App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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There are word games and then there are puzzle games that just so happen to feature words. Alphabear 2 is definitely in the latter camp, as you collect bears with special powers, complete special challenges, and try to strategically clear boards in addition to simply spelling words to earn points. It’s not all that different than its predecessor, Alphabear, but Alphabear 2 is still a fun puzzler nonetheless.
Build a bear
If you haven’t played an Alphabear game before, here’s the basic idea: ever game starts by presenting you with a board that has a bear and some letters on it. By tapping on the letters, you can form words, and doing so turns more and more of the board into letters, which makes the bear grow.
This sounds like a really relaxing experience until you realize that you can’t just choose which letters to use at your own pace. Each turn, the numbers in the corner of each letter tile tick down, and if they reach zero, they turn into rocks. Rocks are a problem because they block your bear from growth and can really limit your point potential on a level. This makes the ultimate goal of Alphabear and its sequel more about strategically using letters at the right time, rather than trying to make huge words or using the first combination of letters you find that work.
Back to the basics
As a sequel, Alphabear 2 doesn’t do a whole lot to shake up this basic puzzle formula. The differences are mostly with the game’s trappings. For starters, Alphabear 2 has a pretty robust story that takes a few cues from Back to the Future. It’s not something that really changes the fact that you’re playing through the same kinds of word puzzles, but it is fun to be rewarded with little story tidbits, especially since they’re pretty cleverly written.
The other main change that Alphabear 2 makes is the in-game dictionary, which functions mostly to let you immediately see definitions of words you spell and look back to see how you scored on particular words. Again, none of these things dramatically change anything about the core game, but they are nice additions that make Alphabear 2 feel like a substantial package.
Alphabear 2 offers up its puzzling, word-based gameplay in a free-to-play format that’s surprisingly fair. Players spend honey to play levels, which is a currency that replenishes over time. If there’s ever a time that your honey runs out, you can opt to earn more of by watching ads. You can also pay to disable ads, which also allows you to earn some rewards more quickly.
Without paying, I can safely say that Alphabear 2 feels like a complete experience that doesn’t arbitrarily gate you. In my time with it, the only moments where I felt I was running short on honey was when I intentionally played as much as I could to see what happened when I ran out. Your mileage may vary when it comes to tolerating free-to-play design, but generally speaking, Alphabear 2 only feels restrictive if you force yourself to play it for long sessions.
The bottom line
Alphabear 2 is a compelling puzzle game much like Alphabear was. There aren’t too many changes to the core gameplay, but the surrounding additions are nice add-ons that make for a game that feels a bit more robust. On top of that, Alphabear 2 is free-to-play and uses a pretty fair system that lets just about anyone enjoy the game without having to pay a single cent. What’s not to like?