Grow Word


zxoGrow WordIf you have not played Grow Word yet, be forewarned that this review contains spoilers that may take away from the experience. The player is expected to learn how to play the game on their own, and while it is not difficult, the following paragraphs give away how the game is played.

I think many people who frequent this site would agree: Tonypa is one of our favorite casual game designers. Grow Word, his submission to Casual Gameplay's second competition exhibits many of the characteristics that we have come to love about Tonypa's games: it's elegant, understated, and easy to learn but hard to master.

Grow Word is very similar to a cryptogram, a ciphered puzzle in which each letter stands for another letter. In lieu of letters, Tonypa provides us with white squares against a stark black background. When solved correctly, the top group of squares spells out a phrase containing the word "grow." The bottom row of squares each correspond to a letter present in the solution, sort of like a blank version of Crossword. For each level, the game cycles through all the letters found in the solution, and your job is to figure out where to put each one.

Confused yet? Play the first level and you'll get the idea in no time, I promise.

If you've never done cryptograms before, or have found them too intimidating, here are some tips:

  • The word "grow" is always present in these puzzles
  • Look for one-letter words. Those are usually "a" or "I".
  • Look for double letters.
  • Letter frequency is important—if there's a spot that lights up only one letter in the solution, then that letter is probably going to be fairly uncommon like q or v. Conversely, if a spot lights up a whole bunch of letters, then try something like e or t.
  • You won't usually solve a level on your first time through, or even your second or third. Even if your tries all look like gobbledygook, give it another shot. Cryptograms are usually solved quickly once you get a few letters right, and your second-to-last attempt may look nothing like your final solution.

Analysis: Grow Word certainly embodies the Grow theme of this competition in a pleasantly unexpected way: wordplay. If you're a cryptogram buff, try out this neat implementation; I think you'll be pleased. The graphics are in the simple style we've come to expect from Tonypa and work well—there's nothing to distract you from the task of solving these puzzles. Don't turn your speakers up - there isn't any sound, even when you might expect there to be a satisfying "click." One caveat: although the quotes all make sense, they are not all common phrases. It's not a bad thing, but just something to be aware of.

My main complaint is the lack of saved progress. The puzzles can take some time to complete, and if you want to leave and try again later, you have to leave your browser open or go through all of the first puzzles again as there is no save button and the game does not automatically save your progress. Aside from that, Grow Word is yet another solid casual game crafted by Tonypa.

Play Grow Word

JayThe first time I picked up Grow Word I blazed through the first puzzle thinking "Yay! This is going to be great!" ...only to arrive at the second puzzle and stopping dead in my tracks. The game held its position firm and refused to budge an inch for me. It wasn't until I finally decided to tackle it with a pencil and paper did I finally make progress with it, and the reward of accomplishment was sweet.

My only criticisms about the game are the rather steep difficulty curve of the puzzle sequence, and the interface constraint of forcing the player to choose each letter in a fixed sequence. It would have been nice to see a more gradual slope toward more difficult puzzles, thus easing the player into the gameplay. The second puzzle is so very difficult for someone just getting started with the game that many are likely to give up, move on, and never look back. And by forcing the player to enter letters in alphabetic order moves the gameplay from computer interface to pencil and paper—at least for me it did—which somewhat defeats the purpose of playing the game on a computer to begin with.

But despite these minor complaints, Grow Word is a creative interpretation of the "grow" theme and a welcome addition to the collection of games we received for the competition. It is uniquely challenging and gratifying (if you persevere), and its elegant simplicity is a quality that we have come to expect, and to cherish, from one of our favorite casual game designers. Cheers, Tonypa! =)

52 Comments

Wow. "Daunting" is the right word. I'm usually good at these, but without any clues, not even a word with two of the same letters to start looking for a word-pattern, it's going to take some thinking just to know where to start.

JIG reviewed some of the games at Puzzability a while back, and they do a fantastic weekly puzzle in this vein (although likely much easier, unless I figure out the trick to this one). It's at http://www.puzzability.com/cgi-bin/saywhat.pl and if you like either of these, you'll probably like them both.

