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App reviews for the WebOS

Scrabble, meet my friend Texas Hold'em – Word Ace

Posted by groovdafied on December 29, 2009

Update: So I’ve received an email from Self Aware Games, and have been informed of some updates that will be hitting the App Catalog very soon. Plus I’ve updated this review to cover the latest version 1.0.5  

Most people could agree that card games are very entertaining, especially ones that you get to gamble with. However since most card games depend on your math skills, we can now be challenged even more with a poker style game that will test you abilities to spell.  

  

This is exactly what Word Ace is all about. It combines the rules of Texas Hold’em with a Scrabble style gameplay. Word Ace is free, cross platform and multi-player, which opens itself to anyone who has an iPod Touch, iPhone, a Facebook account, and of course WebOS on a Palm Pre or Pixi. So while you’re on the bus, you can easily win your friend’s virtual cash while he’s at home crying to his mamma. Well okay, it’s not that extreme, but you have to admit it’s awesome that you’re not limited to a player who only has a Palm Pre.  

The game is developed by Self Aware Games http://www.selfawaregames.com/. They have a clean and simple website and speedy support, for example; before they released their latest patch, I was dealing with some minor issues in the game’s chat system. About 24 hours later, I received a friendly, non-robotic response, telling me that there’s a newer version being released that will address my chatting issues and even add new features. So it’s nice to see someone consistently updating their application and paying attention to people’s opinions.  

The UI is very consistent and the graphics are elegant and smooth. You wont find any default API buttons in this application, which does raise the bar for quality &  looks when compared to other apps. There are some subtle animations with decent performance. It’s finger friendly, and has a minimal learning curve. Players can go through the tutorial and practice mode to increase your personal experience. The game requires some patience, for there are players that lag on their turns. With that said, you do have a buzzing notification when it’s your turn.  

(left) Main Menu (right) Loading Screen



The first time you launch the application, you have some light music while you get your profile setup. The app references your pre profile to help link your gamer profile on Word Ace’s server, which is very helpful incase you have to replace or wipe your phone and reinstall your apps. You can also link your gamer profile with your Facebook account, letting you win more virtual cash, build up your XP points and level up your profile.  

Linking your Word Ace profile to Facebook is easy, but you’ll need your phone and computer close by to complete this process. Log into Facebook.com and go to http://apps.facebook.com/wordace. Click on the profile link and choose Import Account which then you’ll be prompted if you’ve been playing on a Palm Pre; clicking yes will require a friend code that you’ll need from your phone. Start the application in WebOS, tap Friends then tap Find Friends Online to retrieve your Friend Code.  

This is the profile link window when logged into Facebook.



The game uses a fun and innovative method to show your expressions during gameplay, with three emoticons for positive, “default” and negative status. However the game takes it a step further by allowing you to use any picture of your choice for each emoticon, and if you don’t have one handy, you can simply take a snapshot of yourself which will then be saved on Word Ace’s server. I’ll explain later how the emoticons are used during gameplay.  

Word Ace also has achievements like on your Xbox 360 and PS3 games. There are basic achievements like winning your first hand and winning 500 hands. Other interesting achievements include ‘having everyone fold’ or my personal favorite, the ‘Inconceivable!’ achievement, which is obtained by creating a seven-letter word and losing that hand. I can only imagine the user who had to swallow that round. The game also keeps a friends list for you to join each other’s games.  

(left) Profile and Emoticons (right) Friends List



A couple of achievments you can earn.



Bonus items are also obtained on a daily basis, like receiving 1,000 chips per day.  There are four packages you can buy; Basic, Advanced, Deluxe and Premium. Basic costs 99cents and credits you 10,000 chips and the Premium costs $19.99 which credits you 300K chips, plus all the proceeds go to the support of the game servers.  

Bonus chips you can purchase.



The gameplay is very simple; you have the option to practice playing the game with virtual players or play immediately with an available table online. You play with five other players with yourself at the bottom of the screen. The top right button pulls down the chat window for easy messaging to the players. Clicking on each player will pull up some basic information, letting you know what platform they are playing from, the option to add them to your friends list, what level they are and how much money they have. In the latest 1.0.5 update, tapping the player’s icon will also reveal the best word they’ve used and how much they scored, the players average score, their recent awards (a.k.a. achievments to others) and what appears to be the name of the server they are playing on. 

The user's profile and game stats.



Just like Texas Hold’em, you’re dealt with two playing cards. Then the virtual dealer drops the Flop, another card, the turn and the river, and each card has a letter with a positive or negative value. The cards with negative values will subtract points if it’s used in your word, and there will be moments to decide if you want to use the negative value cards to form your word. Unique letters like Z and Q has higher values, but can be difficult to form a word when you have a lot of consonants and hardly any vowels. You will have the option to fold, raise, call and check your bets. Betting money is simple by tapping the ‘raise’ button and a horizontal wheel will appear, allowing you to flick scroll your bet to a higher or lower amount. You can tap either side of the wheel to do small incremental raises as well. 

(left) betting wheel (right) public chat



Now once the dealer has called, everyone has about 30 seconds to spell a word in the final round. The game makes use of the hardware keyboard on the Pre and Pixi, allowing you to quickly type your word and hit the space bar to confirm it. You can also tap the letters on the screen to create your word and delete characters. You have two other buttons to quickly clear your deck and the other option to “mix” the cards up on your deck. It won’t formulate a word, but it could possibly give you some ideas. I personally never found any real use for it, but I didn’t really give it a chance to help me out.  

(left) The final battle! (right) My word against theirs.



During the gameplay, you can easily express how you feel with other players; this is where the profile pictures come into play. At any time, you can flick your profile picture up for a positive emoticon or down for a negative emoticon, and will automatically switch back to your default face after a few seconds. It’s a good idea to have G-rated emoticons, since everyone else can see your images, and prevent people from reporting your account for offensive content.  

(left) default emoticon (right) negative emoticon when swipping down.



Update: I have been notified by the developers that they’ve submitted version 1.1. to Palm’s App Catalog. Most likely they are utilizing the latest release of Palm’s SDK and will have new features like donations and in-game gifts, to name a few. Hopefully this will mean that I can finally order a drink for my opponents, perhaps a vodka martini; shaken, not stirred. I will appraise everyone as soon as the update drops. (Thank you to the developers who notified me of this update)

Be sure to have your battery charged or your handset plugged in, for it is data intensive and will rely on a clear network to run smoothly. As always, Wi-Fi is preferable and can also help with your battery life more then having it off. This game deserves a 9 out of 10. It’s well designed and has a smooth quality feel to the graphics and its UI. Contacting support was pleasant and speedy, plus the fact that it’s multi-player and cross-platform, enhances the experience that makes you want to play it whether you’re killing time or not.

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7 Responses to “Scrabble, meet my friend Texas Hold'em – Word Ace”

  1. It is the second entry I read tonight. And I am on my third. Got to think which one is next. Thank you.

  2. […] new Pre App review site has hit the web, and one of their first targets is Word Ace! It’s a great, super-through writeup! Go check it out, and show the site some love! […]

  3. […] admin wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIt combines the rules of Texas Hold‘em with a Scrabble style gameplay. Word Ace is free, cross platform and multi-player, which opens itself to anyone who has an iPod Touch, iPhone, a Facebook account, and of course WebOS on a Palm Pre … […]

  4. What a wonderful blog! Please continue this great work I will be sure to check back regularly…

  5. Thanx for your great post. I also must say that your layout is awesome. Keep up the good posts.

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