Hexalex, from developer Nathan Gray, bills itself as “a new angle on crossword games,” but it would be more accurate to compare it to a colorful version of Scrabble with sound effects.
Having said that, Hexalex’s learning curve is pleasantly short for anyone familiar with the classic board game. The “Hex” part of the equation comes from the hexagonal shape of the board and the tiles, in which you lay down letters to form words vertically or diagonally.
You start with seven tiles in your rack, which you can replenish with a tap of the refresh button. If you’re feeling stuck, you can do a “full exchange” and replace them all, but only three full exchanges are allowed per game. There are colorful spaces worth extra points, like double word or triple letter scores.
Special plays like the “bingo,” a 7-tile play, earn anywhere from 5 to 40 bonus points. If you want to cluster words parallel to each other or make them cross diagonally, it creates lots of little “junk words” that aren’t really valid, but you’re allowed two per play anyway.
The game’s help section includes a complete tutorial with everything you’ll need to know. You’ll soon become a master whether you spent your childhood playing heated games of Scrabble with Grandma or not.
To add a little extra dimension, Hexalex includes some options unique to an iPhone game. The sound effects and animations are alright, but the game will also highlight invalid words so you can correct yourself, or allow you to zoom in to get a better look at things.
And of course, since Grandma isn’t around, you can play against the computer (and choose your difficulty) or play online with your Hexalex account. Your profile saves a list of your stats and medals earned, and though I can’t imagine who on Facebook could care about your great plays, you can immediately post those to your news feed as well with the “brag” option.
Bottom line, Hexalex is a spiffed up Scrabble for iPhone and iPod touch. Though what it does it does very well, it’s not going to change your life. For $2, though, you wouldn’t expect it to.
[Meghann Myers is a frequent contributor to Macworld.]