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Wurdweb is Scrabble on the streets, Tetris in the sheets

Formerly an Apple Arcade exclusive, Wurdweb is now on Steam

A screenshot from Wurdweb. Most of the screen is taken up by connected words; it looks a lot like Scrabble. Image: Aran & Adriaan
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

A lot of us have moved on from Wordle, the now New York Times-owned word game that swept the world earlier this year. (But some, like my mom — hi, Mom — haven’t, of course.) Without Wordle in my life, I’d dropped off word games entirely until I came across Wurdweb, a Scrabble-like that innovates on the classic boardgame.

Wurdweb was released on Apple Arcade last year, but developers Adriaan de Jongh and Aran Koning (who both worked on Hidden Folks) released the game on Windows PC via Steam this week. Looking at the still images, Wurdweb is almost indistinguishable from Scrabble — but in practice, it’s entirely different. Instead of giving the player letters, Wurdweb gives you words.

You create webs of words by connecting matching letters to move around the board, in pursuit of a goal that changes depending on the puzzle type. Finish your web on a certain tile, meet a word number threshold, or add as many words as possible to win. Different colored blocks on the board add new words to your list and are essential to collect, or else you’ll quickly run out and you won’t meet your goal.

I’ve likened Wurdweb to Scrabble for obvious reasons, but it feels like Tetris; puzzling how out to fit words tightly together, slotting them in spaces in a way that’s precise and deliberate. You’re not clearing lines, but there is an art to its building. This is the more challenging part of the game — the words are already there, and it’s easy to see where they’d link up with other words. The trick is making sure those placements work for you, not against you.

Wurdweb’s puzzles are procedurally generated, which means there’s an unlimited number of them. I meant to play a few rounds before bed last night and ended up creating word webs for more than an hour.

Wurdweb is available at no extra cost as part of the Apple Arcade subscription, and $4.99 on Windows PC via Steam.

The next level of puzzles.

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