Developer: Giant Crayon
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4. Universal.
Trial: Feature-limited (only 15 words).
I love word games and have wasted, er, spent, many hours with the many offerings Facebook has. When I found out about Giant Crayon’s WordSoup game, I figured I would give it a shot, in case I need it when my Facebook friends are not around. With so many Facebook word games out there, WordSoup has a challenging task to prove its value.
WordSoup downloads as a disk image, and installation is simply a matter of dragging the application file to the hard drive. Registration is required to use the game outside of the demo mode, and it can be troublesome. When I entered my registration name, e-mail address, and then serial number, I got a cryptic error message, something about “an unknown error” and “Error = -2003.” I had to install the latest eSellerate Install Engine, which is used for registering the software. That resolved the -2003 error, but then I got a new error, -25011. Luckily, tech support correctly pointed out that the new error stemmed from my account not having write access to the folder /Library/Application Support/MindVision. I discovered that said folder was created in 2005 and was owned by my 8-year-old son’s account. I probably used his account to install some software that happened to also use the eSellerate engine.
In my experience using Mac software, it is too common that when an application is installed only the current user has access to it. In the least annoying scenarios, I usually have to re-enter registration information for my son’s account to work with the games. In other cases, I have to update permissions on a certain package to give my son access. Snapz Pro X, for example, offers to make itself available to all users on the computer. Why can’t all the applications work that way? Well, back to WordSoup, the game itself.
WordSoup is probably geared toward little kids as the game interface is basically a green chalk board. You are given letters on yellow sticky notes with which you form words, three letters or longer. Words are formed by dragging the letters onto a line above them, then clicking the icon for the Enter key. Acceptable words would appear in the possible word list. If the word is not acceptable it just sits there and nothing happens, no error-sounding noise whatsoever. Decent typists can just type them and press Enter. The letters can be scrambled to help you form words that you may miss. You earn points for the words you find. To advance to the next level, you must form the longest word possible with the given letters, which is called the mystery word. When you lose, if your score is higher than the preset top ten, you get to add your name to the High Score list.
Individual Retirement Account or Irish Republican Army?
That is all there is to the game. No fancy background or custom graphics, no soothing or heart-pounding music. Animations include the letters being written, the yellow stickies flying into place when you type, or moving around when you shuffle them by pressing the spacebar. Sound effects include an exclamatory “ta-da” when you get the mystery word, clock ticking when time almost runs out, and the sound of scraping chalk as the letters are written.
You don’t get to create different players to better keep track of the High Score list. The Giant Crayon Web site mentions “Look up new words as you play,” but I haven’t found any way to do that within the game. There are only a handful of items along the edge of the chalk board to click on: Quit, New Game, High Score, Preferences, and Help. The pull-down menu has the extra Show Game command, in case you want to peek at the High Score list in the middle of the game and then need to get back to the game.
Another advertised feature that I also cannot find is “Make your own wordlist.” I suppose from the Finder I could select Show Package Contents on the single file that comprises the game, navigate to the proper text file, and then add words to it via TextEdit. But for a simple game to advertise such a feature, I expect to find a button within the game to do the job.
There is little to tinker with in the Preferences panel as well. You can increase the number of letters thereby making the mystery word harder to guess. You can also choose a difficulty level: Easy, Normal, or Hard. The only difference between the levels is the amount of time allowed. I think it is perfectly fine to have that little control over the game. However, I really wish there were a mute option for the annoying sound of chalk scraping. Sure, I can mute system-wide, but I do not want to miss out on alert sounds for new e-mail or a low laptop battery.
I could really use a mute checkbox.
You may love the English language for its present participle, past tense, and plural words, because at times they help you string together words of just the right length to score big. You don’t have such luxury with WordSoup, which uses the 12dicts Wordlist. You cannot use words like banging, aged, or reaches. On the other hand, you are expected to enter acronyms like IRA and CPA. After spending much time with WordScramble and the Scrabble clone, Wordscraper, on Facebook, it is a very difficult adjustment to make while playing WordSoup.
WordSoup is a hard sell. It is simple to play, but then so are many free Web applications. Sites like Yahoo Games and Big Fish Games offer both free online and paid offline versions of many games. The paid versions have extras like full screen and different playing modes. Full screen is an important feature to me as, if possible, I like to compute without my nearsighted glasses. Different playing modes, like Blitz or Strategy, offer something for everyone.
The free versions are simple like WordSoup but are usually served with advertisements. Similarly, the word games on Facebook are presented along with ads, but they are comparable with the paid games in terms of features. If WordSoup really supports custom word lists and word lookup, it would stand apart from the many free word games on the Web. Unless you really hate to see ads for Invisalign and American Lasers Center (“Tired of Waxing?”), stick with Facebook games and such.
The 15-word demo of WordSoup is free to keep, so you can also give it a try. Perhaps you’ll find that it meets your needs. For me, the list of acceptable words is unacceptable, the absence of a way to mute the sound of scraping chalk is annoying, and the lack of variety in the game makes it unenjoyable.