Game Review – Boggle with Friends (Mobile – Free to Play)

The timeless classic word game, Boggle, hits mobile phones courtesy of developer, Zynga. Tweaked and enhanced to integrate with social media, Boggle with Friends works almost as well if you don’t have any playing the game. Or any friends.

In case you spent a lot of your life living in a cave, Boggle is a word game. You get a cube full of letters in a grid and you try to make words by dragging your finger along letters that are in contact with each other. Boggle is the basis for a thousand other word games that have been released from the likes of Wordament to WordSplay. Even if you have never played Boggle, it is likely you have played one of the many variants of it out there on the market.

It is pretty apparent, even in the title, that Zynga want you to invite friends to the game. Right from the off you are pushed to link the game to your Facebook profile or, if you don’t want to, at least provide an email address and be registered. One of the biggest concerns with these “with friends” sort of games is when you want to play without friends. Thankfully Boggle with Friends doesn’t really require you to play with friends at all. There are more than enough opportunities to play the game against randoms. There are a ton of tournaments to enter where you play against the general populace. Also, there is the option to play against the AI as well.

Boggle uses Smart Match to make sure you are playing against similarly skilled opponents. This seems to work well. I am a half decent player and have yet to be matched against an opponent that was either too easy to beat or too hard to challenge. Not that I win many games, but I’ll come to the reason for that in a minute.

To make Boggle more exciting, the developers have chucked in a load of different power up modes. You may, like me, find this dilutes the game a bit. Perhaps I am a purist, but the fun in games like these comes from trying to find the most words and the longest words. Not from power ups. There are small and mega sized ones. The small power ups include Freeze, which freezes time for a bit, Inspiration, which gives you some hints, Spin, which shuffles the grid and Vision, which uncovers a few words for you. The mega sized ones are longer versions of Freeze and Inspiration. The mega freeze stops the board for 60 seconds. Considering most games are 2 minutes long, that becomes a huge advantage. Mega Inspiration displays 8 of the highest scoring words for you. That isn’t as big an advantage but can help.

You get power ups by playing the game normally, though it is semi rare to come across the mega ones. This is where in app purchases come in to play. For £1 you can get 2 mega freezes or 2 mega inspires. So that helps you for two games. Seeing as almost everyone I have played against uses freeze in every single game, this leaves you with a problem. If you choose to not have power ups, your opponent has 50% more time than you and you will lose almost every time.  So, if you want to have the option to balance the power, and have freeze too, you are going to need to pay £1 every two games or £0.50 per game and that is expensive. That makes Boggle more like a pay per play game than a free to play game.

On top of the power ups, there are a few rule tweaks in this version of Boggle. The  biggest being the allowance of two letter words. I don’t really see any benefit in this change, it’s something that worked fine already with the 3 letter minimum. Perhaps trying to make it more casual in line with the social side?

You also get Daily and Weekly quests to take part in. These are refreshingly fun. Giving you a nice little solo challenge like, try to score 300 points in 60 seconds or the like. Completing these challenges can net you a power up, some tickets or coins. Speaking of tickets, you need these to play. Different modes cost different amounts of tokens. Basic tournaments cost just 1 token all the way up to special tournaments costing 50 tokens to take part in. They do come fairly regularly to you though so I haven’t found myself needing to pay real money for extra tokens yet. At £1 for just 16, that is a relief.

General game play against people is done on a turn basis. You have your go, the random player you are up against get an alert telling them they have a move to make and so on. It can be frustrating waiting for people to play back. I currently have 10 games on the go and 7 of them have been waiting for the other player to take their turn for over 48 hours now. Tournaments work differently in that each one gather sup the correctly required amount of real time players for you to face off against. There must be a lot of players online. I am yet to experience any tournament where not enough players joined.

On the social side, obviously you can connect to your Facebook. You can invite friends to play and hold private matches against each other. Even during play there are options to have a chat box open to ping messages back and forth to each other. With ads, yes there are ads, there are a couple banner ads at the foot of the screen and a more irritation video ad at the end of each game. You can usually quit this ad after 5 or 10 seconds though, which is something good.

All in all, Boggle with Friends is a okay version of a great word game, in regards to gameplay. The tournaments are a fun addition and the daily challenges are great to get stuck in to. The majority of the game is lost though, ultimately making the whole thing end in disappointment as you lose game after game after game because you refuse to spend money on power ups. That is a huge, game destroying fault in my opinion. Something they could have, and should have fixed by having one more mode. A simple, old rules, no power up mode.

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Boggle with Friends (Mobile - Free to Play)
  • The Final Score - 5/10
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