Cost: Free (with in-app purchase options)
Imagine yourself in a dark hallway. You don’t know the shape of the room, or which way you need to go. The only way to navigate is by playing Scrabble with round tiles that light the way. As you place each word, more of the space becomes visible. Welcome to QatQi.
Named for two words that use Q without U, qat an evergreen plant whose leaves are chewed as a stimulant and qi, life energy in Chinese philosphy, QatQi provides a puzzle for every day, ranging from easy to excruciating. You might have one small room and 11 letters, or several rooms and over a hundred letters. All the while, you try to structure your words to branch from each other in ways that will let you build into each new room, and place letters on spaces containing coins to collect extra points. Like many word games, longer words are worth more points, and being mindful of word spacing will give you opportunities to get rid of your letters by building off of words you have already played.
The black background with occasional sparkling flashes and mysterious soundtrack are soothing, rather than spooky, making QatQi one of the few app games I like to play with the sound turned on. Getting stuck is the tricky part. You start the game with a limited number of undos. If you run out, you must either wait or pay: 1,000 undos cost $1.99. Not terribly expensive, but often for teens any cost at all is prohibitive. If you are well and truly stuck, you can always start the whole puzzle over for free.
Give this to fans of word games like Scrabble, Words with Friends, or Letterpress. Use it as a challenge to build vocabulary. Play it with your teen book club or writer’s group to muse on the strange juxtapositions of words you might create and see where that leads you.