Free iPhone Games: Word Flow Is a Fun & Engaging Way to Pass the Time

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I have to admit I have a new addiction. Well, not an addiction so much as a way to while away my time during on-demand NBC television show commercials you can’t fast forward through even though Comcast owns NBC. The game is called Word Flow (free with in-app purchases).

Related: Best iOS Racing Games: GRID Autosport for iPhone & iPad

When I got the eval code, I was pretty sure it was going to be one of two types of games I get asked to review. A non-engaging derivative, or a super deep labyrinth that I don’t have time to master. I was wrong. Word Flow is kind of a Goldie Locks game, in that its just right for the way I pass the time.

Basic game play is pretty simple. Make some words out of tiles and win. Bigger words, tiles with crowns, and words that incorporate blaster tiles (tiles that take out entire rows or columns of letters) earn more points. Theh bigger the words and the fewer the moves the better.

The game offers a simple linear path of levels; just follow the path. As you move up the levels, the game, of course, gets harder. Well, the goals get harder and the obstacles more challenging. You still have to spell words, but some of the letters must be released from harrowing circumstances before they can be employed. Letters arrive trapped in ice so you have to spell words using adjacent letters to break them free. Once liberated, those letters can be used to free letters near them. Ducks also end up in the puzzles. Their emancipation comes from scrolling them down rows by solving for words below them. So far I’ve broken a lot of ice cubes to unleash their letters and freed a number of rubber duckies. Each level starts with a set number of plays, when they run out, you can either buy more turns or start over.

If you go back to play a level, you are greeted with new letters; so game play isn’t the same, even if the general obstacles to overcome remain. Restart a level too often and you have to buy additional keys to unlock it (I think the game would be better if it allowed for play without keys on previously solved levels). Some of the levels can be a little daunting to figure out, so you might need a restart or two. Puzzles within puzzles.

Yes, I have trophies for things like unique word choice (not just spelling out the same short words over and over.) And from the looks of the trophy list, I have plenty of work ahead of me on the couch, in an airplane seat, or on a conference call where the team forgets I dialed in.

The one thing I would love to see is a legend that describes the various tools in the bag. The game does run through orientation levels, but if you don’t use the tools, you tend to forget what they are for. 

The tools also fail you. I recently used the word speller tool, the one that punches out a good word on your behalf (you get a few at the start, and then have to buy more of any tool once you spend your initial allocation), and it spelled out a great word;, but it broke my ability to break ice cubes, so I had to start over. Good word, bad strategy.

Grandleaf has so far released a few updates, so they seem to be squashing bugs and improving game play incrementally. I hope they keep at development with the same vigor they hope game players burn through virtual gold coins.

Final Verdict

Word Flow is a new game that I’m having fun with, and you should too. Like most iOS games, it’s free; but also like most games, it offers various add-ons, such as the elimination of ads, a beginner pack that loads you up on gold and goodies, and more. If you like solitary word play, it may be a good game to help you fill up your time on your iPhone doing something other than filling up your time on your iPhone.


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Benchmark and SoftBank are engaging in some public negotiating jiu jitsu over Uber

Benchmark is not committed to a deal. Neither is SoftBank.

One of Uber’s largest investors, the venture capital firm Benchmark, is aggressively pushing back on speculation that it is looking to divest from Uber as the company muddles through a cascading scandal.

Benchmark, which is considering selling some of its stake in the $ 70 billion ride-hailing giant, said in a rare Twitter statement on Monday that it remained “long” on Uber — though it did not directly dispute the notion that it is weighing a partial exit through a secondary sale.

“Despite speculation to the contrary, Benchmark is incredibly optimistic about Uber’s future,” Benchmark’s official account said in one message. “We have immense confidence in Uber’s 1000s of employees & are excited about what they will accomplish with the right new CEO.”

The carefully worded tweets did not specifically say that Benchmark would hold onto every last one of its shares, and the firm declined to comment beyond the tweets when asked if they were ruling out any sale.

Benchmark also claimed Uber’s value could rise to over $ 100 billion. That follows a new report in The Information that Benchmark was considering selling its stake to SoftBank in a deal that would value the company at around $ 45 billion.

The public backing comes at a particularly fraught moment in any negotiations: Earlier on Monday, the CEO of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank confirmed for the first time that they might invest in Uber, but cautioned that they may end up passing on the deal.

