Zynga Debuts Newest Word Puzzle And Social iOS Game, Scramble With Friends

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Zynga is starting off 2012 with a bang. After launching its newest Facebook title Hidden Chronicles yesterday, the social gaming giant is debuting its latest mobile game, ‘Scramble With Friends,’ which is an iOS game that combines word scramble and formation with the social features of the ‘With Friends’ gaming suite.

As you may know, via the Newtoy acquisition in 2010, Zynga has helped develop a suite of ‘With Friends’ mobile titles including the popular Scrabble-like game ‘Words With Friends’ and the recently launched mobile take on Hangman, ‘Hanging With Friends.’

Scramble With Friends is actually very similar to Zynga’s ‘Word Scramble’ iOS app, but packaged in a sleek new app with more interactive, and social gameplay. Basically players compete against opponents to beat the clock and find as many words as possible on a game board.

Here’s how the game works. Each match consists of three rounds of two-minutes, and the player with the highest point total at the end wins. When you open the app, you’ll see existing games in play with your friends, or you can start a new game. When the clock starts in a new game, the goal is to find and create as many words.

Using the touch interface, you simply create words via connected letters, meaning in order to form a word, the letters need to be connected diagonally, horizontally or vertically. Each letter has a point value and based on the total value of the word, you’ll receive points.

Within each match, players have 3 rounds. In round 1, you engage in what Zynga calls ‘classic play’ with standard point values for each letter. In round two, called ‘Double Down’, gameplay includes double letter and word values strewn throughout the game board. In round three (a.k.a.’Triple Crown’), you’ll encounter with triple letter and word scores.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Zynga game without virtual currency and in-app purchases. This game uses a token system to allow users to by ‘Power Ups,’ to help give them a leg up during gameplay. Players start each match with tokens that are replenished over a period of 20-minutes, and users can purchase additional tokens as well. Freeze allows you to temporarily stop the clock to find more words. Inspiration highlights up to three words you haven’t found yet. And Scramble gives you a new view of the game board and can be used five times per match.

The actual gameplay and interface is most like that of Words With Friends, with similar scoring and the same dictionary and match-making engine in both apps. Users can also participate in in-game chat, connect their Scramble With Friends with their existing ‘Words With Friends’ account and use Facebook Connect to find new friends to challenge.

Zynga’s GM of Words With Friends and Scramble With Friends, Ya-Bing Chu, tells us that while the initial launch is focused on the iPhone, the gaming company will also have native iPad and Android versions coming soon.

Zynga says that the original Scramble in the App Store is still available to play for existing players who have already downloaded the game. However, first-time players will only be able to download the Scramble With Friends version going forward.

The ‘With Friends’ family of games has been one of Zynga’s most popular suite of titles on the mobile front. In fact, Words With Friends recently saw a spike in usage after actor Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight for playing the game. Baldwin Tweeted about the incident, mentioning Words With Friends, and even mocked the altercation on a Saturday Night Live episode. And it’s clear tat Zynga has high hopes for Scramble With Friends, especially as mobile is a frontier where the gaming giant is looking to make a lot of headway in 2012. Zynga launched seven mobile games in Q4 of 2010, and I’m sure we can expect this to ramp up this year.