Price: Free ($5/£5 full game)
Size: 147.5 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Developer: Zach Gage
Indie developer Zach Gage can be counted minor App Store royalty these days. His last game, Card of Darkness, brought about an Apple-backed team-up with Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, while a faithful rabble of subjects eagerly anticipates his every release.
It all started with one game: SpellTower. This 2011 App Store hit ingeniously fused together elements of Boggle and Tetris to produce something fresh, setting the ideological template for subsequent Gage joints.
Now, almost a decade on, SpellTower+ gives the original game a thorough spruce up for the iPhone 11 era. And it remains a total delight to play.
There’s a daunting amount of scope to any round of SpellTower+, regardless of which of the 11 modes you play. It’s not so much the jumble of letters that greets you at the onset of a round, but rather the fact that you have free rein to drag out words in any way you see fit.
Your creations don’t have to travel in a certain direction, or even in a straight line. They can cross over each other multiple times, on the diagonal, backwards, forwards.
It can be strangely paralyzing, sitting there trying to find the longest word possible. But that would be to miss the point in all but one of the modes. SpellTower is as much a puzzle game as a word game, with a growing grid of letters that needs to be strategically pruned and managed.
Indeed, scoring a five-letter word is pretty tricky under these circumstances – a fact that’s driven home by the extra block-busting reward you receive for doing so.
And busting blocks really is important here. Each letter is a physical brick in a growing tower. Form a word and those bricks will smash, allowing the letters above to clunk down into place. It’s what makes SpellTower+ the most tactile word game on the block since, well, SpellTower.
While the core game is much the same as before, Gage has added a bunch of new flourishes and modes. Yellow letter blocks double your score, while blue blocks will wipe out an entire row of letters like a Tetris match.
New modes like Bubble Puzzle add interesting variables like the requirement to ‘pop’ bubbled letters with adjacent words before they can be used. Blitz ups the speed (and thus difficulty) significantly. Search, meanwhile, gives you a series of entertaining one-hit longest word tasks.
SpellTower+’s visual improvements mirror those of the gameplay. A subtle nip here, a thoughtful embellishment there. It’s a stylish yet modestly understated thing to behold.
Really, the ‘+’ tells the whole story here. SpellTower+ isn’t a sequel – it’s SpellTower, only more so. And for anyone who’s ever enjoyed playing a mobile word game to any degree, that should be sufficient to make it an essential download.