A walk-though for this game would be silly, but a hint-through would be great. *gets to work*

Cristin - I already gave a couple of hints in the short description above. If you want a more explicit hint:

The title is the hint. Interpret it literally. :P

wow...that's all i can say

i'm only on the 3rd one, but great game, i'm looking forward to getting deeper

ok, so... typekey is unavalible...

anyway, it's always good to see something from ponyta! I'm glad he's competing (once again)

i happen to like cryptograms so this is neat! it took me a minute to have that "OH!" moment to figure out how it works, but now that i have i shall have to come back when i have the time to start the third puzzle!

Typekey isn't working.

I got the first long one, so I'll give a couple of tips:

what word would probably be in it?

solve for that word first

fill in the letters you have

in case you don't know, the word is grow

And

think about frequency of letters like E

Long time player, first time poster here!

Just got past the fourth puzzle. I just had to speak up about this one. This is pretty much the most original word game I've ever seen on the web (and I am a bit of an aficionado. What is often true of most word games ported to a computer medium is that they are just that - "ported". They merely bring a tile based game (like scrabble, boggle, etc.) to a new medium, adding a little in the way of playability, but not necessarily bringing any thing truly new. These efforts are considered "good" based purely on the strength of implementation and polish, but not on the principle of gameplay itself. What we have here is something basically not plausibly played without a computer based medium. So, in essence, though this may build off some basic principles, it is a brand new word game, never before seen in any format anywhere. This thoroughly original effort deserves applause *clap, clap, clap*. The polish is a little lacking, but we'll attribute that to Jay running such tight deadlines. I've tried some of your other games, Tonypa, but to me this stands out above everything else. This is really good stuff. Great job again.

ARUGH... too complicated for me. Very well designed but im not great at word games. Someone else's cup of tea.

Agreed. This is definitely a good game, but I don't stand a chance of finishing it.

too complicated for me. I got the first one easy enough but I am completely lost on the second.

I just finished the first two puzzles. So far, this is definately my favorite of the games posted. A literal take on the theme, and I adore cryptograms.

I'm going to look forward to solving the third and on of these puzzles when I get home!

Reminds me of http://jayisgames.com/archives/2006/11/crossword.php

UI is kind of awkward. I ended up clicking all the buttons in sequence to spell out the cryptogram, transcribing it into a conventional cryptogram program, and solving it there.

hint:

one of the words in each sentence is 'grow' or 'grows'. apostrophes are omitted.

Hawkeye - I agree that this is a really neat and inventive game. However, this game certainly is plausibly played without a computer. In fact, the computer isn't even necessary, while paper and pencil pretty much are necessary. You can simply present each puzzle as a set of numbers and letters. Here's the first puzzle:

4 3 2 1
Letters: GORW

Here's the second puzzle:

16 15 14 13 12 11 13
10 16 9 13 14
8 7 13
7 13 16 6 8
5 6 4 3
2 4 12 1 13 6
Letters: ABCDEFGHKMNORSTW

This brings up the question (at least for me) of whether this is even worth doing on the computer. Most word games on the computer actually need to be implemented on the computer (the computer provides randomness, dynamic play, artificial intelligence, etc.). This game uses the computer to present the puzzle in a very neat way, but after the novelty of the method wears off, you're left with a puzzle that could just as easily have been presented as a list of numbers and letters.

typekey is back

only complaint i have is maaaaybe there could be a 'save' feature in the future?

Cool game idea, but a bit too much effort required to solve anything past the first one. I give it my props though.

I think the basic idea is brilliant. However, the implementation is flawed. Basically, it doesn't allow you to solve the puzzle *in the game*. The game gives you a puzzle, and a means to enter the solution, but all solving must take place on paper. That's because by forcing you to go alphabetically, the puzzle forces you to organize the response in a way that is differently organized from the way to get to the solution.

WOW. As a big fan of word puzzles, I have to say that this is probably one of the most clever and original I have ever seen.

