Quick Look: Hanging With Friends


Most of you are familiar, by now, with the Words With friends phenomenon.  This surprise hit word game spurred the development of an entire genre (which I covered, here for iPhone Life).  Now, Zynga has come out with the latest entry to its, “…With Friends” online gaming series, "Hanging With Friends," which is a redesign of the classic pencil and paper game, Hangman.  Let’s take a quick look at the new game.

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The game starts with one player choosing a word from a random assortment of tiles.  This immediately complicates the game by limiting your word choice options to only those utilizing the Scrabble-style tiles in your rack.  Each tile is assigned a point value, just like the tiles in other word games, like Words With Friends.  To make things a bit more interesting, your letter rack will be randomly assigned a special space (double letter, triple letter, double word, triple word).  Use enough letter tiles to cover that space and you will increase your score.  I did think it would have been nice if the game had included a way to swap out some of these tiles, in order to combat the inevitable rack of completely useless letters.

The perplexing part of this setup was the use for these points.  They actually have nothing to do with winning or losing the game.  Instead, the points you earn go into your bonus bank.  Earn enough points and you will be awarded coins, which can be used to purchase lifelines (more on that later).  I also found it odd that the points you earn are based solely upon your word selection.  Whether or not your opponent actually solves the word has nothing at all to do with the points your earn.  Likewise, your ability to solve the words presented by your opponent also has nothing to do with these points.   It would make better sense if these bonus points were tied more to your progress in the game.

Once you have entered the word, it is up to your opponent to solve it.  After they complete that effort, you can tune in to “recorded version” and watch as they attempt to solve the puzzle.  Solve it and they remain safe, miss and they move one step closer to their demise.  After watching, then it will be your turn to attempt to solve a word.  The game gives you an extra nudge in this direction by always revealing the last vowel of the word, which was unexpected.  

You guess the word by tapping the tiles representing each letter.  A correct guess will reveal each instance of that letter in the puzzle and turn the tile green.  A mistaken guess will result in a strike and red colored tile.  The shorter the word, the more strikes you will be afforded.

Helping you along the way are three lifelines: Suspects, which will highlight four letters, only one of which is correct; Extinguish, which will eliminate four incorrect tiles; and Revive, which removes one strike.   You can use those bonus points we discussed earlier to purchase a lifeline at any time during a game, though you may only use one per turn.

While I thought gameplay worked well, I did find the graphics to be a bit unorthodox.  In this game, you are represented by an avatar, which you can choose (though you cannot add your own picture).  You and your opponent (or more specifically, your avatars) are floating over what appears to be a volcanic river, hanging on to five balloons.  Each time you are unsuccessful in your efforts to guess a word, one of those balloons pops and flies from your hands.   Lose all five balloons, and things will obviously not end terribly well for your avatar.  I found the graphics to be a bit odd.  They worked well enough, but really, I saw no driving reason for eschewing the normal and expected hangman interface.

Finding opponents online is also easy.  You can invite any friend with an iOS device and an email account to download the game and play against you.  If your friend is already a Hanging With Friends player, then you can search for them by username or connect to your Facebook account in order to challenge any Hanging With Friends playing Facebook friends.  Of course, if you are feeling really adventurous, then you can have the game randomly select an opponent for you.

One final note, the game is free, but that means ads…and lots of them.  The game has an ad on the bottom of the screen throughout the game, which is fine.  The game also opens a full screen ad following each turn.  This felt overly intrusive to me.   Then again, it did make me want to pay for the game in order to just put a stop to the ads.  I have not done so yet, though.

Hanging With Friends is available for iPhone and iPod Touch (it plays fine on the iPad, but it is sadly not optimized for the larger screen size) for Free with ads or $1.99 without ads.  

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