Developer: Zach Gage
Price: Free [$11.99/£9.99 full game]
Size: 146 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
If there are three words more likely to get us interested in a new mobile game than ‘by Zach Gage’, we’re not sure what they are.
The American indie developer has a record of turning out consistently quirky, thoughtful, yet always tight and intuitive games based around familiar mechanics. Solitaire, pool, and chess have all received the Zach Gage treatment to great effect.
Gage also has a predilection for word games. Following on from the excellent SpellTower and Typeshift comes Knotwords, and it’s another potential daily time sink.
It can perhaps best be described as a mash-up of a classic crossword and Sudoku – which Gage has also previously tackled with Good Sudoku, incidentally.
There are no clues as in a regular crossword, so no general knowledge is required. Rather, you must fill in rows and columns of words using smaller clusters of jumbled up letters. You may know this L-shaped cluster of tiles contains the letters N, P, and I, for example, but not the correct order.
Like Sudoku, you’ll need to take a holistic view of the word grid, as well as spotting patterns and taking the odd punt. The process of elimination is key, which makes Knotwords a surprisingly pure puzzler.
Once you’ve cracked one word, it will inform your progress with the intersecting words, though by the same token, a wrong guess can throw off an entire game.
Playing through Knotwords’s various puzzles is a tactile delight, with subtle haptics, jaunty music (which reminded us of the immortal Wii Shop Channel music), and a clean visual style.
We did find that the mechanics of deleting, selecting, and typing out words could occasionally get a little scrambled, and it wasn’t always intuitively obvious where the next typed letter would be deposited. But the game helpfully allows you to change the input style to whatever feels most natural, and there are some clever input gestures that can help you navigate the grid even faster. Plus, it helps that your efforts aren’t against the clock, despite puzzle completion time being one of the metrics that’s record and shown to you at the end.
There are several game modes to try out, including daily challenges, monthly batches of puzzles, and a Daily Twist mode that tells you how many vowels need to be entered in each row and column – another nod to Sudoku.
In short, Knotwords is yet another Zach Gage game that forces you to look at familiar mechanics in a new light. If you like word puzzles, it’s a no-brainer – especially as you can play the standard daily mode completely free. He’s done it again.