3375642701_90e82b00d7jpgPopCap’s Bookworm [App Store] is to word games as Bejeweled 2 [App Store] is to match three games--often imitated, never duplicated. Prior to Bookworm’s arrival, every other word game was a mere steward to the throne. After hours of playing the new iPhone port of this PopCap classic, I can confidently say there is a new king in town.

Bookworm uses the same formula of most word games, offering a field of random tiles from A to Z, (with 'Qu' combined in to one tile) that players must search through to find words. The tiles are large enough that accurately tapping them with your finger isn’t an issue and you can then either select the rest of your word by tapping adjacent tiles or dragging your finger through them. Lex, the Bookworm mascot accompanies you throughout the game, showing you the score of the current word you have selected. Tapping the selected word removes the tiles from the board. Lex eats them, and sometimes offers a definition of the previous word as more tiles fall from the top.

The length of the word you just entered determines the type of new tiles that are spawned. If you manage to find a huge word, green, golden or diamond-like tiles will appear. Using these special letters to create other words sends your score skyrocketing. Each word fills up Lex’s bookshelves, represented below the play field along with your current score. Fill up a shelf and you graduate to the next level, picking up a snazzy new title on the way.

3377182967_46b109da14jpgAfter you rank up a few times, a new type of letter will appear: The dreaded burning tile. These tiles start at the top, and slowly burn their way towards the bottom with each word that doesn’t include the flaming letter. If one of them reaches the bottom and sets your library on fire, it’s game over. These tiles can be cleared like any other letter on the board by using them in a word. The shorter the word you enter, the higher the risk of new tiles being on fire. This makes for a fun game play mechanic which forces the player to either search for longer words, or risk the consequences in dealing with an inferno closing in on Lex’s books.

If you can't find any words, shake the iPhone a few times and Bookworm offers you the chance to scramble up the tiles. While shaking things up might save you from being stuck, it also clears all the bonus tiles and adds a few fire tiles. Depending on your luck, shuffling the tiles can work out very well for you, or put you in a worse situation than you were in before.

Bookworm comes with two game types, depending on the pace you prefer. Classic mode has no time penalties, and is perfect for analytical word game players who enjoy searching endlessly for the longest words or planning ahead to have tiles line up for even longer words. This game mode is also great for playing while you’re doing something else, but have a few moments here and there to find a few words.

If you prefer a more frantic pace, Timed mode will be more your style. Letter tiles will spontaneously catch fire, and have to be dealt with accordingly to protect Lex’s library. Initially the tiles take quite a while to be set on fire, but as you level up, the flaming tiles come at you faster and faster. It doesn’t take very long until timed mode will have you desperately searching for any word--regardless of length--as long as it puts out a few fires.

The best part though? Unlike an increasingly large number of iPhone games that completely lose your progress when you get a call or need to quit the application, Bookworm saves everything. I really do mean everything, including remembering the tiles you had selected when you resume your game. On top of this, Bookworm keeps two separate save states for each of the game modes. PopCap really went the extra mile to guarantee that Bookworm is a game you can pick up and play whenever you only have a few seconds, or if you’re sitting down for a word-finding marathon.

3385282626_a3350478f9jpgThe pacing of the game is excellent and has a very fun feel to it. Bookworm also keeps track of your overall statistics, recording your best words, scores, and highest ranks. It even includes a word history so you can see how many three to twelve letter (twelve letter!?) words you’ve found complete with a brief listing of the words you’ve used recently from each word length.

As cliché speaking to the “polish” of a game has become, it’s hard to come up with a better way to describe the highly refined game play in Bookworm. It’s no surprise either; Bookworm has been on nearly every platform imaginable starting with the PC over six years ago. Even after playing the game when it first debuted on PC and several other platforms, I still find myself going back to Bookworm on my iPhone to see if I can beat my previous high score.

While there are word games on the App Store that offer similar game play--and even some fairly obvious clones--none really compare with the complete Bookworm package as it has evolved over the years. While there is no lite version currently available, PopCap has both an online flash version of the game, and demos you can download on the same page for both the PC and Mac.

Game Details
Name: Bookworm (v1.0) Price: $4.99 [Buy]
Developer: PopCap Games Size: 9.0 MB
Device: Tested on iPhone 3G
Bookworm is one of the best iPhone word games available. While $4.99 might seem a little pricey when there are similarly structured games for less, the quality and replay value of this long-running game really shows and it comes highly recommended.

This review was written by Eli Hodapp, a guest contributor at TouchArcade.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Jeremy

    Bookworm is the best and then there are the rest.

  • Jeremy

    Bookworm is the best and then there are the rest.

  • Brandon

    Thanks for the post - I just purchased Bookworm thanks to your glowing review!

  • Brandon

    Thanks for the post - I just purchased Bookworm thanks to your glowing review!

