You're almost certainly familiar by now with Wordle, the online word game that has seemingly taken over the world in the past few weeks, cluttering up Twitter with yellow and green boxes and delighting anyone who likes a challenge.
As highlighted by The Guardian, it's a clever spin on the original game that complicates matters rather a lot by making you play against a malevolent AI who keeps changing the word you're looking for. And it's brilliant — to the extent that it's gone straight into my best Wordle alternatives list alongside the likes of the Star Wars-themed SWordle.
Let me explain.
Meet Absurdle: Wordle's evil twin
While Wordle is a very simple game in which you have six attempts to guess a five-letter word, Absurdle is on the face of it a lot more complicated — to the extent that the game's 'How to play' page runs to more than 1,000 words.
The basic format is the same, in that the objective is to guess a five-letter word, but the key difference is that the answer changes as you play. So forget about guessing in two attempts — you'll be lucky if you get it in 10.
Essentially, you're playing against an AI who hasn't really decided what the answer is. Instead, it looks inside its word list each time you guess and discounts any solutions that use any of your chosen letters. And because it starts with 2,315 possible words — the same as Wordle — there are plenty of options.
For instance, if your first guess is 'TEARS' (my most common Wordle starter), Absurdle will proudly tell you that you have 0 correct letters. That's a given. At the same time, it will delete any answers that use any of those letters, narrowing the options down to a slightly smaller pool of possibles.
The same will undoubtedly happen on the second go, although you might at this stage get one yellow letter, indicating it's in the word but not in the right place. Same with your third guess. By the fourth or fifth go, if you've been sensible with your choice of letters, you might have a couple of definite letters, at which point you'll just have to keep guessing until you get the right one.
But bear in mind that Absurdle will keep changing the answer right up until the end. So let's say you've worked out that your word definitely looks like this: '_E_ER' — there's only a couple of possibles, right? It could be 'FEVER', or 'FEWER' or 'REFER', maybe. Well, don't think you might get lucky and guess correctly first time — because whatever you guess first will be wrong. You'll only get the answer when there is literally no other option.
As a result, the strategy you need to win is entirely different from the best approach for Wordle. Plus, there are various tacks you could take — for instance using up tricky letters early on will probably leave you easier words to guess, but more possible answers. Alternatively, guessing all the vowels early might narrow down the choices more quickly, but there's also a good chance your answer will end up being fairly obscure.
And it's not even clear what 'winning' means; after all, you get unlimited guesses. For my mind, anything that's within a Wordle score is a good result, so four, five or six guesses. But I've played multiple times and only managed that occasionally.
The game is the work of a developer going by the name of qntm and as with Wordle, it's played via the web and is entirely free of ads. But you can complete it as many times as you like each day, so there's no reason not to keep trying to bring that AI down a peg or two. Good luck.
If you're looking for another challenge, there's the unofficial Wordle Unlimited, which lets you play as many games per day as you like, and adjust the number of letters in the word, from four to a crazy 11.