It's been eight years since Words With Friends first graced our mobile devices, forever changing the way that we interact with friends and loved ones on the interwebs. The introduction of an easy-to-use digital board game to our lives enabled us to communicate in a turn-based fashion, messaging only when there was something to say and keeping a connection that was low-stress and easy to maintain. The world has changed immensely since 2009, but the game, which boasts a whopping 57 million active matches at any given time, has largely remained the same — that is, until now.
On Nov. 8, Zynga officially launched the second version of the much-loved game: Words With Friends 2. It's a separate app — so if you were waiting for your WWF app to update, you'll be waiting for quite a while — and while it retains the form of the game we all loved so much when it was first released, it also adds a couple huge updates that make it a brand-new experience that brings the brand to the forefront of 2017.
I got to test the game for a few weeks before launch, and despite the fact that I hadn't played in ages, I instantly found myself just as hooked as I had been all those years ago. Both versions of the game are compatible, so I instantly fell back in with the same group that I used to play with before — and once again, I found myself casually chatting with friends whom I'd lost touch with in the real world, but had a way to reconnect with via a brand-new board.
In the second iteration of the game, the standard match mode retains its shape but adds a couple clutch new features that make it a bit more fun. First, there's the social dictionary, which added 50,000 new words this Fall. Then there's the "boosts," powerups like "hindsight," which allows you to view in retrospect what the best word you could have played may have been, and "word radar," which highlights all the squares that you can play your tiles on within the board. There's also one really clutch feature — one that I hadn't known about, but which has been around for a while — that allows you to move to the next board in play without having to go back to the main screen, a feature I'd desperately yearned for back in the day.
But what really sold me on Words With Friends 2 is the two new modes that the game introduces, solo challenge and lightning round, as they wholly eliminate the wait time that I'd grown accustomed to since the very start. As a result, I've become a complete and total addict, eating up the fact that I can now play two different ways at any given time — without having to give a friend a nudge or start a board with a total stranger.
Lightning round is a multiplayer mode that throws together two five-person teams and challenges you to rapid-fire come up with words on a series of ever-changing boards. Your teammates are also playing, so the boards evolve based on the speed of those you've been paired with — and the first team to hit 750 points brings the game to an end, though you can instantly call for a rematch.
It's solo challenge, though, that's really captured my heart. It pits you against a series of AI bots that increase in difficulty, giving you a week to complete the full challenge and enabling real-time gameplay against a bot that's tailored to your level of skill and the experience you've gained in playing the game. Though there are limitations — namely time restrictions around how you ascend and the frequency with which you can challenge your foe — you can skip the line by earning coins through racking up points in "weekly challenges," enabling you to buy your way up the chain if you so please.
Ultimately, it's very rare that an incredibly popular game would go so long without an update, but with Words With Friends 2, it was so, so worth the wait. Even if you're a die-hard Candy Crusher or Dot collector, it's a nice break to return to a game that prizes you for your smarts and vocabulary — and I can't recommend downloading it right this very minute highly enough.