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
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.
[09/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve