I've tried a fair number of smartphone games, but most of them bore me after less than a minute. Amazon persists in recommending smartphone games to me, and I ended up trying out one called Red Herring which got good reviews and was a word-based game, which I generally like. (Actually, I had first tried out that company's other, much more famous game called 7 Little Words, but more on that in a future post.)

The premise of Red Herring is simple, but basically involves placing the given set of 16 words into three categories with four words each, with four words (the "red herrings") left over. The game has three difficulty levels for each puzzles, and the difference is that at the easy level all the category names are visible, and at the medium level half of the solution is filled in (but without the category names shown), and the hard level leaves you completely on your own. In general this tiered system works well, as you can start on hard and then gradually reset the difficulty level until you get to a level that is more manageable. So instead of monetizing hints or turns, the game requires you pay for more puzzles, which seems fair.

I'll admit that I played through all the free levels in pretty much one sitting, so in that sense the game is addictive. But it wasn't a completely satisfying addiction; it was more like I kept hoping that things would click and that I would enjoy the game more than I was. Basically the way the game is set up is that two of the three categories are pretty straightforward (e.g. "Fruits", "Things that are blue"), but then the third category is something really nonintuitive and contains words that really don't seem like they have anything to do with each other. Presumably this is the whole point of the game, but I found that the puzzle designers' ideas of what would make a worthwhile, solvable category were almost always completely different from mine. I soldiered through it for a while, but there are also too many times one answer in a category you would know is completely obscure (e.g. "Types of Whales"), which again, is on purpose since you're supposed to be able to figure it out by the process of elimination. The final straw for me, though, is that that are just too many times the categories are much more about trivia than clever word disambiguation or problem solving, e.g. husbands of Elizabeth Taylor, or actors or characters on some TV show I've never heard of. 

All in all this wasn't a complete waste of time, but with just a slightly different balance I would have enjoyed it much more. Presumably they tuned it to some average customer and my taste is just too far away from the center, but the game's concept is solid and the interface is clean and inviting. I'll be keeping my eye out for more from the developers, Blue Ox Technologies in the future.

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