It is a truth universally acknowledged that if I’m going to download a mobile game it had better be freaking cute. Spry Fox’s puzzle word game Alphabear fulfills all my needs, and then some. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s also a challenging brain-teaser.
In a match of Alphabear, you are presented with a board of assorted letter blocks. You can tap these blocks to put together words—the bigger the word, the more valuable it is, etc. It doesn’t matter where the letters are on the board, but it does matter when they appear. Each turn your letters count down; eventually the block will turn red, and in another turn that block will turn into an untappable rock. New letters appear each turn.
And then there are the bears.
Unlike in Spry Fox’s Triple Town, where bears are an adorable but horrible nuisance, bears in Alphabear are helpful and lovely. You collect bears as you move through the game, and each one has a different ability. The Fore Bear, one of the first bears you get, gives you a final score bonus and extra points for any four-letter word you make. Other bears will increase the quantity of a specific letter, give you different letter bonuses, add seconds in timed matches, etc.
You get more bears by completing levels and getting high scores. There are 67 total bears that you can find—from common bears all the way up to LEGENDARY BEARS, which need a full day to sleep after you use them in a game.
I love these bears. I love these bears so much. They blink and bounce gently as they wait for you to choose them, moving to the tune of the peaceful string-plucking music that scores your island-hopping bearventure. At the end of every game, a bear will make a sentence that includes some of the words you created.
“Little bear,” you’ll say, “I know I used a horrible word in that match to get points, why must you remind me?”
I do this to my neighbors all the time. #alphabear http://t.co/IUL3HvnrlL pic.twitter.com/TiKRD236sy
— David Edery (@djedery) July 9, 2015
In a match, the bears will appear on the game board and grow bigger and bigger as you eliminate letters close to them. Eventually there will be no space for new letters on your board, and the game will end. The bigger your bears are, the most points you get.
Alphabear has several chapters, each with game boards that change daily. Usually there is one timed board and one regular board, as well as a special challenge that doesn’t change with the day. There are two types of currency in the game: honey and money. Er, coins. The coins are spent on treasure challenges, and you can earn more coins by playing regular matches. The honey is a timed currency, the recharges up to its max of 120 over time. You spend a chunk of honey to play a match.
You can refill your honey for 100 coins or watch an advertisement to get 50 honey right away. But honestly it’s a good deal to pay $4.99 and get unlimited honey. This game is free to play, and it’s both fun and well-made. I feel good spending a few dollars to show my appreciation.
If you like word games, Alphabear is a good deal. It’s both challenging and refreshing. It doesn’t feel demanding, like a lot of mobile games do. I’m happy to play a match, put the phone down, and try again later. The only thing that gives me pause (paws! ha!) so far is that you can’t revisit chapters that you’ve already beaten. This isn’t a dealbreaker by any means. Just be aware that you should finish your business before you beat that next big bear boss and move on.
And since Alphabear is free to download, there’s no reason not to. It’s such a nice thing to find a game that makes you think and feels lovely to play. That’s a pretty good descriptor of Alphabear: lovely. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey and meeting new bears along the way.
Alphabear is available on iOS and Android. Spry Fox has a Society 6 page where you can buy Alphabear merch here.