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Game Over Online ~ Scrabble

GameOver Game Reviews - Scrabble (c) Handmark, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Scrabble (c) Handmark
System Requirements Palm III, Palm OS 3.x
Overall Rating 81%
Date Published Tuesday, October 16th, 2001 at 05:14 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

When I first played the game of Scrabble, it was through the old board game with real wooden tiles. These days, when I speak with certain children who are born in the 1990s, their first exposure to a board game like Monopoly was through a computer. Soon, in a matter of decades, people's first exposure to Scrabble might be through a PDA. As such, they might elect to choose Handmark's official Scrabble game for the Palm OS.

Working with the Palm platform, Handmark's rendition of Scrabble is a translation of the original game and not a remake or a remix of the original title as seems to be the popular way of treating venerable titles these days. With the electronic version, all the hassles with keeping points and looking words up in the dictionary are automatically done. This rendition of Scrabble also introduces two modes of play: Tournament and Friendly. The later allows the usage of non-orthodox (or even incorrect) words and like the typical chess game, can offer suggestions or hints as to what your next move might be. This is a very welcome feature for those without large vocabularies, like me, and indeed was a real surprise.

More often than not, PDA games have opted not to include any computer players since the AI needed to generate realistic gameplay is often hard to do. This goes without saying for a game like Scrabble. The trick is not to really make the game smart. As we all know, a computer (or in this case, a PDA) will undoubtedly know more words than you or I will ever in our lifetimes. However, to make a computer seem dumb or play at a novice level is always a challenge. Incidentally, I think the AI performance in this edition of Scrabble is certainly on par.

If that didn't surprise me enough, the most surprising feature would probably be the multiplayer aspects of the title. One of the things that developers are embracing now is the ability to beam your Palm titles via the infrared port from one person to the next. Often, it operates like shareware; a free marketing tool for the publishers. In Scrabble, however, beaming your Palm version of Scrabble to another PDA could actually be useful since Scrabble supports multiple players via infrared. With the turn based pace of Scrabble, I can see this is as a great feature. If you have regular players however, you can't spawn copies like on certain PC games as clients. Instead, each player will have to purchase a full copy of Scrabble (if you are to get beyond the trial period). Although Handmark offers a reduced price for two copies of Scrabble, I'm not sure why there couldn't be a smaller client/spawn copy for other players to play from. There is also hot-seat play where you pass the PDA around to a maximum of four players.

Included in every copy of Scrabble is the Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary. I'm not sure what the difference is between this dictionary and your everyday OED but it seems to be adequate enough for the game. It also sounds imposing (memory-wise) but in fact the whole dictionary, plus the application, takes up no more than a few hundred kilobytes. Along with monochrome support and the ability to run on Palm OS 3.0, breadth and compatibility is definitely there. Scrabble is also yet another title that will urge people to buy color models as the color model shows everything in a much better light than the black and white. For example, it was easier for me to figure out which squares are higher ranking with colors compared with monochrome shading.

It wasn't until a recent film, The Wedding Planner, did I find out that Scrabble actually had an organized official following. Yet, this title is easy enough to learn that any casual Scrabble player will be able to appreciate it. There have been many puzzle games released for PDAs but Scrabble operates on a completely different level. I can honestly say the brain jogging in this game might in fact directly contribute to enhancing your writing. The premium price, I'm sure, may scare some away but what you get is indeed, a very professional package and a direct translation of a venerable board game. Handmark's adaptation of Scrabble is certainly not off the mark.

[08/10] Addictiveness
[17/20] Gameplay
[12/15] Graphics
[08/10] Interface/controls
[09/10] Program Size
[02/05] Sound
[04/05] Discreetness
[13/15] Learning Curve
[08/10] Multiplayer


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