Alchemy 1.4, by Andrew Trevorrow
Posted: 10-Jun-2003

3 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Andrew Trevorrow Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Moe Bradley Class: UTILITY
     
$20   Download

Description
When I volunteered to do a review for Alchemy, I originally thought the Alchemy I would be reviewing was the one offered by Pop Cap Games, a game of chance and strategy that I have used to while away more than a few hours.

The Alchemy I am reviewing, however, bears no resemblance to Pop Cap's version. Andrew Trevarrow's Alchemy is all about word ladders. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term "word ladder", the author defines it as sequence of words made by changing a single letter at a time. For example, you can change LEAD into GOLD in only four moves with this sequence of letter changes:

LEAD
L
OAD
GOAD
GO
LD

Simple, right? Yes, well, maybe in this instance, but believe me, it isn't always that obvious. Alchemy works with words from 2 letters to twelve letters long. You enter two words containing the same number of letters, click on the TRANSMOGRIFY button, and Alchemy will find the shortest ladder between the two words, if there is one.

If you don't want to choose your own words, Alchemy has generators available to either generate a random ladder between word pairs of 2-to-12 letters long, or generate the longest available ladder between word pairs of 2-to-12 letters, keeping in mind that the words will be of equal length, and each move changes only one letter, until the target word is reached.

When Alchemy was not able to create a word ladder from words I entered, there was no indication that a solution was not found; instead, the Alchemy solution window stayed blank, leaving me to wonder if the application had frozen, or was just taking an inordinate amount of time to work through the word list.

At first glance, it seemed like I would be able to use the Alchemy window to enter my attempt at solving the ladder, then click a button and have Alchemy tell me if my solution was correct, and/or if there was a shorter ladder that could be found (after all, I was able to see the word pairs in the Alchemy window, with the beginning word visible in the Turn: field and the target word visible in the Into: field). However, I discovered that when word pairs are entered into Alchemy and the Transmogrify button is pressed, the solution as Alchemy sees it will appear in the window. The Alchemy window does not allow any text entries in the field where the ladder solution appears.

My hopes for a word-puzzle-game dashed, I found some satisfaction in trying to solve the ladder by copying the word pairs onto piece of paper, or in a blank window in a word processing application, and working it out manually. I then entered my starting and ending words into the Alchemy window, and checked how my solution stacked up against Alchemy's word ladder.

Summary
I was intrigued by this version of Alchemy, and the whole introduction of word ladders. However, I was only mildly entertained, hoping to discover a way to have myself challenged. While I enjoyed challenging myself on paper and comparing my solution to Alchemy, I was disappointed that this behavior was not built into the software. Hook in a game-like interface to Alchemy, and this software has a lot of possibilities. However, in its current state, I give it only a mild recommendation.

Pros

  • Extensive help files to Word Ladder concept
  • Word lists can be created and modified
  • Allows customization of colors, fonts, and sizes


Cons

  • Poor behavior when word ladder not computable
  • Lacks challenge factor


Overall Rating

3 out of 5 Mice