About 2/3 of the people who come to iPhone App Reviews are in America, so chances are they already know how to play LuckyWheel which is basically a low-budget version of the TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For everyone else who’s never seen Wheel of Fortune or something similar to it, here’s the basic idea: spin a wheel, guess letters in a word puzzle, earn points for each letter you guess correctly, and first one to solve it wins the round.’s iPhone-ified version of the game has some minor differences from the American TV show, but the two are essentially same thing.

LuckyWheel supports up to three people for pass-n-play (no computer players!) and you can set your game to last 1, 3, 5, or 10 rounds. Unlike Wheel of Fortune, the word puzzles aren’t categorized with hints like “Phrase” or “Person” or “Place”, but the app’s iTunes description suggests that all of the puzzles are “proverbs” so I guess that means they fall into the Phrase category.

Other differences from Wheel of Fortune are that you get points for guessing vowels, and you can only choose to solve the puzzle while the wheel is spinning. This means that if the mystery phrase suddenly hits you and you’re ready to solve, you have to take one more chance at landing on Bankrupt or Sit Out (lose a turn) before sticking it to your fellow contestants.

I have no idea if the makers of LuckyWheel have seen or even heard of Wheel of Fortune, but I’m calling it a “low-budget” version of Wheel because there’s an “officially licensed” Wheel app in the App Store that competes directly with this one. LuckyWheel’s graphics and game design are serviceable but not what you’d call pretty, it lacks the custom elements of the TV show such as “Toss Up” and the “Bonus Round”, and the lack of computer players is kind of a letdown. I’m all for playing with by myself when there’s some time to kill, but the option to throw some robots into the empty player slots would make this game a lot better. On the bright side, LuckyWheel can really be pretty fun when you’re with a friend or two and having a little pass-n-play competition.

Another improvement that I’d love to see is the ability to create  your own word puzzles to be solved. I’ve never played Sony Pictures Television’s “official” Wheel of Fortune app, but I know that app allows custom puzzles so I think would be wise to try and keep pace with the features. It’s true that Drobnik vs. Sony is totally Davey vs. Goliath, but hopefully Drobnik is committed to developing LuckyWheel to be as good as (or better than?) Sony’s game.

One thing that Sony’s app lacks (as of right now, anyway) is online play vs. live people who are far, far away. If Drobnik could make that happen in LuckyWheel it would seem like a pretty big advantage since the two apps are wooing the same audience.

Sony’s Wheel of Fortune app costs $4.99 and LuckyWheel is only $1.99, so if you’re a hardcore Wheel Watcher and specifically want the TV experience on your iPhone, you should probably pay the extra $3 to Sony. Everyone else who likes this kind of word puzzle but isn’t married to the TV format, get LuckyWheel. Despite its shortcomings, LuckyWheel is decent for $1.99 and hopefully it’ll grow into something that can really compete with an established franchise.

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