Lexic for iPhone (later known as Abca) was one of my favourite iOS word games. There was something about the way that it looked and felt to play that made the game so captivating. The animation, sound, and sense of atmosphere made it come alive. Lexic never received a Retina update, and it’s actually no longer available on the App Store, so I don’t have it on my iPhone 4S. I miss that game…but I miss it less now that I have Spell Rift on iPad.
Think of Boggle and Tetris laid over a background out of Myst and you’ll have an approximation of what it’s like to play Spell Rift. You’ll start each level with a screen full of letters – many of which you can eliminate by drawing criss-crossing lines over them to form words. Spell Rift is pretty generous about this because you can connect letters horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Most letters will disappear from the screen once used, and more will fall from the top to fill up the space. The gameplay twist comes with the different game modes. There are three islands, each with a set of levels to complete. Each level has a different objective, ranging from “complete 75 unique words” to “score as much as you can in three minutes”. Adding challenge to these levels are specialized tiles that add bonus points, tick like time bombs, and spread poison to adjacent tiles (unless you get rid of them first).
Spell Rift does a good job of saving your progress – meaning that you can leave a game to write e-mails on your iPad, and then come back to exactly where you were before – but it’s best played in a longer sit-down session. The game still feels casual because the learning curve is very slight, but the objectives on each stage can often demand more than the time you have during a quick bus ride. Instead, Spell Rift is something to delve into before bed, or during a lazy Sunday afternoon.
There’s a lot of replayability to this $2.99 title, despite the deceptive nature of having challenges spread out across levels. Each level can easily be replayed for higher scores, and because each game seems to play out randomly, each level is simply a slightly different way to challenge your ability to string letters together.
I’ve had almost two weeks with Spell Rift, but I still haven’t finished the second island, simply because I’m really taking my time and enjoying it. I’ve wanted to see something like Lexic on the iPad for some time now, and Spell Rift makes for a wonderful spiritual successor. It’s also one of the easiest purchase recommendations I’ve made in a while.