For 30 seconds this morning, the most important word in gaming was BEEFER. That's if you happened to be on the number 27, racing along the south coast towards Brighton, anyway, and if you were the man sat next to me on the upper deck, who was trying to play BEEFER in a game of Spelltower. Seriously, the stars had almost aligned for this man: he had the letters he wanted and he had a workable layout. What he did not have, and I am very sorry to report this, was access to a universe in which BEEFER appears in the dictionary.
Good news, Androiders: Zach Gage's maddeningly wonderful word game SpellTower is finally coming to Google Play and the Amazon App Store. It should be available on 7th March. Hey! That's this Thursday!
It may sound like an annex of Hogwarts, but Spelltower offers its own breed of magic. This is a game where you won't touch the screen for minutes at a time, staring fruitlessly at a jumbled layout of letters that seem to contain nothing at all. And then suddenly you'll realise that going over to a T then reversing can DETOXIFY a giant segment of the board. Your finger, almost trembling, traces out the word. Half the board disappears. You are some kind of wizard.
Most games are divorced entirely from real-world skills, but word puzzles operate in a hinterland. It's not that they necessarily educate or improve the vocabulary of players, but there's some optimistic part of your brain that thinks they might. That if you spend enough time scoring big in Spelltower, a transmogrification will slowly take place and eventually you'll wake up as Stephen Fry.
The point of justifications like this, of course, is that they let you play games and feel good about it. The equivalent of a menthol cigarette. Spelltower's chic and colourful style pulls you in, and soon it's swallowing hour upon hour of your time. The basic layout is a grid made up of letters, and you can link any letter to any surrounding it in order to trace out words: backwards, diagonals, everything's up for grabs. This does not make things easy, which is Spelltower's first big jolt (84 points!)