Cryptogram Review

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on August 29th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad


Developer: Norman Basham
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 2.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Game Controls Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

[rating:overall]

What's a cryptogram? Generally, a cryptogram is a text written in code. In the iPhone/iPad game Cryptogram, however, a cryptogram is a puzzle in which every letter in a text has been swapped to a corresponding letter, and you try to decipher the result. (This type of encoding is technically called a monoalphabetic substitution cipher.) Cryptogram comes packed with such puzzles. It's a very simple game, but also one that has the potential to keep code-lovers busy for hours.

Each puzzle is a quote that has been transformed into code, and the player's goal is to decode the puzzle. Each code-letter corresponds to one "real" letter, so to try and decode the message the player must guess which letters correspond to which. By default, Cryptogram will tell you if a guess is incorrect (and penalize you if so) but this option can be switched off.

Of course, random guesses won't do much good. Instead, making educated guesses by using things like frequency and letter/word combinations is the key to solving the cryptograms. For example, a single-letter word must be "A" or "I"; similarly, words like "THE" and "AND" are easy to guess, and letters that are repeated back-to-back (like the L's in "WELL") are also good hints.

There are plenty of puzzles included with Cryptogram, with more available via in-app purchase. The original puzzles are sorted by length (though don't assume that longer puzzles are harder; sometimes more data makes a puzzle easier to solve). Game Center integration provides leaderboards and achievements, though I was somewhat disappointed by the unimaginative "I've solved x puzzles!" nature of the achievements. If I had one complaint, it would be that the keyboard is sometimes too small. But in general, the app is elegant and its design gets out of the way of the puzzles it revolves around—always a plus in my book.

Cipher-lovers will find plenty of entertainment with Cryptogram. It's a very old concept, and certainly not unique, but Cryptogram is a solid app with plenty of puzzles, and I've enjoyed it a lot.

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