“We are interested in discussing with Uber, we are also interested in discussing with Lyft, we have not decided which way,” Masoyoshi Son, the SoftBank CEO, told reporters, according to Reuters. “Whether we decide to partner and invest into Uber or Lyft, I don’t know what will be the end result.”

Talks are ongoing, so the statements together suggest some negotiating jiu jitsu: Benchmark and SoftBank are effectively publicly signaling that they are totally willing to walk away from the deal if need be.

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Alphabet says Uber is engaging in a coverup

Alphabet says Uber knew it was hiring an engineer who had stolen internal information from Alphabet.

Uber has for the first time laid out its case to prove Alphabet’s allegations of theft of trade secrets are false. And now Alphabet is alleging Uber’s latest claims are part of a pattern of covering up what really happened.

Uber came under scrutiny after it acquired self-driving trucking startup Otto, a business founded by Anthony Levandowski, who previously led Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle business, now called Waymo.

Alphabet claims Levandowski stole 14,000 proprietary files before leaving to start Otto and is suing Uber over allegations the ride-hailing startup misappropriated that technology.

“Rather than do the right thing, Uber took part in a coverup, only firing Mr. Levandowski after their actions were exposed in litigation,” Alphabet self-driving subsidiary Waymo said in a statement.

Update: Uber has responded that Alphabet “has turned up exactly zero evidence that any of the 14,000 files came to Uber and that Alphabet is resorting “to peddling a ‘cover-up’ theory that was explicitly rejected by the Court as recently as last week.”

The case’s presiding judge, William Alsup, has previously posited Uber likely knew or should have known that Levandowski took the files, but has also said Alphabet has not provided strong evidence that Levandowski brought the files to Uber for the express purpose of using the technology.

Uber said in a Wednesday court filing that it made a point of deterring Levandowski from bringing any information over from Alphabet, and included a clause in Levandowski’s employment agreement that explicitly prohibited him from doing so.

Uber also says it had no reason to suspect Levandowski deliberately downloaded any files for improper use, but that any information the engineer had at the time of hiring was just random files he had obtained incidentally over the course of his employment at Alphabet.

At the same time, Uber also said in its latest court filing Levandowski was holding onto these files as leverage to obtain a bonus Alphabet had been slow to pay out.

Alphabet says there was a conspiracy and that Levandowski downloaded files from Waymo in some cases on the same day he met with Uber executives. “Mr. Levandowski was illicitly downloading Waymo’s trade secrets for use at Uber,” reads the latest filing.

The Google parent company claims that on Dec. 11, 2015, Levandowski met with Uber executives and then after the meeting downloaded 14,000 files from Waymo’s servers. On Jan. 4, 2016, Levandowski met with Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick and downloaded some additional Waymo files to a personal device, the filing says.

The filing doesn’t say whether he would have downloaded the files before or after the meeting with Kalanick in the second situation.

Alphabet also alleges Uber’s attempts to keep files out of court based on claims of privilege is actually part of an effort at “cloaking unfavorable facts with privilege” while revealing other pieces of information Uber thinks will be favorable.

Here is Alphabet’s full statement:

“The evidence clearly shows that stolen information has already made its way into Uber’s technology. We’re not convinced by Uber’s attempts to distance itself from a former star engineer it paid $ 250m to come to Uber while knowing he possessed Waymo’s proprietary information. Rather than do the right thing, Uber took part in a coverup, only firing Mr Levandowski after their actions were exposed in litigation.”

Here is Uber’s full response:

“This is the best indication yet that Waymo overpromised and can’t deliver. Uber took precautions to ensure that no former Google employees, including Levandowski, brought Google IP with them to Uber—and it worked. After searching through terabytes of data, deposing numerous employees and spending 55 hours with free reign to inspect our facilities, Waymo has turned up exactly zero evidence that any of the 14,000 files came to Uber. In recent days, Waymo has blamed a law firm, a third party forensics vendor, and now that it is becoming more and more clear that this downloading had nothing to do with Uber, they resort to peddling a ‘cover-up’ theory that was explicitly rejected by the Court as recently as last week.”

Update: This post has been updated to include Uber’s response to Alphabet’s statement, and additional information about what the presiding judge in the case has said.

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