Playing Jackbox Games‘ new mobile title, Word Puttz, I was certain the letters they gave me in this tutorial stage were a knowing setup. I was wrong. The purveyors of the classic You Don’t Know Jack series (hosted by Cookie Masterson. Get it now?) have applied their clever word play to the word game genre with Word Puttz. …word.
It’s Scrabble on a minigolf course, a design choice that repaints the traditional square board in new layouts while adding other gameplay wrinkles. Coins tempt you to run off of the direct course, tubes redirect your word train into perplexing corners, and word limits force you to plan ahead. There’s also this evil mechanic that locks your letters in place as you build words. On your way to spelling SHEATHES, for example, you’ll be locked in at SHE, SHEAT, SHEATH, and SHEATHE, being issued new letters to fill in your hand as you go. If things go bad you can remove any letters you laid down previously but you don’t get them back and the letters issued at each stop count against your limit for that stage. I’m seventeen stages in and it’s getting downright strategic.
Being a mobile game there are naturally hooks for in-app purchases. Hearts regenerate over time and you lose one if you quit out of a stage. Hints, shuffles and power-ups come in short supply. There are cheaper packs to refill these consumables but the $4.99 option buys you a less sleazy game. I’m no wordsmith and so far I haven’t run into a need to pay, despite one of the stages being cheekily titled “The Pay Wall”.
It’s a nice spin on the crowded word game genre, one that makes you think in new ways and, for a change, doesn’t require you to lure in friends and family as competitors. It’s available now for free on both Android and iOS.