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Our Review by Joel Bortz on January 20th, 2009
Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar :: BELOW AVERAGE
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Chicktionary - An overrated rendition of a very good word jumble game.

Developer: Blockdot inc.
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

Graphics / Sound [rating:4/5]
Game Controls [rating:2/5]
Gameplay [rating:2/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:1.5/5]

Overall [rating:2.5/5]

Six months ago, anyone would have reviewed this game and heralded it as winner and a no-brainer to buy. 15,000 applications later (and counting), the standard is much higher and games like these are getting subject to higher benchmarks and greater scrutiny.

Unfortunately, Chicktionary could use a lot of improvement.

In a sentence, Chicktionary is a game that challenges you to unscramble letters to form as many different words as possible.

To start with, the game itself lacks an “Options” menu to allow the user to control some basic functions. An important one that comes to mind is the ability to play your iPod music as opposed to hearing their in-game music and sound effects. The end-around that I found for this was to start up the game, put the iPod or iPhone to sleep, wake it up again, double tap the “Home” button, press play on the screen and pray that the song and playlist you are now listening to is one you’re in the mood for – otherwise, you need to repeat this whole process after choosing your music first before you launch the game.

The crux of the gameplay itself is based primarily on the ability to touch letters on the screen and have them moved to the main box where you form the desired word before entering it into your score. I found that unlike many other applications, this process actually lagged quite a lot and therefore hindered my ability to play the game without being distracted by bad performance.

Speaking of being distracted, while I really like the overall aesthetics of the game, I found that the never-ending head bobbing and clucking of the chickens was overkill and if anything, takes away from the experience of the game. Good graphics are great to have, but for a word jumble game, usability needs to be the primary focus.

These concerns could theoretically be looked past if it wasn’t for one major flaw to the gameplay itself. The game has certain “targets” or “goals” that the user is working towards. One example of this is that before you begin a new round, you make a wager as to how many words you feel you will be able to get in 2 minutes or less. 8 words gets you a White Ribbon, 13 words earns you a Red Ribbon, and if you bet 19 words, you can win yourself a coveted Blue Ribbon. After either the two minutes has passed or you have gotten all of your words (in my case I needed to get 19), a pop-up appears and congratulates you for beating the challenge but in order to get to the next level, you need to go on making words until you have completed all of the words they ask from you. In every level, this is always 32 words (ranging in length from 3 letters to 7 letters) and what’s worse, there are typically far more than only 32 words which can come from the given letters. This means that even if you have gotten 32 legitimate words – or even 40 for that matter – if they aren’t the same predetermined words set out by Chicktionary they will contribute to increasing your score but will not bring you any further to completing the level. What this means is that unless you are in a Mensa club or a serious savant, it could be days of playing the exact same puzzle just to complete the 32 words. This get’s very frustrating very quickly. To date, I have not been able to get past the first level. To put this in perspective, in the game Word Warp which (I highly recommend and has been out for several months) works off of a similar concept as this game, I have achieved a high score in excess of 17,000. Those familiar with the game will know how hard that may be to achieve but the basic point is this – I’m no slouch with word games and if I can’t get past the first level in this game without cheating (using the very functional and free app called Jumble Solver), I think it is unlikely that many people would actually enjoy this game on a sustained basis.

Ok… enough bashing and on to the (albeit few) things I do like about this game.

I like how as a user, I can manually shuffle and change the arrangement of the jumbled letters so that I can see them in exactly the order I want to. Alternatively, you can just shake your device and the game will randomly shuffle them for you as well.

In a vacuum, I like how the graphics look. They are polished and rather eye pleasing.

Um… that’s it.

In short, the game leaves much to be desired but it is my honest opinion that Blockdot is not that far away from having a very enjoyable, stimulating game on their hands with a high replay value. The game itself is inherently solid and a good concept to work from… just fix a few bugs and tweak the rules of the game (for instance giving the user the ability to force the round to end, tally their score, and then move on to the next round would be a very simple, and good way to start) and I think my view on the game would improve tenfold. For now, I would not recommend it to a friend – and certainly not for $1.99.

iPhone Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Chicktionary screenshot 1 Chicktionary screenshot 2 Chicktionary screenshot 3 Chicktionary screenshot 4 Chicktionary screenshot 5
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