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Mac Game Review: X-Words Deluxe

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When a board game gets your name in the Los Angeles Times, you tend to look fondly on the game for a while.

Over a year ago I found a pattern in NFL playoff quarterbacks and their last names' Scrabble value. As silly as it was, the post was cited in the Seattle Times and then the LAT, among others. So it goes without saying that Scrabble and its variants are immediately okay in my book.

Scrabble is one of those games anybody will, with no explanation or warning whatsoever, develop a craving for. So in a way Scrabble is like Chinese food. But sometimes the city I'm visiting has a rather crappy buffet and their ice cream machine is broken. When it comes to Scrabble, as long as my PowerBook cooperates and chooses to power up on command, I'll have X-Words Deluxe.

Hold on. It's not Scrabble. Just like Apu from The Simpsons doesn't work at a 7-11. Let's compromise and say that X-Words is a Scrabble by-product, although developer Freeverse calls it a "crossword game."

While the key features Freeverse boasts include network play, custom dictionaries, and different game boards, none of these is my favorite feature, because I'm just a fickle human being like that. Rather, the quirk to which I took a shining was that you can type the friggin' word you want to play. Hovering the mouse over a square, press an arrow key, type your move, and press enter. Thank God I don't have to manually drag each tile to the board. What a superbly awesome magical function.

Oh, and those other features are nice too.

Well, most of them. The network play is great in theory, but rarely is another X-Word player online at the same time. And if both players are behind a firewall, then that's just too bad.

Different game boards are also a refreshing change of pace. While they have a basic game board similar to Scrabble — except it includes quadruple and quintuple word scores (sweet) — there are some themed boards. One has an outer space motif, another has a pirate color scheme, but the most strategic board has to be "Race to The End," where the origin starts in a corner and follows a backward "S" to the opposite corner.

One also has the option of customizing game boards and adding bonus words worth more. For example, an NFL-themed board could have bonus words like "Manning" and "Brady." Although it should be noted that if one can play "Roethlisberger" on the board, they should not only win the game but also win at life.

And if that's too boring, then you're more than welcome to create a curling-themed game board.

But beyond the network play quibble — c'mon, find your own friends, chief — there's little to complain about in this slick little game. A Scrabble crossword enthusiast would treat himself well to X-Words, even if it's just to play against the computer. Moreover, I've found it rather therapeutic to unleash my anger from the day's stress by dumbing the computer down to the easiest level and kicking its ass.

Some people just drink. I play Scrabble. A hit at parties, indeed.

X-Words Deluxe is available to download for $19.99 at Freeverse's website.

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