rebus | ˈriːbəs | noun (pl. rebuses)
a puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters
As I sit staring at my phone’s screen desperate to figure out which word is being depicted by the letters and shapes in front of me, I wonder why I haven’t heard of rebus puzzles before. I’m a huge fan of puzzling games and lateral thinking tasks, but I’d never encountered a rebus until this game (at least not by name).
I’ve spent a couple of weeks with a new app from Jutiful, released today, that brings rebuses to the smartphone and tablet screen. It’s name — REBUS - Absurd Logic game — sums up the frustrating yet addictive game extremely well.
In REBUS, you are faced with a number of rebus puzzles, each displaying letters, pictures, colors, and clues to help you decipher the hidden word. Shown above in screenshots from the in-game tutorial are a couple of easy examples that help get you into the swing of things. But don’t be fooled into thinking this game is that straightforward throughout — far from it.
When you enter the game, you’ll see a grid of 8 rebuses to solve. Swipe right and you’ll see many more grids of 8 that are as-yet-locked. Tapping on an individual rebus makes it larger and gives you a keyboard in which to enter your best guesses. Getting it right will give you 100 coins and a certain amount of points to add to your overall total (based on the time it took you to get it right and the amount of wrong answers you gave prior to the right one). When you return to the grid you’ll see the rebuses you have solved have been grayed-out and once you’ve answered enough, you can move on to the next grid. In order to progress, you’ll have to correctly answer at least 6 of the rebuses in the grid, 12 for the next set, 18 for the next and so on.
Solving 6 out of 8 rebuses might sound like a lot to move forward, but you'll find that there are usually a couple in each grid that are obvious enough that you could guess them at a glance. I felt an average of 6 correct answers was a good level to keep the game challenging enough while not simply allowing you to breeze through each and every set of rebuses. If you’re struggling on one puzzle in particular, you can find out the number of letters the answer contains, what one of those letters is, remove all incorrect letters from the keyboard or just find out the full answer, each costing you some of your earned coins.
And boy is it challenging at times. While some are simple, others are incredibly tough. How you find each one will depend on your own mind, but some of the puzzles required a lot of thought (and there are many I had to leave unanswered). The set up and style of each rebus varies so they are rarely predictable and require a good amount of thought. For a game like REBUS it is so important to challenge players without being too difficult, and I felt that Jutiful had really nailed that delicate balance. The game kept me playing, got me annoyed at times, but ultimately was incredibly rewarding when you managed to decrypt a pesky puzzle that had been troubling me or when I finally unlock the next set of rebuses.
The experience was aided by REBUS’s gorgeous graphics and fluid UI. While presenting a grid of puzzles could easily be boring, the bright colors, movement of interface elements and subtle sound effects made for a more captivating gameplay experience. REBUS is a very polished offering.
There’s also a bunch of puzzles in REBUS at launch — over 100 — and the developers tell me there are plans to add more over time.
REBUS is not without some flaws, though. I found the point system to be fairly arbitrary and perhaps unnecessary. There’s little you can do to boost your score other than resetting the game and starting over.
The game is free to download and takes advantage of the tried and tested freemium model and this brings with it some known issues. You’ll see ads (which are obtrusive at times and can only be removed if you pay), in-app purchases and other incentives in the app which I’m not a fan of. I mentioned previously the coins you can gain and, as you might expect, these can be spent far quicker than they can be earned and there are IAPs to buy more coinage. In this way, like many other free to play games, REBUS preys on the impatient a little. Fortunately, you can earn extra coins for free by voluntarily watching a 15-30 second video ad or liking Jutiful’s Facebook page, but it’s still not ideal. I would have preferred to have paid for the game upfront as it is definitely worth it, but such is the app marketplace.
REBUS is a terrific puzzle game. It’s fresh and original, looks great and toys with your emotions like any good puzzler should. It’s hampered a little by its business model, but that shouldn’t stop you downloading it and checking it out.