I'm addicted already, and I've only just finished the first level!

Cheers, Tonypa!

I'm giving up. I love the idea, but I don't want to have to resort to paper to solve it. I would love it if it functioned more like the Crossword game reviewed in November.

FWIW, I'm up to #5 or 6 or so, and I haven't used pencil and paper at all. Instead of playing it as a straight cryptogram to be solved in one fell swoop, solve it by generating a *series* of cryptograms *on the screen*, each one slightly less jumbled than the one before.

Eg, when you start the level, solve for the known word, and fill in semi-random guesses for the rest of the letters. Then look at what you've got, try to find another recognizable word or suffix based on standard crytogram-solving heuristics, and using the letters you're already sure of. Once you've got a few ideas, clear the board and run through again, remembering that the answer is "[blank] [blank] anchovy [blank] the [blank]ing [blank]" (or whatever :) and filling in the known letters in the right places, and making new guesses on the rest. When you're done, look at it again and figure a few more things out. Within a few runs through you should have the answer. No paper needed.

I think the alphabetic order is a neat gameplay element, that makes the cryptogram even more challenging, because you're forced to set every character strategious and remember it. I don't really like to comment a game on the fact that it's easier if you use pen and paper. Are you using pen and paper when playing "simon says"? For who are you playing then? Not for yourself I guess.

Probably there some kind of cryptogram-solver around where you can get every known solution for a cryptogram involving the word grow, but that's not gonna make you feel good. Actually my english is not that good and I solved level 2 and 3 by putting the words I thought were right in google to get the answer.

Tonypa: Nice implementation of a crypto-puzzle, I love the gameplay, but ... I hoped to see something a little more original from you, (I know you can't force such things). Doesn't stop me playing though! Thanks!

I feel like I agree with those people who've said that this game doesn't need to be on the computer to work, but I think that one of the things that makes this challenging isn't just figuring out what goes where, but it's also, when you're in the process of figuring out, trying to remember to keep certain letters in certain boxes and remembering to keep other letters out of the boxes you've figured out. That, at least, is a challenge for me and makes this game a lot more interesting than a mere crytograma puzzle.

Oh dear lord how many levels are there?! I'm on 8.... and i can't stop!

Cool game. It gets kinda boring after the first five or so though. Maybe if there was a different clue for each one it would be more fun. Thanks for the game. Good job.

I remember not even coming close to figuring out tonypa's games the first contest go-round, as skillfully made and beautiful as they were. I like word puzzles especially though, so I'll plug away a little longer before I give up on this one.

You've made my day, tonypa. Cryptograms are my favorite, and I love the added challenge of having to keep track of letters between trials and having to figure out how the interface works.

My only complaint is that it would be nice to have a resest button when you realize you've made an error. But since it may be another intentional way of upping the difficulty, I forgive you. :P

Hard Game. Hey, Jay. Next CGDC, you should have the theme as Falling Sand. I love those games.

yup, i agree that you should have a reset button. Having to click through all the buttons even when you know you've made a mistake kinda spoils the fun

Extremely difficult. Either that, or I'm lazy. (Probably the second one) Grow theme incorporated, very intimidating, and original too. I like the system, but it would be nice if it grows more slowly. Or have me input how many words I want to solve for, so i can feel smart without killing myself.

Wow, it's a clever but frustrating UI for a cryptogram. More frustrating than clever, though.

I'm most frustrated because once you figure out what the puzzle is (which, for me for the first four puzzles, was midway through the 2nd go-through), you have to enter it using the slow and laborious UI. Tedious.

That other, more normal implementation of a cryptogram puzzle from a while back was less clever but more fun than this. Although it was sorely lacking in puzzles...

Tonypa is my computer game hero, yet again. As a guy who remembers upgrading his Apple II to 16K, I still love a game for the number of brain cells it uses, not the CPU speed required.

(Now just add some pseudo-Japanimation characters, a bunch of high-res videos with voice acting and a couple of stereo explosions and it will be perfect!)

