seconds (or less) of seeing your new letters. And there's incentive to play as quickly as possible: Answering within a second or so will earn you bonus points. Continue chaining together these quick-hit responses and you'll earn even more bonus points with each consecutive word. Four Letters may be a single-player game, but the online friends leaderboard provides ample motivation to keep playing and improving. You'll need those bonus points if you want any chance of ruling over your pals, let alone setting a three-digit score.
Skill accumulates: If you're used to slower-paced word games, the thought of blasting through a few-dozen words in a couple of minutes might seem overwhelming. It can be, especially if your friends already have towering scores staring you down, but you'll get better--and fast. You'll figure out the best strategy for inputting letters (I use both hands) and immediately recognize familiar jumbles, letting you hurriedly tap out a word and start a high-scoring chain.
Before long, the games will last longer, yield better scores, and Four Letters will sink its hooks into you. It did for me, at least. And while it's free to play, the $3 fee to remove the ads is well worth it for anyone attempting to build a little word power while having a lot of fun.