App Review: QatQi Breaks the Word Game Grid

Electronics Videogames

Instead of a grid or graph, the word game QatQi from veteran independent developer Chris Garrett, released November 15 for i-gadgets, opens with a single, pulsing, blue circle, a little reminiscent of the WTF opening of Myst. There are letters below. What should you do — maybe drag and drop a letter in the blue circle? Yep. Oh jeez, now there are four pulsing blue circles! Intuitively, it’s time to make a word and with a letter that snuck in to replace the first, to boot. I’m going for the word “THING” but the game stops me at “HING” — this ain’t your grandma’s Words With Friends and most certainly isn’t your great-grandma’s Scrabble.

Making the nuevo-word-gamo architecture even more apparent are the Tron-like grid lines that snap in place after placing this first, abbreviated word. But despite the bare-bones required tutorial and my gamer’s stubborn streak that disallows a peek at the additional, included instructions, the framework is pretty intuitive: the lines are a puzzle map and you have to build enough words inside it to burn the level’s letters. Along the way, you discover hidden gold coins accessible only by building longer words and unearth other goodies that affect score. Oh, did I mention the graphics and audio are both pretty sweet? I can’t tell if the letter background is supposed to be tiled peacock feathers or a roulette wheel, but whatever it is, it’s cool.

But the biggest difference between QatQi (pronounced “Cat-Key” and named after the two most playable words in Scrabble) and existing word games is the real-time feel of evolution after laying each tile. Now, I’m no QatQi expert yet, but there’s importance in the fact that you’ll score for A on the way to making AT, on the way to also scoring for ATE. And the arrival of new letters as soon as you start laying down a word necessitates an eye always on developing possibilities in addition to the capital-P Plan. I meant to lay DENTED, but halfway through the word, I had the letters for DENTISTRY. Booyah! Gold coin time, baby.

Subsequent levels have increasingly squeezed or otherwise complex game maps, requiring you to thread words through increasingly difficult boundary lines. But woe unto ye who doth unwisely budget the “undo” button. After 200 presses it will cost you to buy more. That said, I imagine that after playing the game long enough to press the undo button 200 times, you and I will be expert enough to avoid pressing it nearly as often I did in the first screen, which felt a bit like Whack-a-Mole.

Finally, I dig the analytics. In addition to expected things like a word list, it includes measures like your letter impact. From these analytics, I learned that I’m not especially facile with long words, but I can squeeze acceptable words into nooks and crannies that count. Hmmm, maybe once I’ve let it rest long enough to get over the extreme ennui born of overuse, I’ll take that lesson back to Words With Friends. For now, I’m going to give QatQi the addictive month-plus it deserves.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a promo code for this game.



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