The Third Device

A blog about the iPad.

A review of HexaLex. Get a chance to win a free copy!

Let’s get this out of the way right now: I have a free copy of this game to raffle off, thanks to the generosity of developer Nathan Gray. Details at the end of this review.

Every once in a while, an app comes along that I just happen to discover and get addicted to completely by accident.  HexaLex ($1.99) is one of those games, and while strictly speaking is not an iPad app (it’s written for the smaller iPhone screen) it still plays perfectly fine on both devices.

If you’ve been following this blog closely, you know that I’m addicted to the game Words with Friends (hereafter referred to as WwF), which is a reasonable facsimile of Scrabble with its own little twists and tricks, particularly of the online multiplayer sort. Well, HexaLex takes the best parts of both games and slaps them onto what looks like the surface of a beehive. This ups the challenge level considerably, and throws out a few of the reliable strategies you may have developed as a longtime Scrabble or WwF player.


Words With Friends, on a beehive. Sweet!

Honestly, the new layout isn’t quite as sadistic as it sounds. The gameplay allows for what are termed as “junk words”, meaning you can get away with using two-letter nonsense words to help you along as you plan your move. However, you can’t just play a junk word by itself – you still need to play a legal word as your main move. You’re given up to 2 junk words per turn, but it’s still not all that easy.

What does make things easier, though, is the interface (especially in comparison to WwF). As you place your tiles on the board, the game instantly gives you feedback as to whether you’re playing a legal word or not. If you’re playing multiple words in a turn and one of them is illegal, it will helpfully inform you which one is a dud. Plus, as you hit the button to submit the word, HexaLex shows you the potential total point score of that word before you commit to the move (no more doing fuzzy arithmetic in your head at 3 in the morning – or is that just me?)

Did I mention that you can play not just against the computer, but against up to three other online players? This. Is. Awesome!


Another gameplay feature that I love: you have up to three complete rack swaps per game, meaning if you have a set of totally crap letters, you can choose to dump all 7 back in the pool in the hope of getting better ones – all without sacrificing a turn.This is a great feature, sort of like turbo boost in a racing game;  used strategically at the right time, it can mean the difference between winning or losing.

Other key interface points that make me smile: you have an info button that shows you a detailed history and stats on you and your opponent, as well as the ability to name your games for quick reference (or just if you want to exercise your sense of humor).

There is even a built in tutorial that takes you through all these features and more.

Finally, there’s an online leaderboard that will wring every last bit of competitive juice out of me! After 3 days of play, I’m currently 16th on the weekly points score list – and you can bet I’m going to be challenging those 24 other players on that list sooner or later 🙂


I’m hard pressed to come up with any negative aspects about this game (other than the fact that it makes diving back into a WwF game suddenly feel so starkly vanilla) but the top on my list would be of course, the need for HD support so it looks better on the iPad. The chat icon on the gameboard could also be a tad more visible; it’s easily overlooked. I also like to play music in the background while playing WwF and thinking over my moves – with HexaLex, it’s not an option because the game takes over the audio and kills any tunes you might be playing.

And probably another possible negative is that if you find WwF to be challenging you’re definitely going to get your ass kicked in HexaLex – it’s nowhere near as friendly. (On the bright side, no one seems to have developed a cheat / helper app for HexaLex yet, unlike the ones for WwF … cheaters, you know who you are and shame on you!)

I can sum up this review as follows: I took WwF off my dock (gasp!) and replaced it with HexaLex. Considering how many apps there are on my iPad and how limited the dock space is, that’s saying a lot.

Now, on to the fun part: leave me a comment and tell me what apps have earned the honor of being on your iPad or iPhone Dock. You can even go on and tell us why if you’re feeling chatty. I’ll pick a winner at random exactly a week from now and that lucky person will get a free copy of HexaLex!


August 20, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Where’s the photo of our one-on-one match where I’m currently up 320 to measly 264?


    Comment by Cyn | August 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. My toolbar has Words with Friends. 😀

    And … We Rule. hahahaha. But that’s going to be replaced REAL soon.

    Comment by Cyn | August 20, 2010 | Reply

    • It’s called a Dock, dear.

      Comment by Vic | August 20, 2010 | Reply

      • It’s a bar… with stuff on it. So it’s a toolbar. 🙂

        Comment by Cyn | August 25, 2010

  3. Aside from the four default Apple apps (videos, mail, safari, ipod), I have Atomic Web as the only third-party app in my dock.

    Comment by Myles | August 20, 2010 | Reply

  4. Hrm… WwF, Kindle, Beejive and Twitterrific. Then there’s Safari and Mail.

    Comment by Hoho | August 20, 2010 | Reply

  5. Hey Vic, thanks for the great review! I’m incredibly flattered — even *I* don’t have HexaLex in my dock. Then again, my docks are really boring:

    iPad: Totally stock, haven’t changed anything yet. only owned it for a week.
    iPhone: Phone, Mail, Safari, Camera

    Sure hope I win that code… ;^)

    BTW, the game cutting off background music is a bug that I’m planning to fix for the next update. It used to work, but Apple changed something somewhere along the line. An HD version is on my radar, but no promises. And I’m totally open for suggestions on the chat icon.


    Comment by Nathan Gray | August 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Congratulations on the new iPad! So that HD version won’t be too far off now, I hope (hint hint). BTW, in case you didn’t know, you can add two more items to the default iPad Dock so now there’s no excuse for staying with the stock apps!

      I’ve grown accustomed to the chat icon the way it is – I see why it has to be a little subdued considering that it floats on top of the game board. However, a new niggle I’m only noticing now that I’m starting to finish more games is that medals are tied to the device rather than to the account. Cyn and I like to play the game across both our iPads and iPhones/iPod Touches, and it’s a shame the achievements don’t sync up.

      Keep up the good work.

      Comment by Vic | August 21, 2010 | Reply

  6. My first ever game/app.
    Meteor Blitz, which i still play.


    Hexius, for a quick awesome puzzle game :))

    Comment by Shizuo | August 21, 2010 | Reply

  7. i think i might get addicted to that…

    Comment by pj | August 21, 2010 | Reply

  8. First of all, I don’t think any gaming app has won the right to be in my iPad dock, unless folders from 4.0 becomes available. Anyway, my current dock apps are as follows:

    1. Downloads HD: Think safari with download capabilities and tabs.

    2. Jump!: VNC and Remote desktop client for days when I’m too lazy to get up and change the song playing far away on iTunes.

    3. Sketchbook Pro: I’m a drawing junkie, but I still suck at drawing compared to the iPad artists on youtube. Seeing my gallery brings strange joy to me. I wish I had another Dagi Stylus though, mine seems to be unresponsive lately.

    4. MiTube: Free app that was pulled in less than a day that allows you to download and watch youtube videos.

    5. Goodreader: I have tons of reference books for drawing and programming which I look at once in a while

    6. Top 100s: An application that lets you stream the 100 best songs of each year (1930 – 2010) in random order (Fun if you have unlimited 3g/wifi). Too bad there is still no universal app like this since it looks kinda ugly on the iPad.

    and there you have it. 😛

    Comment by | August 25, 2010 | Reply

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