Word games have the unique ability to both stimulate the mind and instil a sense of supreme competition. And with the rise of social and mobile gaming, word games have taken on a new and casual role in society. Alphabear brings the word game genre a few steps forward, and introduces a few innovative ideas.
The first impression you’ll form about Alphabear is “OMG IT’S SO CUTE”. And it is. The game is wrapped up in layer upon fluffy layer of charm that’ll keep warming your heart as you tap tiles and spell words. The gist of this free-to-play mobile title is pretty simple: spell words, the words turn into bears, spell more words around your bears to grow them, repeat.
The bears really change how this game is played compared to, say, Scrabble. Growing the bears challenges you to craft words using specific letters, and after most matches you’ll unlock a new bear. Before a match you select a load-out of three bears, and each has a unique set of modifiers to either boost points for using specific letters, or extend your time limits in timed matches. At time of writing, bears can only be unlocked through playing and cannot be purchased.
Alphabear wouldn’t be free to play if it didn’t have a mildly convoluted money system, and it certainly ticks that box. Playing a match costs a certain amount of Honey, and winning a match gets you coins. Honey can be bought with coins, coins are bought for real-world money, and both can be earned by watching advertisements. For R63 you can get infinite Honey, effectively purchasing the game. All in all, it’s easy to keep playing the game for free, although the pay-gated options could be explained a bit more clearly. The game is also still in an open beta phase, so it will likely see a great deal of evolution in the future.
Something else Alphabear does really well comes at the end of a match. After your score has been tallied, one of your bears will appear in a Polaroid-style photograph using some of the words you made. The results of matching random words with pre-built sentences has the potential for Cards Against Humanity-style hilarity. These pictures can then be shared on Twitter and Facebook to amuse or confuse your friends.
Another interesting feature is that each match is actually a day-specific event, giving players a limited amount of different game types and restrictions each day. This could be limiting, but it works well here by keeping the match types fresh and invites players to return the next day.
Alphabear takes some interesting steps for a word game. It’s (mostly) free, incredibly charming, well made, and is a pleasant deviation from the word-game formula. It’s well worth your time, and highly recommended.