SpellTower is a new iPad game by Zach Gage, the name behind the titles such as Halcyon, Bit Pilot, and Unify. SpellTower is a word puzzle game that combines the traditional word making with Tetris style block physics. In the game, the task is to make long words or use bonus tiles to clear extra letters from the screen. As you work, more word tiles rise from the bottom of the screen, and it’ll take all of your word wits and tactical know-how to keep them down. If any of the letters make it to the top row, it’s game over. After playing the game for few days now, I asked Zach what was the inspiration and the reasons for making SpellTower..
FV: So Zach, why make SpellTower?
ZG: I really miss being blatantly experimental with the stuff that im doing. When i made Synthpond it was because i wanted to make an instrument for people who didnt know how to read music and i didn’t understand music, so thats what made it fun. I was an outsider and the same thing with unify. I hated block dropping puzzle games and yet i decided to make one and it was a tremendously informative and interesting experience and now i like them. SpellTower was kind of a return to that style of work. I hate word games and i was actually in remedial spelling classes in 3rd and 4th grade because i was so bad at spelling. It was tremendously interesting and weird to make a word game to discover how people who like word games operate. It’s so different from other types of games.
Lastly I miss when the app store was experimental, when you really got to sort of peer into peoples sketchbooks. Because the apps they released were so beta, granted a lot of that was rough for consumers but if you had someone who you liked their work, it was really cool to see how people were making stuff and lately ive been sitting on a lot of games but SpellTower seemed like something i could do in 13 days or rather less than 2 weeks. It was something i could just put out there, in a polished complete way so i went for it.
FV: It seems that your visual style varies game to game. What were decisions made for SpellTower?
ZG: I think i just try to keep it simple and go very stream of consciousness. SpellTower took a few rounds of layout to find a design that i liked. Initially it started very unify-ish with dots and things and that slowly transitioned towards the sort of dapper lines. It always had that crosswords element and i think i’ve had the 1920s on my mind a lot because of some other projects. I wanted SpellTower to be kind of polished and new looking, but also be a game that had kind of an educated gentlemanly feel to it which i think is why it has the bright colors contrasting with the austere crossword puzzle style. The numbers in the corners took a lot of figuring and reworking. It’s actually a lot of information that SpellTower is cramming together onto the board. It doesn’t seem like it but having certain tiles that can only be in certain length words, certain tiles that clear rows, and certain tiles that need matches next to them to break, is a ton of info especially when you consider that even with all of that, players need to be able to clearly read the letters and be able to ‘see’ words. The numbers were extra hard, because they had to be clear enough to tell you that a tile was different, but transparent enough to not pepper the playfield with lots of extra distracting information.
FV: What are other things you are working on Zach?
ZG: I am primarily im working on 4 other games. Three of them with my friend Kurt Bieg, and one with a company called Vlambeer. The three with Kurt are Scoundrel – a Solitare style rouge-like, Wardoku – a asynchronous play game best imagined as chess meets starcraft meets sudoku and Please Send Fruit -which is kind of a spatial puzzle matching action game. This one has been in development for way too long because of various problems. With Vlambeer im working on a game called Ridiculous Fishing which is an iphone update / port of Radical fishing, currently playable online. We’re working with artist Greg Wohlwend who worked on Solipskier and effing hail and stuff like that. Aside from that im working on some proposals for art in some spaces and finishing up a class i’m teaching.
FV: Thanks Zach.
SpellTower hits the AppStore later tonight. It will cost $1.99 and is available only for iPad.
It includes 4 modes:
- TOWER MODE : No pressure here. Try and get the highest score possible out of 150 letters, eliminating small words to set up 7- and 8-letter blockbusters!
– PUZZLE MODE : Every word you make adds a new row of letters! Strategic word finding at its best.
– EXTREME PUZZLE MODE : Puzzle mode with the minimum word length cranked up. Experts only!
– RUSH MODE : Rows of letters build up over time. Find words as fast as you can, but be careful you don’t back yourself into a corner!