Review: Lexatron for iOS – A Scrabble racer with teeth
|Platforms:||iOS, iPhone 5, iPad, etc|
|Developer(s):||Fictorial / Brian Hammond|
|Release Date:||Oct 10, 2012|
Lexatron is a word race! Form words on the X-shaped board to snake a path from one corner of the board to the other. Reach your star space first and win! Detonate a bomb to clear a path and keep going if your opponent blocks your way! Lexatron is easy to learn but forces the player to make tough strategic decisions. Lexatron provides an upgrade path for millions of bored “Words with Friends” players.
What We Think:
Lexatron takes the social element of Words with Friends and then tries very hard to break the mold by changing the view angle and objectives. Does it succeed or is it just Scrabble Plus?
In Lexatron the players’ primary objective is to reach their goal on the side of the board opposite their starting position. Should it become impossible for either player to reach their goal point, then word-score points are used to determine the winner.
To begin a game you can find a friend by their handle within the game’s online system, play a local pass & play game, search through contacts on your device or by way of Facebook and Twitter or get a random online partner.
The playing field is laid out like a Scrabble board in the shape of a cross with a fixed isometric view. The camera will automatically zoom in when you go to place a letter though the auto-zoom function can be turned off in the preferences menu.
The isometric view, as cool as it looks, makes placing letters a little awkward at first – I wasn’t sure if could use palindromes for example. Fortunately, there is a very thorough help file that makes clear how tiles can be laid out – Lexatron, which uses “a slightly modified ENABLE1 (Enhanced North American benchmark Lexicon) dictionary” generally adheres to the conventions of most word games, except that, due to Lexatron’s isometric angle-of-view, horizontally means “diagonally up to the right” and vertically means “diagonally down and to the right.” But describing how things layout isometrically in text is kind of like dancing about architecture.
You can drag and drop your letters to rearrange them to look for words, but you can hit a button to shuffle your letters only on your turn (not quite sure why this isn’t something always available). You are also able to swap out letters on your turn, but this will forfeit placing any on the board for that turn.
Bombs may occasionally show up in your letter rack (there are a total of three per game) which can be used at anytime to destroy surrounding letters. Careful, they will destroy your tiles too and they pack quite a punch. While they are typically used for clearing a path when you are blocked, they can also be used simply to cause mayhem for your opponent. The blast radius is visible as a red circle that surrounds your bomb before you “submit” it which detonates it with a big satisfying kaboom sound.
It’s important to note that in Lexatron, you don’t need to form a solid, unbroken path from your start to end positions to win – in fact you can pick up from any letter you have on the board, so even if the middle of your chain gets blown to smithereens, you haven’t necessarily lost any ground so long as you have letters that survive the explosion on the far end of the board.
Th game also features a well-implemented chat option for communicating back and forth with ease, accessible via the speech bubble at the right side of the screen.
Overall Lexatron is a worthy addition to the word-play catalog for iOS. It is no less engaging than Words with Friends and technically its social elements seem sound and well-designed, though I did not test the Facebook/Twitter implementation. If you have setup Twitter in iOS 5 settings for the device, a Tweet button will appear in the “Find a friend to Play” screen which shares your username on Twitter so people may find you.
This modern, slickly designed twist on the somewhat faded word game genre is enough to merit a look for anyone who finds themselves on long car rides or stuck in an airport terminal or can’t quite figure out how to play full-contact Scrabble in their backyard. In fact, it makes me wonder – if this took just one person to create over the course of ten weeks from idea through playtest to launch, how many did it take Zynga to develop and release Words with Friends?
Hmm…*scratches beard with laser gun whilst sipping brandy*