June 13, 2014 10:38 PM | Lena LeRay
If you've been looking for a solo word game that can be played in short bursts and will challenge anyone who can read no matter how big their vocabulary is, look no further. Simple Machine's LEX is simple and starts out easy but quickly ramps up the pace and the pressure while assailing your senses with kaleidoscopes of letters and increasingly tense sound. It's surprisingly intense.
The game presents you with a string of Scrabble-like tiles with letters and point values and asks you to make words three or more letters long. Letters that go unused shift to the right side of the screen and start turning red as time passes while more tiles slide in from the left. How fast a tile turns red depends on its point value, which depends in turn on how difficult the letter is to use. As soon as a tile turns completely red, it's game over, and for every three words you make the difficulty and score bonus increase.
You can get some pretty high scores using nothing but three letter words, though you get bonuses for longer ones. I have no clue how longer word bonuses are calculated because the game ramps up in difficulty so fast that trying to watch the scores a word gets you will result in a loss. LEX really demands balance; you have to focus on the letters but can't forget to see the forest for the trees.
LEX also serves as an excellent example of how simple aesthetics can go a long way. Aside from the fact that the letter tiles are reminiscent of Scrabble, the game looks pretty unique. Every game looks different, too, though not because of any procedural generation. As you build a word, the letters you use are used to make the background kaleidoscope. When you submit a word, that graphic shrinks to take up only the center of the screen and leave room for more sweet letter art. The sound design also works really well, with complexity increasing with difficulty level and the beat intensifying the closer you are to losing.
The best thing about these visual and audial elements is that they're not game critical at all, making the game very accessible. The visuals seem to be colorblind friendly, but even if someone has trouble with some of the colors, the gameplay is unaffected by the background visuals. The sound, while useful for knowing how close you are to losing, isn't necessary to play the game. It adds a lot to the game in terms of atmosphere, but it is not game critical in the least. That said, you'll want to listen if you can and headphones really intensify the experience.
LEX is available right now for $0.99 for iOS and Android. There are plans to release a web version, too, but it is not yet available. My personal recommendation is that if you know you like word games and/or short, hard games that require you to think under pressure, don't wait.