LEX is one of those games that lulls you into a false sense of security before sneakily smashing your brain out with a brick.
Initially, it's a lazy word game – a kind of stripped-back Scrabble where you fashion words from a selection of nine tiles. On submitting a word, its tiles vanish, and their letters form a little kaleidoscope that whirls in the distance as new tiles appear.
It’s all very charming, and you’re further urged on by timers that exist within every tile. The speed any given tile fills is determined by its value, and so you need to use lower-valued tiles relatively quickly, but have a fair amount of time to dispense with the occasional Z or X that turns up.
At least, this is the case until LEX bares its teeth and flings itself headlong into ferocious mode. The effect is akin to a roller-coaster, in that you're initially tootling along quite pleasantly, but seconds later find yourself hurtling along at breakneck speed, clinging on for dear life.
With LEX, the accelerator is a multiplier that marches across the screen whenever you submit a word. Every time it reaches the end, your score per word ramps up, but the game becomes increasingly demanding. By the time you hit 5x and higher, it's all you can do to remember any three-letter words (the minimum allowed) and dispense with vowels faster than the timer can fill them.
The best thing about LEX is when you're truly in the flow, words wheeling away, the thumping background music providing a combination of anxiety infusion and adrenaline shot. Now and again, though, you'll abruptly smack into a wall. In some cases, this will be down to the game's intense difficulty - a kind of arch-brutality seen in the likes of VVVVVV, Super Hexagon, Boson X and Pivvot, but applied to word games. LEX takes no prisoners.
That kind of wall can eventually be mastered, but a more troublesome one involves a dictionary that's both riddled with holes and sanitised. We're not sure what tome's lurking in this app's guts, but it apparently has no room for 'tum'; or, bizarrely, 'chink'. You're also out of luck if you're hurtling along on a 9x multiplier and attempt to input a swear word - LEX is having none of that, kids!
UNDER A SPELL
This niggle combined with the brutality not being twinned with a rather more sedate mode for mere mortals costs LEX our highest rating. Nonetheless, on a tablet especially, this remains one of the best word games on mobile. (On a small smartphone, it's a touch more fiddly, but still playable, if you're fleet of thumb and don't cover the screen with your digits.)
However, for a game that's usually over within a minute, don't think this is the kind of title you can squeeze into the odd moment: once LEX gets its talons into you, you'll be playing over and over until you can get those extra few points and top your highest score.