Thank you all for comments, for those of you thinking it is too easy or too difficult, I must say it is very hard for me to test the game as I know the answers :)

Rob Marks, it has 20 levels.

Really needs a save feature.

And to all the critics: yes, it can be converted into a standard cryptogram on paper. So what? The challenge comes from working through the iterations on screen, and there is a real satisfaction in the "Aha!" moment when you recognize a word and the pieces start to fall into place.

I like the game, but it has a serious problem.

You should be able to restart a level when you make a mistake. Instead you have to click every square!

My experience:

I solved the first puzzle by chance, got stuck on the second level, got back to the first, figured out to the system, felt all clever and warm inside, then finally got back to the second level (armed with pen and paper)and solved it.

After that the novelty wore off and I realized that ahead of me there was a row of good old cryptogram puzzles, coupled with an inventive but ultimately clumsy interface. I solved a few more levels and finally gave up. Too much trouble for too little gain.

So final verdict - first 10% of the game "excellent", the other 90% not worth the trouble.

Sorry to say this but this game makes absolutely no sense at all to me. I've done the first one like any1 with a brain can do. The second one though... It's IMPOSSIBLE to even try to understand how it works. WOW i can find out where ONE single word is supposed to be. What does that help me? I get like 3 other letters i know where should be. Now what? I'm supposed to sit here and guess all day long?

@Darky

You've got one word, that's 4 helpful letters. Here's another hint that may help some.

What letter appears most often in words?

E

After you get that, it should lead you the figure out another word.

The three letter word

THE

Hope that helps :D

I think I would have enjoyed the game more if there was another row of buttons that allowed you to change letters. That way, if I wanted to fill in say, W, I wouldn't have to make decisions about letters like B, L, etc that I'm not ready to make yet.

Also, on a thematic note, I would love to see the answers to each individual level give clues about the next level.

I'm not

too fond of english proverbs

, so I had a hard time solving the second one...

I agree that a save function or a simple 'undo' button would be two easy ways to make this game a much more fun experience. In that regard, it reminds me of the GROW family of games over at Eyemaze. It's more about your short-term memory skills than pure logic.

I love these puzzles. The only thing I'd like to see added, apart from the reset button people have suggested, would be clicking on the blanks to put the next letter in.
I suppose it's part of the challenge, but I don't like searching for the right buttons once I know the answer.

Answers: 1-4

  1. Grow
    [4][2][3][1]

  2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
    [4][6][16][12][7][13][8][15][9][10][3][11][5][14][2][1]

  3. After three days men grow weary of a wench, a guest, and rainy weather
    [8][15][2][16][11][6][10][9][13][17][3][7][12][4][14][5][1]

  4. Dont worry about avoiding temptation, as you grow older, it starts avoiding you
    [7][13][11][8][4][5][6][16][15][2][1][18][12][17][14][9][10][3]

Still having trouble with #5. Tried substitution cipher solver, didnt work.

figured out the substitution cipher solver i was using only did shift and reverse, found a new cryptogram solver that works perfectly.

Since each puzzle only has certain letters available for the solution, I found out it's a lot easier to write those down first. That way if there's no 'c' or 'k' available, the solution can't be 'this sucks'.
At least, not officially. :)

I would have added a few spoilers but the preview function says I'm doing it wrong.
Unless preview is broken?

The preview function is working as designed. If you have trouble with spoilers, click the "help" link located just above the comment input box to view an explanation of how to use spoilers. They are really fairly easy to use.

ok thanks. A test then:

Hint for #5

grow is the fifth word

Hint for #6

grow seeds

I have now finished all 20 puzzles. I will restate the phrases of the first 4 I have already posted along with the rest of them.
I think the way i posted the orders of the buttons to be to complicated, so I will leave it out.
Answers:

1.

GROW

2.

ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER

3.

AFTER THREE DAYS MEN GROW WEARY OF A WENCH, A GUEST, AND RAINY WEATHER

4.

DON'T WORRY ABOUT AVOIDING TEMPTATION, AS YOU GROW OLDER, IT STARTS AVOIDING YOU

5.

