App Reviewed on: iPhone 4
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Word games and iOS are together a marriage made in my personal heaven. Bus journeys to work were once dominated by broadsheet crosswords and codewords, but these days it's all about great word-based gaming apps like Words with Friends, Wooords, and Puzzlejuice - oh Puzzlejuice, you gnarly fiend. So, given the competition, it's commendable that Dabble threatened to make itself a part of my morning routine, even if it ultimately came up a little short.
Dabble is dead simple to understand. Each game presents me with five rows of letters - one row has six letters, the row behind it five, and so on until the final row of two. The aim is to rearrange those rows so that each one spells a word, so that I end up with one two-letter word, one three-letter word, one four-letter word etc. The game ends when all five rows spell a word, or the five minutes allocated have been used up. If I use higher-scoring letters (a la Scrabble) in the bigger words I score more points, and I also rack up the points if I complete the game quickly.
And here's the thing - it works great. The simplicity helps give the puzzle-like challenge of Dabble a frenetic urgency, and soon enough I'm messily dragging letters from rack to rack as I desperately try to balance the need to complete the game quickly against the also-important need to place high-scoring letters in as big a row as possible. It's simple, sure, but it's good fun nonetheless.
But there's a but. The mantra I like to beat here is simple-but-deep, and that's where Dabble comes short when it really shouldn't. Without a single-player campaign, friends' leaderboards, or some form of multiplayer the lasting appeal of Dabble isn't nearly as great as it could've been. The game offers a few badges for high scores, quick times, and so on, but these are all obtained within minutes. Why not introduce a harder difficulty mode or a few twists in other modes to spice things up? It always feels greedy to ask this from 99c games, but Dabble's competitors do throw in these types of features and that's what keeps me coming back to them every morning. With some of those features, Dabble could easily be one of my journey-to-work games too.
For now, Dabble is a brief but enjoyable distraction from my other word games. For a limited time it's free, and if you've got 10 or 20 minutes spare then it's absolutely worth a download. Maybe with some embellishing or a sequel it will grow into a must-have for word game enthusiasts