The Story Of Mystery Word Town

Tue, Apr. 28 2015

So what’s the story with our new app, Mystery Word Town, anyway?

It all started back in November of 2014 in Lambertville, New Jersey at the Dust or Magic Institute. We were paper testing a new app concept, a matching game for little kids, at the time and we were just about to roll into production. After a day immersed in talks from some of the best and brightest in kids app development, the message was clear - raise the bar. On the way to dinner that evening, Steve and I had the same thought, we can’t make the matching game, we have to do better.

Invigorated, we went back to the office the following week to brainstorm concepts and Mystery Word Town was born. With our Mystery Math Town and Mystery Math Museum apps, we set out with the goal to make math practice fun. Could we do the same for spelling?

We began with paper comps that we shared with various teachers to make sure the concept was useful. Buoyed by the response to our early game sketches, we quickly dove into content development - a lot of research (Words Their Way is a wonderful resource) and a collaboration with an excellent local fourth grade teacher, helped us to shape the word lists. We were off and running...

On the surface, Word Town seems quite similar to the Mystery Math apps because the primary game mechanic is the same - find the letters (instead of numbers) to spell the words that will unlock the doors. However, it is a very different game under the hood because it is a spelling game. You can choose to play the game with, or without, audio hints. Audio hints speak the words you are trying to solve from the selected word list/level. If you choose to play without audio hints, you can spell any word you can dream up, as long as it is a valid word in the huge open source dictionary that we use. When you are playing with audio hints enabled, we’ve included visual scaffolding to assist the user in solving words they may be struggling with. We’ve also made some changes to the UI and hinting to make it easier for users to adjust their game as they are playing.

And...there’s a whole new story and cast of quirky old west characters you’ll encounter on your journey.

I just finished playing the Beta version and there are still some rough edges, but I think we’re actually going to finish this app on (or very close to the latest revised) schedule. We are in exterminator mode - squashing bugs, and I couldn't be happier.