Developer: Playscreen
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics/Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

At first blush, Word Carnival is another in a long-string of word games: find words, spell them out, gain points, perhaps there are multipliers, and so on. Its matchmaking is through Facebook, email, contact list, or randomly found, but is a two out of three win proposition, offering asynchronous play. Which is pretty much par for the course with these manner of things.

Where Word Carnival starts to differ is that the screen is full of balloons in a 5×5 grid. Dragging along the finger to spell out a word not only nets points (and bonus time if the word is long enough), but pops said balloons so that the columns start shifting up and new balloons fill in the lower rows. Along with the timer, this creates an urgent desire to constantly be moving and popping. The balance comes in the fact that while longer words do gives a second or more of time, they come at the cost of deliberation, quite often. Therefore, it can quickly devolve into a game of popping balloons that spell out such easy words as ‘so’ or ‘do’ just so that more options become available.

Which is where the meta-strategy of the game starts to come in: quite often letters will be found to spell a word, but perhaps a letter is off, so there’s the chance to pop as quickly and efficiently as possible to get that chance of that letter finally coming within finger-swipe reach. Or, maybe those balloons need to be shifted a bit, so the ability to turn the grid either clockwise or counterclockwise exists. Of course, the opposite is also true: pop too indiscriminately and without an eye for what letters are around, and it is possible to find that the letters are just a mess and won’t yield. This is where the once-a-game ability to just press the bomb in the upper-right corner of the screen and reset the board comes in handy.

Ultimately, the game seems much less about showing off the vast lexicon acquired through years of word usage, and more about being quick and agile with not only the fingers, but in how the mind can construct smaller, more efficient words. I personally hadn’t thought of roe in quite some time, but found myself relying on it as a staple to get me through some of the more odd configurations placed beneath my fingertips. The game itself comes free, with the ability to turn off ads as an in-app purchase. So, for a frantic word game against friends, this services nicely, though would perhaps take some time to fully master.


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