Version Reviewed: 1.0
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Word Ace is a mash-up of Texas Hold'em and an anagram game, and that's all you really need to know in order to understand the gameplay. It's intuitive and engaging, and requires both standard poker skills and word-building prowess. My kind of game? Oh, yes. I just wish that there were more offline options; as it is now, you more or less need an internet connection in order to play.
In Word Ace, each card is decorated with both a letter and a point value; they're also color-coded by value, with blue for low-point letters, red for mid-point letters, and yellow for high-value ones, such as Q or X. There are also gray "backward letters," which are worth negative points. Each game starts with players being dealt two cards. From there, things proceed much like Texas Hold'em; there are no new tricks to learn with regards to betting or gameplay. Trust me, this is a good thing: it makes Word Ace extremely easy to learn.
At the end of a hand, your timer bar (which is normally yellow) turns red, and everyone remaining in the game must assemble their final word before time runs out. To create a word, you tap each card; the letters appear at the bottom of the screen. Tapping the check mark that says, "Use this word!" saves the word, leaving you free to experiment with other possibilities. Once time is up, point values are compared; the player with the most valuable word wins the hand!
Of course, waiting until the last minute to assemble your word is a foolish move. You can start creating words at any point during the game, and you can save them, too. So, for example, if four cards are displayed on the table and you see a great word, you can spell that one out so that you needn't worry about forgetting it. It's an important caveat, certainly.
Also worth noting is that words longer than four letters receive point bonuses, which can easily give you the upper hand. Also, there isn't an in-game dictionary, which forces you to actually know how to spell the word you're trying to play. I'm all for this feature (one of my opponents once tried to spell "PONYS," and there really isn't an excuse for that), but it does encourage cautious play; you never know if a vaguely remembered word is actually real.
One more thing to note: If you look for Word Ace in the App Store, you'll likely see a "pro" version. Here's the thing: the Pro version just enables in-app purchases so that you can buy more chips. But Word Ace gives you 1,000 chips per day anyway; as long as you can play well, you shouldn't need any more!
Playing online is a lot of fun, and while there don't seem to be huge amounts of players online, I was never without a match. This is partly because the game is multi-platform; there's an even split of iPhone and Palm Pre users. But while the online mode is great, the offline "practice" mode is sorely lacking. The bots consistently demonstrate their complete lack of spelling skills. If you want a game for travel, this isn't one to get. I'd love to see a full-fledged offline mode.
In terms of presentation and execution, Word Ace has some nice touches: the three-image avatar whose expression can be changed with a finger swipe (from happy to impassive to angry) is neat, and the graphics are good. There isn't anything mind-blowing, but then, there doesn't have to be.
There is one thing about Word Ace that's unbeatable: its price! There are few games of this caliber that are available for free, no strings attached, and this more than makes up for some of the game's rougher edges, not that there were too many anyway. Self Aware games has a great product on their hands, and word-game aficionados should definitely give this one a go.