DON'T GO THROUGH LIFE, GROW THROUGH LIFE

6.

EDUCATION SOWS NOT SEEDS IN YOU, BUT MAKES YOUR SEEDS GROW

7.

EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE SOMEBODY, NOBODY WANTS TO GROW

8.

GOOD TIMBER DOES NOT GROW WITH EASE, THE STRONGER THE WIND, THE STRONGER THE TREES

9.

NOBODY GROWS OLD BY MERELY LIVING A NUMBER OF YEARS

10.

IF YOU PLAY IT SAFE IN LIFE, YOU'VE DECIDED YOU DON'T WANT TO GROW ANY MORE

11.

IT MATTERS NOT HOW TALL YOU ARE, BUT HOW STRAIGHT YOU GROW

12.

LIFE EXPECTANCY WOULD GROW BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS IF GREEN VEGETABLES SMELLED AS GOOD AS
BACON

13.

MEN DO NOT QUIT PLAYING BECAUSE THEY GROW OLD, THEY GROW OLD BECAUSE THEY QUIT PLAYING

14.

WOE TO THE THINKER WHO IS NOT THE GARDENER BUT ONLY THE SOIL OF THE PLANTS THAT GROW IN
HIM

15.

PRAISE IS LIKE SUNLIGHT TO THE HUMAN SPIRIT, WE CANNOT FLOWER AND GROW WITHOUT IT

16.

SOME FOLKS AS THEY GROW OLDER GROW WISE, BUT MOST FOLKS SIMPLY GROW STUBBORNER

17.

THE OLDER I GROW THE MORE I LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO DONT TALK MUCH

18.

THE TEACHER IS ONE WHO MAKES TWO IDEAS GROW WHERE ONLY ONE GREW BEFORE

19.

UNLESS YOU TRY TO DO SOMETHING BEYOND WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY MASTERED, YOU WILL NEVER GROW

20.

WIVES IN THEIR HUSBANDS ABSENCES GROW SUBTLER, AND DAUGHTERS SOMETIMES RUN OFF WITH THE BUTLER

A way to edit your comments would be helpful, just a suggestion.

I reached level 9 without help, but I'm finally stumped. There are no four-letter words, so I wonder if they did away with GROW or if i'm supposed to look for GROWTH, GROWN etc

j dog: the word would be "grows"

I would have liked to have played this now but I am unable to :(

It just doesn't load.

...no big finish? I solved the last puzzle, and just blackness. Oh well.

Maybe its old fashion, but i still believe in introduction or communication, like saying hello or hi, salue, ciou or hallo, when I come or go or meet . Its polite and its nice and so little as Hi.The same here: If I want to play a game or else and I'm starting up (or better: ending up), sitting in front of a screen, possibly black and I can't even figure whats going on, with little or no explanation, no hi, no intro, no help, no button, no fa, I do what I think a lot do. I X it (top right corner), because I have a choice. "Grow Word" is a good example. It just makes you feel like an idiot. Point blank. thank you.

By the way. I liked the yellow beige background of this site much better than this clinical white . It was more suitable for a gaming theme either, I think.

Rainer

Thanks for that last one, Russell. I've been quite preoccupied by this game for the past few days since I started it. I managed to get the first 19, so I'm not certain how this last one stumped me... Anyway, for those who want to figure the puzzles out on their own, I have a couple of tips that can make things a little easier:

1.

I reproduced many of the puzzles in Microsoft Excel (though I imagine that any spreadsheet application will work just fine) so that I could change letters without needing to start over. I even used the "=" function in many of the cells so that if, for example, the letter in cells B5, C3, and F6 were all the same as the letter in A1, then I could change all of the cells together by putting "=A1" in each of them except for A1 and then just change A1. If you choose to do this, remember that you must change only the cell to which all of the others are connected in order for it to work.

2.

Record all previous answers on a piece of paper or a small word document (I used Notepad, because it always seems like the most basic word processor that I have on my computer). This is your makeshift save file and that's it.

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