Spell World is a hard, confusing adventure powered by words

Spell World screenshot

Spell World takes you on an adventure that only moves forward with the power of your vocabulary. At its core, it's just a grid of letters with words hidden in them and you are only able to create words out of letters that are either diagonal or adjacent to each other. Throw in a story line and more enticing objectives and you have Spell World in its entirety. Completing the puzzles and moving forward helps save the "Dudes" from their evil king. The game is free with in-app purchases for iPhone and iPad and requires iOS 7.0 or later.

Above the grid of letters is a progress bar. Every time you form a word, it fills a bit and turns green. As time passes when you're trying to figure out words though, the progress bar slowly depletes and turns from green to red. This is my hell in Spell World. It puts the pressure on you to not just find a word in the grid, but do it in a timely fashion.

Finding a word is hard enough. I'm not joking - this game is seriously difficult. It doesn't seem like it would be, but trying to find patterns in the letters only diagonal or adjacent on such a small grid doesn't immediately come naturally. SpellTower executes this far better. Words only need to be three letters long, but my instinct is to always go for the longer word to gain more points, but that actually seems to put one at a disadvantage.

Spell World screenshot

Spell World isn't difficult in a cutesy, addictive way. It's frustratingly difficult. Although once you start to aim for the smaller words, the game gets a bit easier, but even then that progress bar remains to haunt you and starts to drain faster with each round.

Of course there's also the storyline of the game to follow along with. At the very top is a small Dude making his way through the level with your guidance. It's a side-scroller but the only way he moves, defeats enemies and reaches goals is through the words you make. The longer the word, the farther he moves each time, though making smaller words more frequently is also effective.

There are some in-game tools to help you out. Along the bottom are three colorful squares, but I promise they're more than just shapes. These buttons are for swapping out for an entirely new board of letters, picking out one letter and swapping its place with another or even finding a word for you.

When you run out of the few cheats you get to start with, you have to buy more stars to get more cheats. A pack of five stars is US$0.99, which is a little pricey. The game also has other in-app purchases like packs of lives for when you fail or bonus letters in the grid.

The current version of Spell World crashed every other time I played the game, at least. That was as frustrating as the game itself. Plus, even though many apps have not updated with support for iPhone 6, the graphics here look particularly fuzzy.

Spell World screenshot

Spell World tries to be too many things at once and ultimately falls flat. The word game portion passes enjoyable addictive territory into just plain annoying, the storyline is less than exciting and the in-app purchases are on the expensive side. It's an interesting attempt, but doesn't fare in the end. The game is available for iOS in the App Store.