Amarunes by developer Ferruccio Barletta is a single-player word game which successfully marries the solitaire challenge of tile-picking Mah Jong style games with the word-finding fun of titles like Boggle. Its range of settings make it a suitable choice for all ages and abilities, whilst its gameplay ensures a long-lasting appeal.
A solo game for the iOS, Amarunes challenges the player to make words from tiles of letters displayed in a stacked pattern. Only the tiles at the top of the stack are available to be chosen: successfully making words from these will make the tiles beneath them available for selection in the next turn.
Sometimes, the letters displayed on the tiles are obscured by the tiles on top of them; sometimes you can make out what letters will be made available when you remove the tile on top. In this way, you have some degree of strategic choice to consider: should you go for the longest, highest-scoring word available, or should you pick off tiles with the intention of freeing up useful letters to make that 16-letter, 1,000 point word you’re after?
From time to time, a bonus word is displayed, which you have a limited number of turns to try and make. If you manage to do this, the bonus points awarded are considerable: with high-scoring games, bonus runes (achievements) can be unlocked and collected.
Blank wildcard tiles also exist, allowing you to use them as any letter to make up high-scoring (or strategically useful) words. The number and frequency of the wildcards is dictated by one of three difficulty settings; as are the frequency of those letters every wordgame fan dreads.
Once all tiles are cleared, or no more vowels exist, the game is over and your score and any achievements are displayed. As a solo game, the reward is all about the achievment, so it’s a little surprising to see no high score table included.
As befits its straightforward gameplay, Amarunes’ implementation is simple yet effective. The tiles are large and easy to click upon, and the game automatically guesses what letter you were intending a wildcard tile to represent, making gameplay intuitive and quick.
Relaxing ambient music accompanies the gameplay, though is more incidental than crucial to the Amarunes experience. Graphically, thinks have a rune-inspired look and feel, which again doesn’t add anything to the gameplay, but gives the title a distinctive visual flavor.
A variety of different board layouts and the three difficulty levels comprise the options available, giving a good range of challenge to players of various abilities. On the easy mode, where common letters are more numerous, Amarunes is a good – and educational – game for younger players; on the hardest level, where the Qs, Xs and Zs pop up more often and the number of wildcards is far fewer, the title presents a good challenge more mature wordsmiths.
Well-executed and with a broad range of challenging gameplay, Amarunes will appeal to all wordgame fans: as well as to those who are looking for something a bit different from matching symbols in their tile-picking games.