Review: Elexi29 Nov 2016 0
Released 01 Nov 2016
Word games exist at a very important intersection between entertainment and education. They serve a great purpose–helping to develop ones vocabulary in the name of fun. I love word games and learned to play games like Scrabble and Boggle at a very young age. The rise of mobile gaming brought a ton of word games to both the App and Google Play stores. Both have "Word" categories to house the myriad of options. I've tried a great many of these games and let's just say some are better than others. Today's review is about a relatively recent iOS word game called Elexi.
Elexi is a letter-arrangement game where you create words from a game board full of lettered tiles. Where they lie on the board doesn't matter, they don't have to be touching and you can choose them in any order. Each letter has a point value and less common letters are worth more points. The longer the word, the more points you earn. Pretty standard stuff.
Once you choose a word you are forced to discard a letter you used to form that word. The letter is exiled from the board, never to return…at least not in that game. The rest of the letters used to spell your word go into a cooldown mode for a number of turns indicated by the number in the center tile of the game board. Those letters are greyed out and a number appears in the upper-left corner of the tile to indicate how many turns it has to sit in a timeout. You could have letters cooling down from several recent turns.
There are three different modes of play Elimination, Endurance, and Endless. (As a quick aside: I really appreciate the alliteration here—I'm assuming it was intentional—it's very appropriate for a word game.) The goal of Elimination mode is to create as many words as you can and really run up the score before all of the letters are gone. You earn bonuses for leaving as few letters as possible at the end of the game. The minimum word size is two letters, however, so you'll always end with one leftover. You'll also earn a bonus for using all available letters on any given turn, which of course becomes much easier as the game goes on.
In Endurance mode levels join points as a gauge of progress. You increase in level when you create a word that is worth more points than the current level target. So if your target is 125 you must create a word worth 125 or more points. It gets much harder as you level up, of course. When you gain a level you also get new letters to play with. Rather than leaving a gaping hole in the board, when you discard a letter after leveling the discarded letter is replaced by the next of three alternates sitting in a queue at the top of the screen. Since you know what is coming, you have the opportunity to make suitable swaps—a vowel for a vowel for example. Games go longer in endurance mode, but this extra wrinkle makes them all the more interesting.
Endless mode has no levels and no scores. The game will never end unless you quit and the goal is to continually seek words to break your high-word score record (Elexi maintains different word records for each mode). Discarded letters are replaced in the same manner as in endurance mode, so there is a queue at the top of your screen to work off of. There is also a countdown timer that reduces by one whenever a word is played. Once the timer hits zero the next word you play will cause all letters on the board and not in cooldown to be replaced with new letters. In this manner, the game keeps on rolling along. You can also play "express" games in each of the three modes. Express games have a smaller board and no cooldown.
There is no countdown timer when played in endless mode, so letters are just replaced as they are played.
Elexi offers some visual customization for those that want to play around. You can play around with tile shape (five options), style (three options), and color scheme (six options). Maybe I'm just not that adventurous enough, but I like the default versions, although the notched tile shape is pretty cool. Some of the color options are a bit distracting in my opinion, but to each their own.
The music is various piano compositions, which are fine for background, though I prefer my own music. Therein lies a problem. When muting the game's music and listening to my own, or a book or podcast, Elexi lowers the volume while the game is open. This happens with a lot of games these days—it might be related to iOS 10, or I started noticing it more when I updated anyway— and is a big pet peeve of mine. I often like to play this type of game while listening to something else and having to increase the volume and then decrease it again later is a bit annoying.
Elexi goes beyond word-game status and takes a step or two into tactical gaming territory. You aren't just finding the biggest, most valuable words—you're making game-altering decisions on each and every turn. Those decisions vary depending on the mode of play. What letters can you discard and live without later in the game? What words can you make next turn given all of the tiles that will be cooling down? What opportunities open up later given the queue of letters that will swap in?
These decisions add up to create a game that will challenge both your vocabulary and tactical prowess.
Elexi isn't going to suck you in such that you look up and wonder where the time has gone, and you probably won't kill an evening playing it, but it is a good five-minute game. While you can't really finish a game in five minutes—other than perhaps in express games—you can make significant progress and very easily pick up where you left off later. This makes it a solid choice while waiting somewhere for something, or while pretending to care what your relations are saying during an awkward holiday gathering.
Lensflare Games has managed to create a word game that is familiar enough to jump right in and play, but different enough to not feel like you're moving over the same well-trod ground. If you enjoy word games and honing your vocabulary now and again, Elexi certainly deserves your consideration.