Mobile word game Alphabear 2 is pretty much more of the same as the original. The great news is that it’s a lot more of it.
The first Alphabear was like Boggle with bears. You try to make words out of the available tiles on the board to reach a high score.
The board featured different bears, and using tiles around the bears allowed them to grow into the now empty space around them, thus growing your score. As you play, more tiles reveal themselves. The tiles are also on a timer that will eventually cause them to become unusable, impeding the growth of your bears.
Alphabear 2 doesn’t mess with that formula too much, but adds just enough new things that it doesn’t feel like a repeat of the first game.
Each bear in Alphabear has a unique skill — some add more of a certain letter to the board, while others lengthen the timer for boards that need to be completed in a certain amount of time.
In 2, bears also have temperaments. They can be Scary, Cautious, Merry or Brave, and using multiple bears with the same temperament on a board can multiply your score. If a particular board says that you’ll get a higher score for using Scary bears, it’s worth your time to puzzle through which combination of skills and you’ll need while also maximising how Scary your load out is.
This also changes how you level up bears. Like the last game, you’ll always level up a bear if you collect a duplicate of it, but you can also send your bears to Bear School. Only certain kinds of bears can be levelled up in Bear School, and they rotate by the day. One day you’ll be levelling up your Merry bears, the next the Cautious ones.
These little lessons also teach you about grammar. When I levelled up my Floppy Bear, a Scary Bear shaped like a floppy disk, I learned about the prefix “re” and earned bonus points for using it on the board.
Alphabear 2 also incorporates the dictionary feature from the console release of Alphabear, which teaches you the definitions of words you use. It also keeps the randomised picture that makes a phrase from your highest scoring words that was so fun in the first game.
The game is no less cute than the first one, and in some cases more so. For instance, when you play through puzzles, you can also earn pieces of fabric that can be exchanged for clothes.
They’re purely cosmetic, but they’re adorable.
With more currency comes worrying monetisation trends, however. While you can pay $14.99 to remove ads — which I did the first chance I got — you can still buy coins for real money.
You use coins to summon rare bears for your arsenal, and by summoning rare bears you’ll also be gifted some rarer colours of fabric. You can’t buy fabric, and though you can earn it from playing the game, it’ll take a while to earn the 120 pieces of yellow fabric to grab a viking hat.
While the gacha mechanic of summoning rare bears gives me some pause, at least you can still earn a tidy number of coins by playing the game, though nowhere near as much as you would by just buying coins.
Alphabear 2 is still the Alphabear I love, though I bristle at any whiff of a gachapon in my mobile games. Even without the cute outfits, I’m still having fun collecting bears and connecting letters into high-scoring words. Sometimes more is just more — even if it comes with some things you aren’t so fond of.