  • menom

    nice review - Bookworm certainly looks 'polished' (to use the cliché again)

    but I'm more than happy with Wordsworth which seems to have similar gameplay, and will remain my preferred word game for now

    good to know there's another good one out there if I ever tire of Wordsworth - but there's no sign of that right now

  • menom

    nice review - Bookworm certainly looks 'polished' (to use the cliché again)

    but I'm more than happy with Wordsworth which seems to have similar gameplay, and will remain my preferred word game for now

    good to know there's another good one out there if I ever tire of Wordsworth - but there's no sign of that right now

  • Mystic

    Great game! However, after playing Scrabble and Scramble, I think all word games should be connected to their facebook counterpart and playable across platforms.

  • Mystic

    Great game! However, after playing Scrabble and Scramble, I think all word games should be connected to their facebook counterpart and playable across platforms.

  • http://stevesabol.com Steve Sabol

    I love this game... but am I the only one with a ridiculously long load time?

  • http://stevesabol.com Steve Sabol

    I love this game... but am I the only one with a ridiculously long load time?

  • b

    Haha my grandma plays this game obsessively on her computer

    She doesn't know how to USE a computer nevermind but she plays bookworm.

    That's all she needs. When she found out I had bookworm on my iPod it conspicuously disappeared.... hmm

  • b

    Haha my grandma plays this game obsessively on her computer

    She doesn't know how to USE a computer nevermind but she plays bookworm.

    That's all she needs. When she found out I had bookworm on my iPod it conspicuously disappeared.... hmm

  • s0mah

    Hodapp to completely flip-flop this review in t-minus: 1 day.

  • s0mah

    Hodapp to completely flip-flop this review in t-minus: 1 day.

  • sredlums

    Too bad all these word games have one shortcomming; it's only useful for native english speakers.
    I am from The netherlands myself, and though I have no problem understanding and writing english, my knowlwedge of English is just not sufficient to play games like these.
    It would be nice if games like these came with a language pack for other languages....

  • sredlums

    Too bad all these word games have one shortcomming; it's only useful for native english speakers.
    I am from The netherlands myself, and though I have no problem understanding and writing english, my knowlwedge of English is just not sufficient to play games like these.
    It would be nice if games like these came with a language pack for other languages....

  • hkiphone

    I'm also a big fan of Wordsworth too, but this looks like it offers some new gameplay features like the burning tiles. In one of your screenshots, there's a stack of books with topics such as Pets, Clothing etc, and some unknown. Are those specific to that topic only? ie. You can tag words like "dog" but not "god"? That's going to really ramp up the difficulty!

  • hkiphone

    I'm also a big fan of Wordsworth too, but this looks like it offers some new gameplay features like the burning tiles. In one of your screenshots, there's a stack of books with topics such as Pets, Clothing etc, and some unknown. Are those specific to that topic only? ie. You can tag words like "dog" but not "god"? That's going to really ramp up the difficulty!

  • mark

    Is there a way to reset stats?

    @Steve - I have found all Popcap games on all platforms take way too long to load.

  • mark

    Is there a way to reset stats?

    @Steve - I have found all Popcap games on all platforms take way too long to load.

  • Jim

    I can't stand the music.
    @sredlums - ask 99games to Dutch-ify WordsWorth. They have already released French and Italian versions.

  • Jim

    I can't stand the music.
    @sredlums - ask 99games to Dutch-ify WordsWorth. They have already released French and Italian versions.

  • Mark

    This was an impulse buy for me after reading the glowing review and i couldn't be happier. Yes I have played the other games such as Chictionary and Sextuple but POPCAP really seem to have a knack for churning out well balanced games. I am a huge fan of their bejeweled app, and this has a similar charm to it. It's simple enough to play quickly or you can get right into it and play endlessly (depending on how good you are with words) It has a very nice balance of challenge / fun gameplay that the other word games (in my opinion) lack. I disagree with the load time complaint - while it does take a few seconds to load it is nowhere near as bad as loading time for a 3d racing game for example. If you like word games then I highly recomend this

  • Mark

    This was an impulse buy for me after reading the glowing review and i couldn't be happier. Yes I have played the other games such as Chictionary and Sextuple but POPCAP really seem to have a knack for churning out well balanced games. I am a huge fan of their bejeweled app, and this has a similar charm to it. It's simple enough to play quickly or you can get right into it and play endlessly (depending on how good you are with words) It has a very nice balance of challenge / fun gameplay that the other word games (in my opinion) lack. I disagree with the load time complaint - while it does take a few seconds to load it is nowhere near as bad as loading time for a 3d racing game for example. If you like word games then I highly recomend this

  • TKO

    IMHO it does take a while to load. As well presented as it is, Bookworm would be nicer with a bit of optimisation. It also feels a bit lacking compared to the desktop version: where are the cool pictures to go with your ranking whenever you level up?

