Search for words and provide planetary defense: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps are both games including a recently discovered word game and a tower defense game in which you'll defend planets from invading aliens.


The latest Apple rumor is that the iPhone 3G will soon be replaced by a low-priced 8GB iPhone 3GS. Apparently, Rogers Wireless in Canada sent out a memo that implies the $99 iPhone 3G pricing announced at WWDC earlier this summer was to get rid of inventory to make way for the faster 3GS. Though nobody knows what the price might be on the new iPhone (or even if this rumor is true), it would be exciting to see a smaller 3GS for those who don't need all the space. While we wait to see what the next thing out of Apple might be, let's check out this week's apps.

This week's apps are both games including a recently discovered word game and a tower defense game in which you'll defend planets from invading aliens.

Added challenges like burning tiles and bonus books make this game highly addictive. (Credit: CNET)

Bookworm ($2.99), by Popcap Games, is a word game in which you tap the screen to select adjacent letter tiles to make words. A cartoon drawn bookworm sits on top of the gameplay area and the idea is that as you complete words you are feeding the hungry bookworm while also getting points. You can play the game in Classic mode (no timer) or a timed version to add to the challenge. I've reviewed a similar game before called WordsWorth, but Bookworm has some unique features that definitely make it worth checking out.

What makes Bookworm especially fun are the added challenges you need to contend with as you make words. Flaming tiles will appear that slowly burn downward through your stack of letters if you don't use them quickly. If a flaming tile reaches the bottom, your library burns and the game ends. My favorite feature is the special collections--when you select certain words like "Red," for example, the game pauses briefly to show you a list of color names that give added bonuses as you cross them off the list. There are several categories of special collections and the effect is that you start to search for words that will complete your categories. On the start-up screen you can view your bonus book list to see which categories your working on and view stats for your overall gameplay. Anyone who likes word games will like the basic play of Bookworm, but the added features and challenges make this game worth the money.

Star Defense
Make sure to upgrade your towers as you go or you won't stand a chance (Credit: CNET)

Star Defense ($1.99) from Ngmoco (makers of Rolando) is a tower defense type of game where you're job is to defend planets from an alien onslaught. The graphics are great for an iPhone game and the sounds and music add to the feeling of battling an endless alien invasion. Like other tower defense games, you have several gun towers to choose from, with some of them better at taking out certain types of enemies. You'll quickly realize that a good mix of towers is the best strategy, but as you try harder levels, you'll also have to manage the money you get from kills and upgrade your towers to make them more effective. Like other tower defense games, you'll need to beat a certain number of waves of enemies to complete a level.

What sets Star Defense apart from other tower defense games is the interface and level design. Your available towers are on the right side of the screen, making it easy to drag and drop them into position. The planets are in full 3D, so you'll need to swipe your finger to rotate the planet to get to where the action is. Not being able to see the entire path at one time adds an extra element to the gameplay because sometimes you'll find yourself rotating the planet frantically, trying to place towers that will kill escaped enemies. To make it more challenging, the paths travel around each planet in different ways, so you'll need to consider the best placement for each tower. Overall, Star Defense is an excellent addition to the tower defense genre, with enough of a variation on gameplay to make it worthy of your download.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Do you have a word game on your iPhone that's better than Bookworm? What's your secret for playing the harder difficulty levels in Star Defense? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.