Developer: Jonathan Johnson
Price: $0.99 Download on the App Store
Wordsmiths who enjoy games like Scrabble and Boggle are in for a treat. Grabl is a word-building strategy game that will appeal to those brainy types who prefer a shot of adrenaline with their morning crossword.
At first glance this app from Rocketmaker Productions, seems perfectly straightforward. Like a simplified version Scrabble, Grabl players start with a set of lettered tiles (14 to be exact) and the goal is to form words on the board. As you use the tiles, you may choose to replenish them by tapping the "more please" button. Words with more letters are worth more points and any tiles left over at the end will be deducted from your score.
The real thrill comes from the clock. Much like Boggle (or Word Fu), you only have a set amount of time to get the tiles laid down in word form. As the clock ticks down, the pressure builds and the adrenaline kicks in. It's also the clock that makes Grabl so addictive. Each time the game ended, I was just sure I could beat my high score next time.
Grabl made me do something that hasn't happened in a while. I played until my iPhone "died," then I charged it up and drained it again. And, I'm not the only one with this problem. When I went to bed I was #38 on the global leaderboard, by this morning I was down to #60. Obviously, there are more than a few competitive Grabl players out there!
This word game is tons of fun, but it's not entirely perfect yet. My biggest gripe may sound petty to those that usually play games at a slower pace. Grabl lets players zoom in and out of the board by tapping the screen. Unfortunately, more than once this strategy had me zooming out while trying to move tiles. In a game where every second counts, this is a frustrating "feature."
My only other gripe doesn't affect gameplay, so it's not as bad. Outside of the game, the buttons have to be tapped just right to work — especially for submitting scores online. It sometimes took several taps before the app responded appropriately.
Neither of these things are deal breakers, and can easily be worked around with practice. But if you have sausage fingers, take note that the control system may take some getting used to.
On the positive side, Grabl has a few settings to let users customize their gaming experience: compare scores on your device or on the global leaderboard, pick your own background image, and choose your length of play 1, 3 or 5 minutes otherwise known as "in line," "red light" and "coffee break."
Players looking for a longer game should try out "frenzy" mode. The clock starts off with just 30 seconds and players must rush to make words to earn more time.
However you choose to play Grabl, it's a fun addition to the category of iPhone word games.