Leave it to Zach Gage to create yet another interesting experience in the well-trod field of word games. The game designer, who most recently crafted fascinating new spins on chess and solitaire, just released a word game called TypeShift on iOS. He describes it as “the modern anagram puzzle.” Like most addictive games, it’s seemingly simple, challenging you to create a number of five-letter words out of a jumble of letters. It’s like a literary version of a combination lock — and it’s very hard to put down.
The core of TypeShift is creating words. Each puzzle presents you with a grid of letters, divided into five columns. To make words you cycle through the letters in each column, moving them up and down just like if you were inputting a combination on a padlock, which feels perfectly intuitive on a touchscreen. When you do make a word, each letter will turn green, and the goal of each stage is to change the color of every letter in the grid.
This structure makes TypeShift feel much looser and more playful compared to other word games (including Gage’s own Spelltower from 2011). When I find myself stuck coming up with a word, I just mess around with the arrangement of letters, and eventually something will click in my brain. Often when I find one word, it leads to a deluge. It’s also a great fit for mobile not only because of the touch controls, but because it’s easy to drop a puzzle and pick it back up whenever. Sometimes that break is what you need to see what you’ve been missing, and TypeShift is the rare game that works in both short bursts and prolonged sessions.
While the game is free to download, new puzzle packs are available in bundles, ranging from 20 to 60 puzzles. And in addition to being able to purchase more challenging levels — some with more letters and words, others with fewer options — there are also crossword-like “clue puzzles” that provide vague hints at the words you can find. TypeShift also includes free daily puzzles that start out relatively easy on Monday, but get progressively more challenging throughout the week.
TypeShift isn’t fundamentally different from most word games; you’re still creating words from a selection of letters. But its structure and playful nature makes it feel intrinsically mobile, a perfect game to pull out for a few minutes each day to unwind. You can check it out now on iOS.