Price: $1.99 (Free ad-supported version available)
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4
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Zynga With Friends has brought a new asynchronous multiplayer word game to the App Store, this time adapting the classic word game hangman into a more competitive format. The game is similar to how it is traditionally played; one player builds a word, the other player has to guess it.
There are 3 phases to the game when a player takes a turn. First, the viewing of the other player's solve attempt; Second, trying to solve the word the other player made; Third, making a new word for the other player to play. Words can be up to 8 letters, created from a stack of 12. A bonus letter or word multiplier will be placed randomly in one of the 8 slots, influencing the strategy of what words are played, as playing in these bonus spots nets more points that go toward acquiring additional coins, which are then used to buy additional lifelines in the game. When guessing, the number of strikes is dependent on the number of letters in the word - short 4-letter words get 8 strikes, but long 8-letter words get 4 strikes, because it's hypothetically easier to guess a letter when the word is longer. To help out, there are 3 lifelines, with one free use per game; each additional one costs 20 coins (and there's apparently going to be a store to buy more via in-app purchase). One lifeline shows 1 of 4 letters in the word, one eliminates 4 wrong tiles, and the last removes one strike. The first player to miss 5 words is the loser.
The game is in some ways more fair than Words With Friends; it's based more on skill and intelligence than incidental strategy, as word solving is entirely under the player's control. It's just a matter of figuring out what the word is, and formulating strategies against opponents to make words that they can't solve. The usage of player avatars adds a lot of personality to the game, especially the avatars' displeased reactions when there is a wrong guess. The game is not as simple as Words With Friends, but it is still relatively easy to pick up on, and is a refreshing change of pace from Scrabble-inspired word games.
The problem is that the word list is based on the same list as Words With Friends; this means that uncommon and archaic word usage can be a huge advantage; archaic spellings to foul up opponents is also quite possible, if not quite fair. The game also seems to have some glitches in its initial release, especially when viewing moves right after launching the app via push notification. For players who have multiple devices, the lack of iPad support will be a problem, in part because playing Hanging With Friends causes all "With Friends" games notifications to go to that device. This may be the biggest first world problem that ever existed, though.
Hanging With Friends is a neat twist on an old classic; Zynga With Friends did a great job at making the classic hangman game work in a competitive sense with asynchronous multiplayer. The ad-supported version is worth checking out for free, though I quickly jumped over to the full ad-free version, much like Words With Friends.