Our favorite free iPad games all about crosswords, anagrams, and playing with letters.
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Sparrows is a mash-up of Mahjong and Scrabble. Minimalist stacks of letters appear on-screen, which you use to build words and unlock the letters beneath those you’ve submitted. Tactical use of special tiles, won from higher-scoring words, can rapidly boost your score – a double word bonus with ‘quiz’ is the dream.
On the iPad, the extra screen space makes Sparrows finger-friendly and it’s easy to see what’s going on. The interface as a whole works well – although be mindful when a word is white, it’s submitted with a single tap. Press Clear if you don’t want that to happen.
In all, this is a colorful, engaging word game, with a generous amount of content for free, including Time and Move modes, along with a handful of Puzzle mode set-ups. One-off IAP nets you more if you become hooked.
Kitty Letter combines anagrams, real-time strategy, and the oddball sensibilities of Matthew Inman, cartoonist of The Oatmeal. The premise is a battle between two households, which send explosive cats their neighbor’s way. The bigger the word you spell, the more cats head off in your destructive clowder.
Strategy comes from the paths the cats take, which are based on a word’s first letter. So if a half-dozen cats with an S above them are about to smash your home, you’d best respond with something suitably superb. Oddball power-ups further add to the chaos across the game’s story, endless and multiplayer modes.
With its ridiculous visuals and jaunty soundtrack, Kitty Letter feels a very breezy game. But beneath its fun and furry exterior is a strategy-laced challenge that’ll swipe away any complacency with a clawed paw.
Sticky Terms finds you piecing fragmented words together - and we mean that literally. This isn’t anagrams, with letters sprayed about the screen, but a game where you sit staring at what resembles abstract art. Only by recognizing and carefully manipulating letterforms can you reconstruct each phrase - which turns out to be something amusing and untranslatable from its original tongue.
Everything about Sticky Terms shines. The subtle paper background and gorgeous typography have a tactile, real-world quality that makes you forget you’re playing a video game. The controls are pitch-perfect, as are the sound effects that subtly help you when separating and connecting puzzle pieces.
Generously, you can unlock all puzzle packs instantly (rather than by watching ads) by entering a code from the creator’s own - and equally impressive - supertype. So now you need to go and download two great word games!
SpellTower+ reimagines the original SpellTower and removes its price tag, instantly propelling it to the top of the best free iPad word game heap.
The basics echo the original 2011 hit. You’re presented with a jumble of letter tiles, and aim to find words within the chaos. On dragging out your (possibly snake-like) construction, the word’s tiles disappear, gravity plays its part, and you can continue. Depending on the mode, you may have a finite number of tiles to work with, or battle an ever-growing heap.
For free, you can’t access all the game’s modes, but there’s plenty here for even the most demanding word puzzle fanatic. And if you feel the urge to try everything SpellTower+ offers (or just remove the ads), that will only set you back a one-off $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99.
Typochondria is a word game, which features some very creative writing – creative in the sense of pages being peppered with misspellings. Your task is to spot them – against the clock.
With large text on an iPad’s sizable screen, you’d think this would be easy. It’s not. When the timer is ticking down at speed, it’s all too easy to prod a word in a panic, losing one of your three lives. At this point, you may gain a glimmer of empathy for put-upon editors.
The game offers alternate modes, too – one has you state how many errors are on a page; the other is a zero-risk no-timer mode for typo fetishists. Against the clock is where it really clicks, though, with what turns out to be a surprisingly exhilarating challenge.
Alphabear 2 has you tap out words on Scrabble-like tiles set into a grid-like board featuring bears. As tiles are used, bears grow to fill the gaps, often becoming comically tall or thin. Simultaneously, tiles have turn countdowns on them; those that reach zero become immovable stones, scuppering any gigant-o-bear schemes you had in mind.
This is very similar to the original Alphabear, only this time there’s smarter visuals, a story involving a time machine (everything’s gone wrong, but you can apparently fix history by spelling words), and a smattering of educational content through a built-in dictionary and modes based around morphemes.
An underlying meta-game with collectable bonus bears remains baffling and endearing in equal measure, but otherwise this one’s a furry good word game that’s definitely worth bear-ing in mind.
Wordgraphy is essentially a set of crossword puzzles. The tiny snag is that the letters are all in the wrong places, and although they can be moved, they can only swap with certain letters elsewhere in the puzzle.
You’d think this restriction would make things easier, but it really doesn’t. You’ll sit there faced with a set-up that resembles an H on its side. The central column will have a completed word, but you’ll stare in baffled fashion at all the other letters, flipping them about to make various flavors of gibberish.
But when things click, you’ll feel like a genius – at least until the point you’re then confronted by a new and even tougher puzzle.
Bonza Word Puzzle
Bonza Word Puzzle rethinks classic crossword puzzles, mostly by taking a completed one, hacking it to bits, and then tasking you with putting the thing back together again.
The result is something like a marriage of tetrominos, jigsaws and Scrabble, and it’s initially rather pleasant as you drag a few pieces about your iPad’s display, and feel slightly smug as everything comes together in seconds.
Naturally, Bonza’s sting in the tail then emerges: puzzles with loads of pieces, sprayed about the screen in a manner that’ll make your eyes boggle. At that point, it becomes a stern test, even if a clue helpfully hints at the kinds of words you should be making.
Spellspire features a grumpy wizard trying to make his way up a tower. Given that this is a videogame, all manner of deadly foes stand in his way. To clear a path, the pointy-hatted hero must blast enemies with his wand – a wand powered by letters.
Yep – this one’s actually an anagrams game, despite the role-playing-lite shenanigans. You get ten letters per floor and use them to spell words that are transformed into magical blasts. The longer your word, the more powerful the magic.
There’s some grind if you want to make it to the top – bosses are initially very tough to beat. But every play adds to your coffers, giving you a fighting chance of reaching the top of the tower, where we can only hope the wizard finds a really big dictionary.
Letterpress is what happens when you mash Boggle into Risk with a fork. You get a small grid of letters, and tap out a word. Doing so turns its tiles your color. Your opponent then attempts to do the same, in a kind of lexicographer’s take on a tug ’o war.
The twist is that letters you surround are temporarily locked, meaning your opponent can’t flip them on their next go. Careful strategizing is therefore at least as important as showing off your long-word skills.
With a basic rule-set and minimal visuals, it’s interesting how gripping Letterpress proves to be. But when you’re deep into a match, you and an opponent figuring out how to grab those last few unclaimed letters, it’s like no other game of its kind.
- We've also rounded up the best free Android games