March 15, 2023 by RSS Feed
There probably won't be a word game that ever catches fire the way that Wordle did in late 2021 and early 2022, but that doesn't stop attempts to innovate within the genre. For the past few weeks, I've been playing Domingo, which is an curious spin on Wordle's "guess the word"-style gameplay, but it isn't quite as good at making you feel smart and excited to share your performance.
Words within words
Domingo is a daily word puzzle game that gives you four incomplete words that you are tasked with filling in. The catch is that--even if multiple combinations of letters fit in the blanks--Domingo wants you to provide a full word in the blank. On top of that Domingo is looking for a specific word that falls into a category provided at the bottom of the screen.
So, for example, one of the incomplete words might be "Ami_le" with the category of the day being vehicles. For this puzzle (which was a real daily puzzle from the week I'm writing this review, by the way), you could solve it by typing in "cab" as a cab is a type of vehicle and forms the word "amicable." From there, you'd have three more words just like this within the same category to solve.
Free to guess
Domingo is designed primarily to be part of your daily ritual. There is a new puzzle every day that everyone has access to, including free players who do not unlock the app. Paying $2.99 simply lets you find and play puzzles of any category you'd like and also revisit the archive of daily puzzles.
This seems like a great deal, as I only really gravitated to the daily puzzle in my time with Domingo, but even that has a few quirks I'm not so fond of. First and foremost, Domingo has no real feedback system to let you know how you are doing at solving its puzzles. You have basically infinite guesses at filling in the blanks and no sense of whether you're getting close to solving it.
Without a feedback system in place, Domingo truly does feel like a guessing game at times. Categories are very broad and can sometimes have solutions that use pretty obscure words. Your best bet at a solution is to figure out a list of possibilties for the complete word before looking to see if the letters you'd fill in the blanks with form words themselves, and then seeing if any of those words match the category. If you decide to play Domingo's hard mode, you have even less to go on as you aren't provided a category to work off of.
As a result, the game can feel like a lot of trial and error. At the end of the day, this is what a lot of games about guessing words boil down to, but Domingo doesn't feel like it provides enough tools to help you enjoy or get better at its brand of guessing. That was kind of the magic of Wordle, and--while I don't think every game needs to do what it did--Domingo could certainly benefit from taking a few steps in that direction.
The bottom line
Domingo's curious word challenges are easy enough to check out given the game's extremely fair pricing model. It feels nice when things click together and you can smash through a puzzle, but more often the game's dictionary and lack of feedback reduce sessions with it to a guess-a-thon.
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