Some of the best app games on the iPhone are actually reincarnates of classics and arcade games (think: Scrabble and variations of it, Tetris, Driver). Also a great example is the Where’s Waldo app that came out at the tail end of last year; it’s one of the best selling games in the App Store, and more than likely the best selling game that originated from a classic puzzle book.
So now comes another reincarnate of a classic puzzle game turned into an app for the iPhone and iPad in The Ultimate Alphabet, a slightly frustrating, definitely mind-bending, and overall solid object-finding classic.
Read the full review of The Ultimate Alphabet after the jump
Originally released in 1986, The Ultimate Alphabet is a best-selling book with 26 object-finding puzzle paintings, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each letter’s painting contains hidden objects with names starting with the letter of the respective puzzle it is used in. The book is considered incredibly challenging, and when it was released, it was promoted as a competition for a reader to find all of the 7,777 words represented by objects hidden throughout the 26 puzzles. (The competition was eventually won in 1988, with a 10,000-pound prize to the winner.)
Until now, the book was just that, without clues or hints, with the exception of a companion checklist of the words used in the paintings. But in the new app released by Toytek for both the iPhone and iPad, The Ultimate Alphabet (a mini-version of it with just four letter puzzles) has become a fully interactive experience—that is still absolutely difficult and addicting.
The game opens with a long-winded tutorial on how to play, which could be skipped if you’re familiar with the concept. You begin playing by using the usual tap-and-drag, pinch-zoom effects to find an object you recognize. Tap on the object, then use the keyboard that pops up to type in the name of the object. You can also just grab some clues on what the object could be by tapping; the clues seem somewhat endless, which is a big help, as this game is hard. Very, very hard.
To delve into that a bit deeper, this game is not impossible, by any means. You’re meant to rack your brain when playing this game, but the clues eventually start to make sense and your brain eventually reverts from mush to put it all together. But don’t give up too easily if and when you start to get frustrated with your lack of success in identifying any objects.
Other features include a jigsaw jumble that shows you a few letters of a word you should be looking for in the puzzle; coins, medals, and trophies for each object you correctly identify; and the motivation to win a signed book from the author of the original book, Mike Wilks, for winning a perfect gold trophy on one of the letters.
The biggest downside to the game? Though it’s free to download, you can only play the letter A for free. Though there are only four letters in the app, you have to purchase them either individually (for $0.99) or in bundles (all four for $4.99, two letters for $2.99). Though it’s still not quite as expensive as the book (about $30), I can’t help but think that the rest of the letters may eventually be released in future updates. When you add up what the entire alphabet would cost at these prices, that’s a pretty penny to be paying for an object-finding game on your iDevice.
Recap & Conclusion
The Ultimate Alphabet
Though I definitely gave up on this app more than once after a long day, it’s definitely an addicting game that at least clears your brain for an hour while you focus all of your energies on it. The interface works well without glitches, the paintings are still as beautiful as they look in the printed books, and the added interactivity makes the classic game come to life even more.