Wordament is the first Xbox LIVE enabled game with achievements to be released on iOS, and as it is already on Windows Phone and Windows 8 it is becoming something of a flagship 'free Xbox LIVE' title for Microsoft.
Put simply, it’s a Boggle clone and was actually released a while ago as a non-Xbox LIVE game on Windows Phone before quickly becoming one of the most popular games in the marketplace, at which point Microsoft asked the developers to convert it to a free, ad-supported Xbox LIVE title. From there it became a launch title for Windows 8 and now it has been ported to iOS. Poor Android, all alone...
Although always secondary in a word based game, the design and presentation of Wordament really is a cut above the competition, incorporating Metro to create a very neat, stylised and intuitively easy to use interface.
Unlike other word games such as Wordrix and Word Tangle (both on Windows Phone), Wordament is a never-ending, 24/7 online word tournament. This means that when you join a new game it will probably be half way through an existing online ‘board’ as only one is active at any time. It’s not really an issue but it is something to be aware of as you begin playing, as when you join a game with ten seconds left you don’t have much time to move up the leaderboards.
On the Windows Phone version each game only uses around 12-14k of your data (before ads are accounted for) so presuming the iOS version is the same you can play a hundred games and barely use a megabyte of your data allowance.
Like all Boggle-style word games, you can make words in Wordament by chaining together letters in any direction, up, down, left, right or diagonal. You can also rotate the board to help you look for sequences of letters to help you find words.
The words themselves are scored as either ‘common’ or ‘obscure’, with bonus points available for lengthy words, although I’m not sure if you get bonus points for obscure words. To shake things up further, some boards have a double letter tile, and you have the option of trying to find every word combination possible that contains this double letter (e.g. CH, or IE). If the possibility of bonus points wasn’t enough, naturally an achievement is also linked to this.
The end of each match displays a leaderboard showing the top players across the world, their score, the number of words they found and their country, along with a range of players either side of your own position. If you want to look at the full leaderboard you have to leave the round to do so. On their blog the developers explain this is the easiest way to pull out the relevant information for you before the next board starts. It also helps keep your data usage to a minimum.
On the home page you are presented with a bundle of extra stats relating to your performances, including your biggest scoring word, cumulative score and the number of games played. What the creators of Wordament have understood is that you cannot provide gamers with enough stats and leaderboards. Bungie understood this long ago and it’s one of the reasons Halo stands a cut above nearly every other FPS out there for longevity (in the Left 4 Dead series you don’t even know your cumulative zombie kill once you’ve surpassed the relevant achievements). They’re presented in a way that means you can completely ignore them if you wish, but if you love stats then you can look them up any time allowing the game to appeal to casual and hardcore gamers alike.
By becoming an Xbox LIVE game it also syncs your friends list to the ‘frenemies’ section. Your frenemies are other players who you have selected to follow, tracking their scores and leaderboard positions and showing you their best daily score. It’s a great little system but if you don’t have too many friends with Windows Phones it feels a bit odd to be randomly selecting strangers to have as frenemies.
Worse still, the ‘beat your frenemies’ achievement is fundamentally flawed, as it’s simple to quickly select a frenemy who performs worse than you in games and then beat them in the subsequent game to unlock the achievement. Its purpose in encouraging you to use the frenemies system is understandable, but as an achievement it’s pretty worthless and I actually unlocked it by accident after adding some frenemies without realising it.
Multiple languages are available and while one achievement will unlock if you play in a different language it’s not something the uni-lingual players like me will ever really use. However, for multilingual players it’s a great way to test the vocabulary of your second or third language and obviously it’s nice for people who aren’t first language English to be able to play in their native language if it is supported.
As you’d expect, the game plays the same across all platforms, the major difference being that the iOS version has a much smaller achievement score available for the player to unlock.
As a consequence a number of achievements that exist on Windows 8 and Windows Phone have been lost. By luck or design this has made the game far easier to ‘complete’ as the most difficult achievements have been discarded. The easier achievements means the game can be ‘completed’ with less than an hour’s play, especially if you have stats imported from other versions, which will probably unlock several automatically.
It’s only a small niggle, and for Windows Phone owners it’s nice to see that Microsoft appear to have implemented a 50G limit on achievements on iOS while Windows Phone get access to the usual 200G.
At least if the achievement score is limited on iOS then it still provides some exclusivity to Windows Phone owners.
The iOS version also ports over all your stats from the Windows 8 and Windows Phone version meaning it will also probably unlock a few achievements automatically just by opening the app (if you've played it previously, obviously).
Just about the only real difference from playing it on a tablet is if you hold the screen too close to your face the tiles can feel too big and your peripheral vision may struggle to pick up some of the letters on the edge of the screen.
If that happens then the best thing to do is either to hold the iPad further away or shrink the zoom so it plays the size of the iPhone, as the app released (so far anyway) is optimised for the iPhone but not (yet) the iPad, although it is fully compatible.
Finally play takes place across all platforms so if you play on iOS you will play against people on Windows Phone and Windows 8. This is useful as it ensures a healthy number of players at all times.
Microsoft have chosen well for their first iOS Xbox LIVE game (not including Kinectimals, which I don't think has achievements) as it's probably the best of the free Xbox LIVE games released on Windows Phone or Windows 8 so far.
In the meantime it's an essential download for any Xbox fans with an iPad or iPhone, and it'll be interesting to see which game is next on Microsoft's list to be a free Xbox LIVE game.
Taken from my blog (with amendments): http://zombiesatemyxbox.com/2012/12/27/xbox-live-ios-wordame...