App review: AlphaJax for Windows Phone
AlphaJax, a Scrabble/Words With Friends-type word game, has been available on Windows Phone since the platform debuted in 2010. In many ways, it set the bar for quality on Windows Phone, thanks to its lightning-fast push notifications, flawless gameplay, and great interface. Now, after spending two years as an “indie game,” Microsoft Studios has finally re-published the AlphaJax as an Xbox LIVE-enabled title. Is it as good as its predecessor? Read on to find out.
From an actual gameplay and user interface standpoint, not much has changed. AlphaJax still looks and plays great, and I wholeheartedly recommend it over the more popular Words With Friends. The only downside, really, is that it doesn’t have the cross-platform integration that Words With Friends has, so all of your opponents will have to be on Windows Phone. It’s somewhat limiting in that respect, but there are more than enough players to keep you entertained if most of your friends are on other platforms.
The game’s interface is clean and simple, but it packs a ton of features. Some are subtle, like the ability to see how many points you’ll get for playing a word before you hit submit. By moving over to Xbox LIVE, Marker Metro, the developer of AlphaJax, was able to add addicting achievements and leaderboards, as well as handy features like pass & play, which allows you to create a local two-player game which has no effect on your statistics or ranking. (Pro tip: Use pass & play to unlock those hard-to-get achievements like Duplicate.) Other game mode options include skill match, random match, invite a player, play with Xbox LIVE friends, and rematch. Of course, the ability to save screenshots of your game board (which was extremely useful before Windows Phone 8 was released), pin games to your Start screen, and force a win after a week of inactivity are still around as well.
Unfortunately, the move to Xbox LIVE did more than require a new app download, add a few features, and reset the leaderboards. While live tile notifications remain, the insanely fast push notifications have been replaced with notifications in the Games Hub, which I’ve complained about in the past. As a result, rapid-fire games aren’t quite as convenient. The game will play a brief dinging sound if an opponent makes a move while you have the game running, but I’ll occasionally have to back out and re-open the app in order for it to appear under “my turns.” Also, I’ve noticed that the chat bubble icon often seems to persist long after I’ve viewed the private message.
But AlphaJax is still a great game, despite these annoyances. While the game doesn’t appear to be quite as polished as its predecessor was, the new features are still quite welcome. I especially enjoy being able to unlock achievements to add to my Xbox LIVE Gamerscore. If you’re a fan of word games like Scrabble and Words With Friends, I highly recommend giving AlphaJax a try. The gameplay is excellent, the interface is beautifully clean and simple, and best of all, it’s free.
Download: Windows Phone Store