All posts by Lisa Caplan
Developer: Fuzzy Bug Interactive
Version Reviewed: 1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Game Controls Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Word Soup, the popular UK coin-op word game, has landed on the App Store and while it isn’t glitzy, it is one of the most compelling anagram puzzle games I’ve played.
What makes Word Soup so much fun is that the board is huge. Nine columns and 12 rows of letters fill the playing field. Like Scrabble, difficult-to-place letters like Q's and Z's have the highest point value while R’s, S’s and vowels aren’t worth much. Like Boggle, players form words by connecting one letter to any of the eight adjacent letters, then connecting the next until a word is formed. With a grid this size it’s possible to make words of 15, even 20 letters.
The game has three modes. In Relaxed Game and Brain Game there is no timer. Players can spend as long as they like looking for the best possible word and keeping an eye on what letters will fall away in W.E.L.D.E.R. fashion when the word is accepted. In Relaxed the goal is just to get a high score on a single board. A bonus is awarded for clearing the whole board. Timed Game is a blitz affair that otherwise follows the same rules.
Brain Game - my favorite mode - is level-based. Here the trick is to make the longest words possible before hitting the round's target score. Longer words earn players more letters to fill in empty spaces at the start of each new level. The goal is to continue earning enough new tiles to reach the next target score. When players run out of letters the game ends.
There are no power-ups, but there is a limited-use shuffle button and developers Fuzzy Bug Interactive added a special for-mobile touch: at any time, players can tilt their device to move letters in rows with empty spaces to the left or right. It’s very useful for aligning those Q’s with U’s.
I’m hoping they don’t add a store -a game with no in-app purchases is refreshing. An asynchronous multiplayer mode is something I could definitely get into, however. Also, it may be nit-picking, but it's annoying that after every game players are returned to the home screen. A faster replay option would be great for those of us who tend to play a tad compulsively.
Word Soup doesn’t revolutionize word gaming, but for those who love flexing their verbal muscles, it’s a great pick-up.
The iPad’s form has been seducing digital artists and those who love to doodle since its launch. It’s also the ideal size for taking hand-written notes. There are dozens of apps that create rich drawing or writing environments, but until recently input devices have been limited. Fingers just won’t do when precision is needed so artists and copious note takers usually rely on capacitive styluses which simulate the feeling of a pen, but are limited by the touchscreen interface. They aren’t sensitive to pressure, they offer no control over line thickness, and holding one comfortably tends to leave palm marks on the virtual page. Ten One Design offers one solution with their Bluetooth 4.0 Pogo Connect stylus. It doesn’t get everything right, but it’s a solid start in a promising direction.
At 5.1" (130mm) with a price tag of $80, the Pogo Connect sports a stylish silver barrel with a rubber tip at one end and decorative cap at the other. There is a single button on the side and a LED light. It uses one AAA battery and because it’s Bluetooth 4.0 that battery will last a long time. A little wider than a regular stylus, the pen lacks heft, but it fits comfortably in the hand and has good balance. The tip is the same thick dark rubber that one finds on traditional styluses and is magnetic for easy replacement. Ten One promises new tip designs in the future.
Pogo Connect doesn’t pair with the iPad in the usual way a Bluetooth device would. To assist in getting everything set up correctly, users can download the free Pogo Connect app to link the stylus and then each of the 19 compatible apps - up from the original 13 - goes its own way. Some apps like Procreate just find the pen, while others like Noteshelf require users to poke around in the settings. It's easy.
Because the stylus uses Bluetooth 4.0 it is only compatible with 3rd and 4th gen iPads and the iPad mini. Ten One offers iPad 2 owners a less-than-elegant work-around: there is a Pogo Bridge app that connects to the iPhone 4S or 5 and then sends the signal to the iPad 2, but at present only one app - Procreate - has incorporated the feature.
One of the more glaring flaws when I first tested the Connect back in December was that it didn’t prevent palm marks, but recent updates have improved that functionality. How well it works seems to depend more upon the app than the stylus.
And what about pressure sensitivity? That’s the key selling point, but it’s very hit or miss. Some apps respond to pressure by varying line thickness, others opacity, and none respond to a light touch despite claims that the proprietary Crescendo Sensor technology requires “0 grams of activation force.” That said, the Connect outperforms captive models. It's not transformative, but with the right app and practice, sketching feels more holistic.
There are a couple of neat features worth mentioning: the Pogo Connect app has a pen locator, the button on the stylus works as an undo command, and the LED light indicates the active ink color. Still, while somewhat more intuitive than capitative models, the Pogo Connect needs a lot of tweaking before it warrants the hefty price tag, much less turns the iPad into a device that can compete with a dedicated graphics tablet.
A full list of compatible apps can be found here on the Ten One Design site.