3, 2, 1... Words Up! is a great example of how simple can be satisfying. This word-unscrambling game does one thing and does it well, providing a solid dose of portable wordplay to anyone looking to test their lexical limits.
The basic objective is to create as many words as possible from a bank of seven letters, and there are two game modes — Classic and Blitz — that put their own spins on this formula. Classic mode starts out with two minutes on the clock, and lets you earn back time with each successful word made. Longer words will net you bigger time bonuses, and since the smallest words (of four letters) only add back a second each, you'll need to look for longer combinations to stay in the game for long. After finding five words, you can exchange your letter tiles for new ones, so you never need to stare hopelessly at any one set for too long. Blitz mode, on the other hand, is a straight score attack where you're given three non-extendable minutes to rack up as many points as possible, with the letter tiles refreshing automatically every 30 seconds. Both modes are a lot of fun, and while Classic is a more laidback affair until the very end, trying to fit in all the words you'll inevitably spot in the last few seconds of each letter set in Blitz can be quite a frenzied affair.
The game controls exclusively with the touch screen, using the stylus to arrange the
letters into a word, shuffle the letters if you're out of ideas and submit any words you've made. It's easy and intuitive, though having to delete letters one-by-one if you make a mistake can feel a bit slow, especially in the last frantic seconds of a good game. In both modes the top screen is used to display Hangman-style hints (blanked out except for one letter) for all possible words you can make with the current letter tiles. This can be surprisingly helpful in jogging your memory, and the hints are filled in as you complete words, which is a nice way to keep track of those you've already found.
A particularly notable feature of Words Up! is the inclusion of several playable languages besides English: Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese are all available. The language can be switched in the options screen while the menus remain in English, turning this into a fun tool for those looking to boost their vocabulary in another language. Of course, it would be more helpful as a learning aid if there were a way to review which words you found and which you missed afterwards, but as it is it's a welcome addition for both learners and native speakers of these languages.
Words Up! saves the top ten scores for both Classic and Blitz modes, and lets you attach a name to your score to keep tabs among friends and family playing on the same system. Unfortunately it doesn't separate scores in different languages — it would have been nice to see your improvement in Portuguese or Italian, for instance, but unless you're fluent or very lucky, higher English scores are likely to keep the results of your multilingual adventures out of the top ten.
The art style is both neoclassical and classy (much more so than the title would suggest), and fits the Touch! Generations-esque feel of the game very well. There's only one background, but the graphics are clean and functional, and the single, soothing piece of music (complete with chirping birds) holds up well to repeated listening. Above all, Words Up! gets out of the way and lets you make words, which is just as it should be.
3, 2, 1... Words Up! is a fun, no-frills word game rounded out by a nice presentation and the inclusion of multilingual play. A good value at 200 Points, traveling wordsmiths would be wise to keep this handy for an on-the-go fix.