The core experience of playing a boardgame – sitting around a table with family and friends, often under the influence of more than competitive juices – often has a difficult time being captured in a single-player mobile game.
Scrabble arrives on iPhone in great form, boasting a strong set of features and clear, vibrant visuals. Production-wise, it's a game of great quality. That, however, can't keep it from being a rather dull solo experience.
Multiplayer defines the Scrabble experience, probably more so than any other boardgame. Tensions over property rights in Monopoly or crossing your fingers for the roll of the dice in Yahtzee have been appropriately captured in digital form; however, the banter and debate that occur during a Scrabble game are lost in this iPhone translation.
A two-player head-to-head mode does kick things into gear a bit. Pass Around mode enables you and a buddy to exchange words by taking turns with a single iPhone, entering a word and then handing over the phone. It's where most of the fun to be garnered from the game resides, although it won't stop you wondering why you'd resort to this digital version over the physical boardgame itself.
Well, for starters, you'll spend less on EA Mobile's adaptation than a full copy of the boardgame. A selection of easy-to-use features also make it less of a mess than breaking out a board and keeping track of tiny plastic tiles. Besides, touch controls mimic the action of actually placing tiles on a board, so you feel like you're actually playing the game. Lastly, you don't need a dictionary because your words are automatically checked by the computer against a huge database of terms.
This acts as a double-edged sword, however. Since you can't forcibly approve words in the game, cheating is minimized. Enter a real world, though, and if the game doesn't recognize it you're out of luck. Don't worry too much, you can still get your cheat on: a 'Best Word' option enables you to play the highest scoring word out of your current rack of tiles. As you can imagine, it's a function that gets abused often in single-player matches.
During these games, Scrabble performs admirably but just doesn't have the same grip as multiplayer. There's an option to play either against the computer or yourself. Options to vary the rules from round-based games to point-driven competition are included as well.
As mentioned, it's certainly well executed, just not compelling as a single-player game. Scrabble deserves recognition for its quality and it certainly offers decent enjoyment in Pass Around mode. Try to gather any fun out of the solo experience, however, is like squeezing eight points out of a L-E-M-O-N.