The popularity of Scrabble has given birth to anecdotes and stereotypes for its players. In fact, it even worked itself into a major Hollywood film; the Wedding Planner. There's
no other way to describe WordGame. It definitely involves words or
more precisely, letters and the arrangement of them into words. You work on a tile-based board, placing virtual word tiles down to
construct words. Some board spaces have extra points if you use them
and you have a set number of letter pieces to choose from, although you
can exchange them if you find yourself stumped in a particular round.
So really, we should all be frank and accept the fact that WordGame is
a Scrabble clone.
As a clone, WordGame works pretty faithful to the game of Scrabble save
for a few minor adjustments. The first noticeable thing is the
restriction to only two players. You can play against the computer or
play hot seat against someone else. The AI featured is pretty
impressive. It operates on four levels from having the most mundane
grasp of the English vocabulary to an absolute domineering command of
obscure words that you swear can only be found attached to the
appendix of the OED. Although everything is seemingly like Scrabble, I
missed the rare moments, late in the game, when three or four players
are fumbling to attach letters to existing words in hopes to score
points. Playing against one other player seemed more like a duel; an
exercise to test whose vocabulary war chest was deeper. On the simplest
level, the AI only knows how to construct words with two or three
letters. Still, it persists to best you because it is able to construct
more two-letter words than you could dream of and even though Resco
claims they have incorporated a 160,000 word English dictionary, some of
these words will undoubtedly come under scrutiny, whether you are a
literary buff or not. I often found myself being beaten by "ta" or
"pe". At higher levels of difficulty, the AI has a better grasp for
much longer words but they are still equally obscure. The first
onslaught the AI put out was "remigate". Under Dictionary.com, it came
up in one dictionary (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary) as: To
migrate again, to go back, to return.
However, I digress, so let us remigate back to the article at hand. The
dictionary is not integrated into the product and in fact, can be chosen
as long as you possess the right one. I imagine this is a boon to
international players but I found the options for the dictionary
lacking. I thought it would have been nice to work in some ability to
limit the minimum word size. Toggling whether slang is allowed would
also have been a boon. At the very least, an undo feature for both
players would allow for some form of contestation of the result. As it
stands now, the dictionary included will generate some pretty strange
rounds of WordGame.
AI and dictionary difficulties aside, WordGame's visual appeal is clear
and concise. The layout is easy to follow and you won't find yourself
squinting to get a good look at the game. Resco has been a noted
applications developer for the Windows CE and Pocket PC platform for
quite some time. It obviously has the execution of such programs down
pat. The title, however, is dotted with sparse audio effects and this
perhaps explains its relatively small size. WordGame takes up little
over one and a half megabytes of memory, including the dictionary for
the English language.
The developers have informed me that a second version is in the works.
The main upgrade consists of multiplayer capabilities via infrared. A
few months ago, I also covered Handmark's translation of Scrabble to the
Palm platform. The higher resolution in WordGame provides better
readability here but hopefully Resco will take some cues from the Palm
version; special pricing for multiple copies or even client-only
licenses. Handmark was able to bear the official Scrabble license
because they worked towards securing it from Hasbro. One bullet point
in the feature list is the "Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary"
(their words, not mine). I didn't know how important this could be
until now. Still, if you are able to secure a slightly more laymen's
dictionary copy for WordGame, you'll almost think you're playing
Scrabble; albeit with two less players.
[09/10] Program Size
[12/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer