'Typeshift' Is the Word Puzzle Game You've Been Waiting For

It also feels like an entirely new sort of puzzle game, which is an incredible feeling.

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Mar 20 2017, 3:00pm

To say that Typeshift distracted me while I was writing this would be a cliché, and that is why I made sure to complete today's daily challenge before I sat down to work. It wasn't easy. At first I thought I had the challenge pretty much sorted, but I got increasingly stuck. I stared at my phone. I rubbed my eyes.

My phone buzzed, and it was my friend, and he was stuck too. I made dinner, and halfway through dinner I said "yes," very quietly, and then I solved it.

Typeshift is a new word game by Zach Gage, designer of SpellTower and Really Bad Chess and a bunch of other, very clever, puzzle games. It is extremely good. Here is how it works:

Picture three rows of five letters. The central row of letters are highlighted, and your first task is to fill that row with a five letter word. You accomplish this by dragging the five columns up and down. Look, you can arrange it so that the word "SPEAK" is highlighted. Those five letters turn blue, because you used them in a word.

In order to complete a game of Typeshift, your goal is very simple: Turn all the letters blue. It looks like this:

What Zach Gage has done is create a new sort of word-search. Slide the columns of letters up and down, settling suddenly on a suffix—perhaps the word ends in "-ing"?—and then trying to slot new letters in place to complete the word.

This really is one of those things that's easier to understand once you've done it yourself, so, if you have the time, go play today's daily challenge right here (which should work on most recent mobile devices and computers.)

As soon as Gage is sure you understand the basic conceit of the game, he expands it quickly and impressively. The grids of letters get bigger, the length of the highlighted row gets longer (or, disconcertingly, shorter). "Clue Puzzles," in which actual crossword clues are offered, are added to the mix. The free version of the game already contains hundreds of puzzles, as well as the daily challenge, but additional packs can be bought. You are not going to run out of Typeshift puzzles.

So often, word games end up being defined by complex scoring systems ("just how many vowels did you use?") or by brutal timers ("just how many three letter words can you find in six seconds?")

There are none of these in Typeshift. It is a game about words, and that's about it. And it works! It works so well. It is a puzzle game that got me to quietly say "yes" while eating dinner, and that surely counts for something.

Besides, when it doesn't, and when the solutions aren't clear, the false ("incorrect") words that appear in the highlighted row almost make up for it. I've made my own game around them, issuing new definitions for my favorites..

"FLERM, noun, the poise and posture of a dancer."

"TRILN, noun, a metallic structure used in the production of luxury pottery." 

You can download Typeshift for free on iOS, or, if you don't have an iOS device, play the daily challenge in any mobile or desktop browser.