Synonymy Review

review by mattchelen on March 13, 2015, 10:41 a.m.
Synonymy Review

Synonymy is one of those games. The first time you play it, you can't help but wonder “how did this not exist before?” It's so simple from the user's end. A bunch of words come up. There's one in the center and one at the bottom that are particularly important. You have to get to the bottom word from the one in the center. The words that appear in each corner are synonyms of the word in the center. You simply click one to make it the word in the center.

Simple enough, right? I thought so, too. Try thinking that when you're trying to go from “beep” to “score,” though. How are those two words related at all? Well, they aren't, really. Words that are related to words that are related to them are related to each other. There's a bridge somewhere and you have to find it.

Now, you might have noticed that Synonymy is both a desktop game and a mobile game. This is true. With the price, and the sort of “casual” nature of the game, you might be wondering “should I just get it on mobile?” Honestly, that's a tough one. The entire game suffers from bad organization in terms of the menus. You can move in all four directions in the menu and, at some point, each one of them will do something. Your game is a direct continuation to the right of the “main” screen and you can always return and start a new game by moving back to the left. You can swipe down to change difficulty and sound. To the right of this is a list of the most recently submitted scores - I will get to this - and, on the other side of the scores, again to the right, the credits and information about the creator. This is extremely unintuitive and, at times, it's fairly uncertain that you can actually go a certain direction before you know something's actually there.

The desktop controls are also a bit of a fault. On mobile, you swipe to change what you're looking at. On desktop, you use the arrow keys. That is the only option. You have to both click and use the arrow keys for a game that was originally designed to use a simple touch-based interface.

The mobile version isn't without fault, though. It has some significant performance issues, making the entire game feel sluggish at times, and the “challenge code” entry menu can be unwieldy when used with a software keyboard on mobile. Several times, I had issues with it not working correctly. Once finally entered, it can take upwards of ten seconds to actually give you a set of words to play. This doesn't happen in the desktop version but again, the controls are awkward on desktop.

Now, to clear up the scoreboard, let me get this out of the way - there is no leaderboard. Perhaps due to the large amount of combinations, five character keys that can be both numbers and letters, each having a separate version for each of five difficulties, it just wasn't an option. Perhaps it was to encourage challenging others' scores. Whatever the reason, it doesn't work out well. Without a “top score” to face off against, true multiplayer, a way to notify someone that a new score was submitted to a key/difficulty level combination they've played on before, and a central discussion forum where players might post things such as “share 10D4P scores here” all at once, the competitive element comes down to friends/family and the random guy that may have seen that you tweeted about your score. This kills the competitive element quite a bit.

Now, if you can get past this all, there is quite an interesting game here. With various difficulty levels and enough combinations to provide you puzzles for years to come, along with the ability to challenge your score and the scores of your friends, there is a lot of both entertainment value and content for the $1.99 you're paying for the game. It just isn't without its issues. Personally, I had really hoped for a head-to-head competitive mode and a true leaderboard. I also would really like swipe gestures in the desktop version. Navigation is just a bit awkward with what's provided. Sort that out, improve performance, and implement a “truer” sense of multiplayer and the game could be something to remember. As it stands now, it's a fun word game, and a clever one at that, but it may eventually wear on you.

6.0 Overall Score

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