Scrabble, Just Right for Tough Times

SCRABBLE (AppStore Link)
User Reviews
Developer: Electronic Arts Inc.
Price: $7.99 Download on the App Store

scrabble iphone appScrabble was invented by Alfred Mosher Butts, an out-of-work architect, during the Great Depression. Hmm, I wonder whether it's coincidence that Electronic Arts has just released its version of the popular word game for the iPhone, or a sign the economy is set to go further down the drain?

If you know how to work a crossword, then you know how to play Scrabble. How true is EA's version to the real thing? Pretty close, with a few extras mashed in.

The app's rules are almost the same as those of the Scrabble board game. Both rely on the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, 4th Edition. Some significant differences between the virtual and real: If you attempt to spell a word that's not in the dictionary, you can recall your tiles and try again. I didn't catch the computer making any mistakes for me to challenge either! Finally, there's a "best word hint" mode that leaves it to the computer to figure out the best combo of tiles you should play. No self-respecting Scrabble player would want those features.

Still, game play is high-class. You double tap to zoom the board and drag and drop tiles. You've got a shuffle button if you want to mix up your tiles automatically instead of manually. Shaking the iPhone scrambles the tiles in the bag. In sum, this Scrabble app takes advantage of all the iPhone's capabilities in a way that simulates playing the physical board game.

The one thing I'd like is to be able to pick up and drop a tile. As is, you can't point at a tile and then the square where you want it to go. It's not a deal breaker, but the option would be useful.

With Scrabble you can play against the computer or against another player over Wi-Fi. There are three levels: Easy, Normal and Hard. I'm a regular Scrabble player, although no where near expert level, and I found the Normal mode too easy. My iPhone average was 50-60 points higher than my board-game average.

Earlier, App Store reviewers complained about load times and flaky app behavior. I'm playing version 1.0.53 and find it loads in about 10 seconds. It hasn't crashed on me yet, either.

Image Gallery: SCRABBLE

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  • Shiraz

    I find it unforgivable that they changed the colors of the bonus squares. That's something you'd do if you were pirating the game, not if you were a legal copyright holder!

    For experienced players of the game, those colors are hard-wired, and the completely arbitrary choice to change them makes this a constant irritation to anybody who actually loves the game. I'd give it 3 out of 10, if that.

  • Rich

    I love the regular board game and this application is a very good representation. I noticed the color change on the bonus squares but it doesn't bother me, -the screen is very visually appealing. I wonder if the original colors didn't display well on the iPhone?

    I did find one problem, the scrabble dictionary on the phone didn't show "consonant" as a valid word. I'm wondering if the dictionary can be trusted?

  • Joseph

    @Shiraz: it's funny, but I find the colors on the app to not be a distraction at all, and I've been playing the game for nearly a quarter century. I think this is due to "DL," "TL," "DW" and "TW" being placed on the premium squares; I'm using v1.6.78, so they may not have been present in earlier editions. Ironically enough, I find these same new colors very distracting on actual gameboards.

    @Rich: I've just checked CONSONANT and it is indeed valid on the app's TWL dictionary.

    As for my take on the app, I'd have to give it a solid 9/10. It's a great app with a few flaws, none of them dealbreakers:

    *In single-player, the human ALWAYS goes first. This should be randomized.
    *The leftover points from tiles are distributed in the +X/-X fashion. In tournament play, they are distributed in the +2X/0 fashion, thus preserving the same point spread. This should be a selectable option in the game.
    *I have only been playing against Hard AI, so I'm not sure if this is already offered, but I'd like to see separate records and other statistics offered against each AI. For that matter, average score for and against would be lovely to have.
    *I'd like to be able to see the last few completed games in single-player, not just against other people.
    *It is sometimes difficult to maintain Facebook login credentials; I find that I have to log in nearly every day, even having to put in my information with every log-in.
    *I'd like to see Clabbers (a Scrabble variant) and Maven (a Scrabble analyzing tool) support in the near future; these could be in-app purchases, and I would gladly pay for them. Of course, I recognize that this may make the file prohibitive in size.
    *The Teacher seems to have a bit of trouble offering the highest-scoring play for racks with two blanks; in my last game, I played MUSTacHE for 63, but it offered a 30-point play as the highest-scoring play.

    At any rate, it's still a fabulous app that gets lots of my time!