Scrabble has been kicking around as a DS release for almost a year now, but plopping down full price for a board game adaptation that you might only play every once in a while is kind of a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people. This DSiWare release, while reduced in both price and features, is a good alternative for wordsmiths but goes down a little more bitter than we’d like.
In case you’ve never heard of Scrabble before, it’s basically Dictionary: The Board Game. Your goal is to spell out or build upon words on the board using letter tiles worth a varying amount of points depending on how common they are in the language (e.g. the letter A is but one point whereas Q is worth ten); whomever racks up the most points when no more moves are possible wins.
Navigating the board is as easy as sliding the stylus around. You plop pieces on the board by dragging them into place, and zooming in or out is but a double-tap away. Sadly, wildly running the stylus across the touchscreen won’t flip and ruin the board for those times your opponent blows your mind by placing something like benzoxycamphors, which was my favorite part of playing Scrabble as a child with my gram. She always was a sore loser.
This DSiWare release is essentially the Express version of the full retail release, meaning it cuts out a lot of the fat and delivers straight-up Scrabble. The only “modes” are Classic and Speed, which puts a timer on the game, so there’s no Slam to change things up. You can “level up” your profile and unlock things like avatar images, but the leveling mostly acts as a matchmaking tool to pit you against an appropriately difficult AI player.
There are some nice inclusions to help you, like a handy Hint system and Scrabble dictionary, and each word played comes with a definition for when you can’t believe your opponent isn’t just making stuff up. You can take on up to three other AI players (who are smart enough to pose a challenge but not as cheap as to make you feel like you’re just playing against the official dictionary) by yourself or squishy real humans in local wireless multiplayer, but playing against your friends is more of a hassle than it really should be.
EA apparently saw fit to cut out Download Play for the DSiWare version, so if you want to wrangle up a friend or three for multiplayer you’ll have no choice but to each pay for your own download. At 800 points each that’s a potential 3200-point investment, and by then you’re better off paying for a retail copy (which also includes pass-the-DS multiplayer, absent here). Or, if you own an Apple handheld, the App Store version will set you back the equivalent of 500 points with more features, like the ability to play against your friends on Facebook. There really isn’t any good reason why this stuff couldn’t have been included here given the asking price compared to what’s on the App Store.
Scrabble is an indisputable word game classic and those with a penchant for the genre will gobble this up. A few cuts on DSiWare make the 500-point App Store version the better choice for those who also own an Apple handheld, but this is an otherwise competent adaptation of Scrabble for when you just want to get some spelling on.