    Feels like a bit more of a cash-grab than a loving port. ..but, dammit, it's still as addictive as ever. Popcap are good at making simple concepts look gorgeous.

  • TKO

    IMHO it does take a while to load. As well presented as it is, Bookworm would be nicer with a bit of optimisation. It also feels a bit lacking compared to the desktop version: where are the cool pictures to go with your ranking whenever you level up?

    Feels like a bit more of a cash-grab than a loving port. ..but, dammit, it's still as addictive as ever. Popcap are good at making simple concepts look gorgeous.

  • http://www.cyclelogicpress.com Neil Anderson

    As a bookworm I love bookworm.

  • http://www.cyclelogicpress.com Neil Anderson

    As a bookworm I love bookworm.

  • JamAnd

    Enjoying this and the SpelTiles game at the moment. This ones more expensive but both were worth buying. Play on.

  • JamAnd

    Enjoying this and the SpelTiles game at the moment. This ones more expensive but both were worth buying. Play on.

  • Doctor Judith

    I have this game on two PCs in my house. Searched for Bespelled when I bought my iPhone and was shocked not to find it. Then I checked again and there it was. I really like the new features but am surprised at the rejection of common words. Back when it was on the WWW I was in the upper five percent of players. I got broadband to attempt the top one percent without staying up all night on dial-up. The minute we subscribed to broadband the internet version disappeared. My current high score is around 4,500,000. It is fun to top my high score, but it was more fun submitting my scores to the web.

  • Doctor Judith

    I have this game on two PCs in my house. Searched for Bespelled when I bought my iPhone and was shocked not to find it. Then I checked again and there it was. I really like the new features but am surprised at the rejection of common words. Back when it was on the WWW I was in the upper five percent of players. I got broadband to attempt the top one percent without staying up all night on dial-up. The minute we subscribed to broadband the internet version disappeared. My current high score is around 4,500,000. It is fun to top my high score, but it was more fun submitting my scores to the web.

  • HalfMoon

    Guess I must be the only person to think that this game dosen't live up to the hype?

    Personally I find the mechanics of cancelling a word sooo annoying - why can't the game cancel your entry if it's incorrect instead of having to go and tap the bottom of the screen? I also find the design, well, tacky?

    Scramble is a better game IMHO.

  • HalfMoon

    Guess I must be the only person to think that this game dosen't live up to the hype?

    Personally I find the mechanics of cancelling a word sooo annoying - why can't the game cancel your entry if it's incorrect instead of having to go and tap the bottom of the screen? I also find the design, well, tacky?

    Scramble is a better game IMHO.

  • Annie

    No way, Wordsworth is any day better!
    I'm glad I got WordsWorth for $1.99 than paying $4.99 for this game.
    Its a lot more fun..tapping words is easier because of the Hexagonal shape of the grid. Plus, I can customize the game at my will.
    Bookworm might be more colourful but when it comes to performance WordsWorth has no comparison.
    If you havent got it yet,you're in luck..the game is on sale right now at 99 cents..

  • Annie

    No way, Wordsworth is any day better!
    I'm glad I got WordsWorth for $1.99 than paying $4.99 for this game.
    Its a lot more fun..tapping words is easier because of the Hexagonal shape of the grid. Plus, I can customize the game at my will.
    Bookworm might be more colourful but when it comes to performance WordsWorth has no comparison.
    If you havent got it yet,you're in luck..the game is on sale right now at 99 cents..

  • Pingback: ‘Bookworm’ On Sale For 99¢- iPhone Game Blogs

  • steve humann

    most used game on my iphone. this game is over a week old and I'm at 3.1M points--still hanging in there. a necessary scrambling just gave me about 9 fire tiles but I cleared them luckily. i think after a certain point it stops getting harder. or maybe the difficulty is really just a side effect of letter randomization. but the firetiles seem to come in waves that kick in after a set of low-scoring words. high-scoring words seem to postpone the firetile onslaught. not sure. have only been playing it hard a month or so now.

  • steve humann

    most used game on my iphone. this game is over a week old and I'm at 3.1M points--still hanging in there. a necessary scrambling just gave me about 9 fire tiles but I cleared them luckily. i think after a certain point it stops getting harder. or maybe the difficulty is really just a side effect of letter randomization. but the firetiles seem to come in waves that kick in after a set of low-scoring words. high-scoring words seem to postpone the firetile onslaught. not sure. have only been playing it hard a month or so now.

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  • Matt George

    I want the theme song for bookworm as a ringtone but can't find it by Googling. Anybody? Help? I would also enjoy this song just about anywhere as the theme song to my life as it makes me very happy and it puts a sh*t-eating grin on my face and makes me want do a silly elbow dance every time I hear it. Thank you all for your help!