The other week we were playing Scrabble in the pub. We got our arses totally kicked to seven shades of Sunday. We tried to save face and moaned that the board had been sabotaged because of the suspiciously large number of "x"s in the bag, but the honest truth of the matter was this: we were crap.
To prevent this embarassing catastrophe from ever happening again, we turn in hope to the App Store, and this new word puzzler called W.E.L.D.E.R. We reckon if we train and practice hard enough, we can graduate from four letter words to five.
How does it play?
W.E.L.D.E.R. has a steampunk aesthetic, with industrial menus and play-screens overlaid with a soundtrack of clanking metal and hissing pipes. It's a distinctive look that sets it apart from the family friendly vibe of Scrabble and its ilk.
Moving on to the game itself, we're presented with grid of 8 x 8 tiles with letters stamped on them. The goal is to swap letters around to form words as you would in a crossword - either diagonally, or side-by-side - and then clear them from the board. The longer the words, the higher the scores, and if you can set off a chain reaction, so much the better. Tiles that have been cleared are replaced by fresh tiles cascading from the top of the screen.
The individual letters have different point values, just like they would in a Scrabble game, but the category of tile can also have an effect on the score and the mode of play. A "hot" tile for instance, is too hot to move. A "broken" is fixed in space, and a blank tile can be stamped with a letter of your choosing.
It's not just a word-forming free-for-all, mind. Players have a limited number of swaps, for one thing, so they have to be judicious in their usage. Additional power-ups can be earned and deployed as they progress through the stages, and these can be handy lifelines for when you run out of swaps.
Why do we like it?
W.E.L.D.E.R. is a different kind of word puzzler, and it's smartly put together. The initial concept is easy to grasp and understand, a clever mish-mash between Scrabble and Boggle, but it'll take weeks of practice before you completely master it.
Will it improve your vocabulary? It just might, at that. But it doesn't recognise swearwords, unfortunately. Also, we can't be sure, but we have a sneaking suspicion that the game dictionary is based on American English. Try spelling words like "colour" and see what happens.
Minor bits of grousing aside, W.E.L.D.E.R. is a polished little product, and we foresee it providing the ideal distraction for long train journeys and the like. All it needs is a two-player mode and the option to switch dictionaries, and it could well be perfect.
W.E.L.D.E.R. is available now for £1.49 on the App Store