Product Type: Ubisoft Nintendo DS games
Newest Review: ... the computer, then Career Mode offers the best long-term challenge and gives you a sense of progression and achievement as you beat succe... more
B L E B R C S A. What Can You Make From That?
Scrabble 2007 Edition DS
Member Name: SWSt
Scrabble 2007 Edition DS
Advantages: Faithful recreation of the board game with strong opponents
Disadvantages: Awful music, surpisingly heavy on the battery
As you might imagine, this DS version does nothing to rock the boat and is a faithful recreation of the original, with the rules following the official Scrabble one. However, to try and introduce some variety, there are a number of different game modes. Challenge allows you to play a single game against a computer opponent, Career Mode sees you competing in "Scrabble Tournaments" against progressively more difficult computer opponents whom you need to beat before you can progress to the next round. There's also a nice multiplayer option where you can play against a single human opponent (if they don't have their own copy of the game) or several (if they do) so you can have the fun and interaction of playing Scrabble with friends, without having to fiddle around with all those silly tiles! A couple of word-based games (such as anagram challenges) rounds off the package.
However many different modes the game throws at you, you can't get away from the fact that pretty much everything is based around Scrabble and this will pretty much decide whether you like this game or not. If you love the board game, you'll love this; if you find it boring, then there's nothing here that will change your mind.
If you are playing against the computer, then Career Mode offers the best long-term challenge and gives you a sense of progression and achievement as you beat successively tougher opponents. On the whole, the computer AI is well judged. Early characters have limited vocabularies and low tactical abilities. They will often put in words of just a few letters, or place a word in such a way that it makes a Triple Word Score square available to you. As you progress however, they opponents get smarter and smarter, with vastly expanded vocabularies (often superior to yours) and strong tactical play. Although in many ways these later opponents are a lot more fun to play (since they offer far more of a challenge), they can also be frustrating, since they are also difficult to beat. Very often they will come up with (legitimate) words which you have never heard of, due to their increased AI, which score massively and it's not unusual in some games to find yourself 60-100 points behind early on! Still, this just makes it all the more satisfying when you finally beat them; and, of course, you will learn some new words from them that you yourself can use in other games!
Occasionally, there are glitches in the AI. One opponent I came across, for example, kept taking the bizarre decision to pass on his turn and did this for three successive goes. Effectively, this handed me the game before it had even begun. Nor is this an isolated issue, since it has happened on a couple of occasion which makes that game much less of a challenge.
Although there are only a relatively low number of opponents to defeat, this does not impact on the long term appeal of the game. By its very nature, every game of Scrabble is different since it depends on the letters you pick up, so this is one game you will keep coming back to.
Graphics are not exactly earth-shattering, but then there's no need for them to be. The game board is faithfully recreated using an overhead view (you can also zoom in on specific areas for a closer look) and the tiles, although quite small, are still clear and easy to read.
The main downside to the presentation is that the various scoring squares (double/triple words etc.) are represented by colours, unlike the board game which uses both colours and words. This means you have to remember, for example, that a pink square is a double word square or light blue a double letter. This won't be an issue for regular players, but less experienced players might find it a touch frustrating, particularly in the first few games.
Graphics might be simple but effective; sadly the sound is simple but horrible. Tunes are hideous and repetitive and play continuously throughout the game - hardly conducive to thinking. Thankfully, the music can be turned off (something I would strongly advise). Other than that sound is limited to the occasional "bing" as you make a word.
The crucial areas where Scrabble gets it right is in the implementation of the rules and the controls. The rules follow the official Scrabble ones, and the game prevents any illegal moves, so there's no arguing about what you can and can't do! As far as I can tell, it's a full implementation of the rules too, so you can swap your letters for new ones (in exchange for missing a turn) or elect to miss a turn if you have a great word but can't quite fit it in as the board stands. There's even a built-in dictionary which prevents arguments over whether something is a "real" word or not. A further nice touch is that when a word is played, a definition scrolls across the DS's top screen, so if you play with kids, you can help them expand their vocabulary as you go along. There's also a "junior mode" available, which prevents the playing of rude (but legitimate) words, thus making it safe for kids to play.
Controls are logical and make good use of the DS's touchscreen. You can re-arrange letters on your rack simply by dragging them to a new position whilst to place a word on the grid, you simply tap a letter, then drag it to the square it is to be placed on, tapping the Tick icon to confirm the word and end your turn. This simple, but effective interface means the DS version is just as easy to pick up and play as the original board game on which it is based.
For such a simple game, Scrabble is surprisingly heavy on battery life. The first time I played, I had 4 bars left on battery indicator - normally enough for a good few hours' game time. Yet after just three games (no more than an hour in total), the low battery light was glowing red and it needed recharging. It seems utterly bizarre that such a simple game drains the battery far quicker than many of the graphically and sonically more complex games I have, but that's the way it is.
Any other weaknesses the game might have simply reflect the same frustrations as the board game: finding yourself with a rackful of vowels unable to make a word; seeing your opponent go in the space you were planning on using in your next turn and so on. Sorry, but not even a computer can solve these problems!
Despite being relatively old, Scrabble 2007 has held its value better than many DS games and will cost around £10; the updated 2009 edition, costs £15-20 (I've no idea what the difference between them is, since I only have the 2007 version). However, if you are just after a faithful version of Scrabble that you can play when there are no human opponents are available, then the 2007 one is more than adequate.
© Copyright SWSt 2011
Summary: A very good way to play Scrabble on the move
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