Crispy Gamer

Casual Fridays: Playfish's Word Challenge

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It's a steamy August Friday, so while we at Crispy Gamer may technically be "at work," we're not working. (It's true. I wrote this article last night.) Instead, we're playing games.* Specifically, casual games**, on our computer, which allow us to look like we're working. Kind of like what you're doing right now by reading the Crispy Gamer site on your company's dime. (And we salute you for it!)

This is how it goes every Friday. So in order to capitalize on our habitual sloth, we're inaugurating a weekly feature called Casual Fridays.*** We pick a casual game, you and a bunch of Crispy writers play it, and we all chat about it in the comments. This week, we've picked Word Challenge. It's a Playfish game on Facebook and a recent hit around the Crispy Gamer offices, having earned its own quiz in the delightful new Crispy Gamer App (hint hint).

Word Challenge

The game is essentially a streamlined Boggle. You get a rack of six letters, and you have to pick out as many anagrams as you can from those letters. If you spell a word using all six letters (there's always at least one six-letter word), you unlock a special bonus round.

The fun thing about Word Challenge is that, because it's a Facebook game, you get to compete with your friends. A little leaderboard at the bottom of the game's window shows all of your Facebook buddies' high scores, so you know the exact moment when you have humiliated them and their families.

A few tips† to help you boost that score:

1. Use the keyboard, and not just to type in words. Word Challenge displays a small set of keyboard shortcuts before each game (in tiny text, for some reason). Memorize them, especially the one that lets you switch to a new board. Which brings me to...

2. Switch boards liberally. After you find a few words on a given board, you'll be able to swap in a fresh set of letters. Don't waste your time on a rack like OOONKQ. Switch it out!

3. Take a couple of seconds to try for the six-letter word. The bonus-round points stack up over time.

4. If you are really stumped, use the space bar to reshuffle the letters on the rack. Unless you're this guy, you might need a fresh look at your letters to get going. No shame in that.

Word Challenge

So try the game and post your impressions and/or high scores. Editor Ryan Kuo told me not to put my high score in this article†† because it would shame you all, and I will respect his wishes. Have fun, and see you in the comments.

* I know what you're thinking. "Yeah, sure, you're playing games at work because you work at a videogame Web site, where playing games is your job, and it's a nonstop wonderland of magical rainbow fun, and probably Julianna Margulies drops by sometimes to play Rad Racer." Well, you couldn't be more wrong. Julianna Margulies always picks Bubble Bobble. It's kind of tiresome, really, but what am I doing to do, tell Julianna Margulies that her game choice is wrong? I THINK NOT.

** Bleh. I hate the term "casual game" as much as the next guy, and I deserve your scorn for using it. It's stupid and ham-fisted and not a very good descriptor of what it's trying to describe. But here's the thing. At the editorial meeting this week, somebody came up with the name "Casual Fridays" for this feature -- probably me because it is so freaking brilliant. [Editor's note: It was James Fudge.] We were so pleased with ourselves that we were willing to use the "casual games" buzzword so that our title would make sense.

*** See? It was totally worth it.

Psst. Here are the top-secret tips for real pros.

1. The bonus round has you spell the name of a friend from a jumble of letters. So get plenty of Facebook friends with short, easy-to-spell names. They will save you precious tenths of a second. I have friends named Dan, Ben and Sam. These people are like gold. I also had a friend named Cheroq. Past tense.

2. Don't waste your time with three-letter words. They don't put any time back on the clock, making them the exclusive domain of saps and rubes. A better way to rack up quick points is to rattle off a bunch of four-letter words, as they add two seconds each to your allotted time.

3. Speaking of four-letter words, the Word Challenge dictionary includes swears! Tee-hee! So go nuts. They even have the word "s--t." (By the way, the censored letters are "Hi." As in "Hi, I'm the word 'shit.'")

†† It's 162,965. Can't catch me down here in the footnotes, Kuo! Hahaha! I'm always one step ahead! Anyhow, if you can beat 162,965, I will offer you my grudging respect -- that is, assuming you didn't cheat, which you obviously did, you cheating cheater. Best of luck!