QatQi (iOS) review

QatQi is a new iOS game from ZWorkbench, Inc. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with additional in-app purchases of “undos” to allow players to take back their moves.

QatQi is a crossword-based word puzzle game, but rather than being a simple Scrabble-inspired board game, it tasks players with using the letters that are made available to them to “explore” a map, score as many points as possible and uncover hidden golden coins. Players are awarded points according to the value of the letters they lay down, the words they make, bonuses for making longer words and multipliers based on special spaces. The aim in each level is to make use of all of the available letters while attaining as high a score as possible, at which point a detailed breakdown of the player’s stats is shown, with location-based leaderboards allowing for competition at the local, regional, national or international level.

QatQi’s puzzles are broken up into days of the week, and unlock gradually as the player completes them and as real time passes. Puzzles that appear on Mondays are easy, and the difficulty gradually increases throughout the week. Puzzles that appear on Sundays are supposedly “nigh-impossible” to complete without using the built-in undo function — a function which the game continually nags the player to make use of through popups saying it “makes the game more fun” and even a special entry in the stat screen tracking how much it has been used. Given that the sale of undos via in-app purchase are how the game monetizes, this can feel a little heavy-handed at times, but it can easily be ignored.

In any given puzzle, the player has six letter tiles available at once, and must begin from a set starting space. Once the first letter has been laid down, the boundaries of the puzzle’s maps become visible, and the player may then begin building out from that point. Available spaces glow blue and sometimes have a number of dots in them; these multiply the score of any letter laid atop them. Gold coins also occasionally appear — these provide the player with a big score boost and provide incentive to explore as a “collectible” item.

At the end of a level, the player can see the words they laid down and the scores they acquired. They can also check a detailed breakdown of their behavior, including how much they used the undo function, average word length and other interesting statistics. The player is also prompted to submit a name for public listing on high score tables, and these high score tables are tracked according to location right down to the local postcode area, meaning that players can easily choose to compete with anyone from friends in the local area to the very best players in the world. Multiple profiles can be registered on a single device, too, though there’s apparently nothing to stop two players having the same name, even on the same phone.

Players may share their achievements upon completion of a level via Facebook, Twitter, email or their camera roll. Twitter and Facebook functionality makes use of the build-in social features of iOS 5 and 6 respectively, meaning the user doesn’t have to leave the app or pass through obtrusive permissions screens.

QatQi is a very attractively-presented game, with excellent ambient sound and sharp, clean, minimalist graphics. Unfortunately its distinctive aesthetic makes it a rather hard app to navigate at times, as icons aren’t always entirely clear in their meaning. It’s also not made particularly clear what the conditions for unlocking various puzzles are, as at times it seems somewhat arbitrary as to whether or not a puzzle which should be accessible to the player is made available. After completing the puzzle from Monday of this week, for example, the game then unlocked the puzzle from the previous Monday rather than today’s puzzle, and it wasn’t until I completed that that today’s puzzle showed itself. The exact conditions for unlocking new challenges could do with some clarification — the help file rather unhelpfully says that they are simply “unlocked as you play the game.”

This issue aside, QatQi is an excellent new puzzle game that offers a significant amount of content to keep players theoretically coming back for a whole year. It’s a fun new twist on the oversaturated mobile word puzzle genre, and with a few tweaks to its user-friendliness (including perhaps a little less nagging to use the undo function) it has the potential to be a big hit.

As a new release, QatQi does not yet appear to be listed on the App Store leaderboards at the time of writing. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Play

A great new mobile word game, albeit one that could do with a few minor tweaks to its usability.

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