I like word games. A lot. When I immigrated to the United States, Boggle was a fun way to learn different words within small combinations of the English alphabet. In college when Words With Friends was all the rage, I spent many hours trying to beat peers and strangers. These days, I start the morning with a round of The New York Times’ mini crossword puzzle, then a few more rounds of online Scrabble before bed.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I woke this morning to the launch of a Ludacris-touted app that’s basically Words With Friends but with the acceptance of colloquial words. Slang N’ Friendz works just like the aforementioned app — you can choose to be matched with Facebook friends or strangers, or play a practice round with yourself.
"In a time when so much of the world is divided, technology has the opportunity to bring us together,” Ludacris, whose real name is Christopher Bridges, said in a press release. “Slang N' Friendz encourages users to connect, be friendly, and identify what they have in common through language. It's also a chance for different generations to learn about each other's unique forms of communication and find ways to use language to bridge generation gaps.”
Whatever you say, Luda. Lofty premise aside, the app is goddamn fug.
A free-to-play app, Slang N’ Friendz monetizes from ads and in-game purchases that let you customize board game background and word tile colors. Your options range from classic yellow to neon pink, highlighter green, and camo. The app looks like a web game from 2002 ported to mobile.
Gameplay-wise, the app incentivizes you to win by playing more slang words on the board. In two separate rounds, I started the game with a slang and a regular word. The slang (“Doe,” although this could also be considered a regular word) was awarded more points despite using less valuable letters. So theoretically, you can win making small little slang words the entire game rather than strategizing around more valuable letters and good board placements.
If you’re not sure why you got bonus points for a slang word you can tap the word to learn its meaning, like a built-in Urban Dictionary of sorts.
It should be noted that after every turn, you get served a 30-second ad. While I get that there’s a trade-off for apps being free, the ads are so consistent that they end up crashing the app after every few turns.
It’s unclear whether curse words will also work on the app (I’ve played several rounds and have yet to get enough letters to form even the mildest of profanity.) The iOS version of the app suggests that Slang N’ Friendz is approved for users ages nine and up, while Android rates it Mature 17+. There appears to be no setting to avoid using curse words (though the app’s PR rep says they may add one soon,) and the Help button leads you to a 404 webpage.
I want to love Slang N’ Friendz, but it comes across like a modded app that’s not necessarily built for a large audience. It’s probably fun for a few giggles with friends now that you can play words like “lit” and “bae,” but the novelty dies quick. And I definitely don’t feel more “connected” to the world, despite what Mr. Bridges sees of this app.