Words games really do seem to be a dime a dozen on the App store, yet occasionally one grabs us and forces us to reconsider our stance on the genre. Most of the really popular word games are multiplayer-centric, which is fine for those out there who like that sort of thing. But what about the anti-social word lovers? Who cares about us? Well, as it turns out, Jackbox Games cares.
Yes, the makers of the single greatest virtual game show ever, You Don’t Know Jack, have branched out to a word and golf-obsessed octopus who wants to putt words across a golf course. Word Puttz is essentially a free-form crossword game with an actual goal on the map. Players start in a specific spot on the green, forming words that connect to each other, but the goal is to guide your line of words to the hole elsewhere on the map.
It’s a bit loopy at first, but the tutorial quickly gets players up to speed (indeed, there might be too much tutorial really, as the game is remarkably easy to get the hang of). As the levels progress, so do the obstacles. Some levels are timed “races” against the octopus, others limit the number of letters you can use, and many levels lock the goal until you collect enough of the gold coins strewn around the map. There are currently about 70 levels included (with more apparently on the way) and some of these pseudo-golf courses are incredibly tricky to navigate.
The game is free, but therein lies some minor nagging issues. We didn’t mind having to skip through an ad ever five or so levels, but the game has a balls counter, which just seems totally unnecessary. It gives you 10 balls to start with, but quitting a level prematurely or losing a level drops you a ball. There’s a countdown to earn more balls, but obviously, the game really wants you to just buy some.
There are other things that run down as well, such as magic letter balls that can help you get out of letter jams. There’s another limited option that gives you new letters. You don’t have to spend any money to enjoy the game however, but the mix of ads and microtransactions might turn some players off. Another oddity is that the game immediately scores a word as you place it. So, if you are spelling a longer word, but the first two letters (like, “DE”, which is apparently only a real word in word games) form a word, it automatically sets the E on the board and scores it. You can thankfully delete letters, but then they are gone for good and the scrabble nerd in us likes to waiver and delay before committing the perfect word to the board.
Such nitpicking aside, Word Puttz is amazingly entertaining. Jackbox has a solid handle on engaging game play and humor, and the creatively simple premise here creates a ton of entertaining and intelligent word play. So, aside from some optional freemium-based squabbles, Word Puttz has managed to quickly become our favorite word game this year.