capsule review

Scrabble review: Digital version of classic word game a fine value

At a Glance
  • GameHouse Scrabble

    Macworld Rating

It’s been a while since we’ve seen an officially licensed Scrabble product for the Macintosh, so GameHouse’s entry is welcome, especially for Mac word mavens who crave some challenge.

Scrabble’s history goes back almost 70 years. The game is set on a square board of 15 cells on a side. Each player is given a set of letter tiles from which to build words. Occasionally, those words will overlap with tiles that will bestow on you extra points, either for the letter or the word. The player with the highest score at the end of the game wins.

This new version of Scrabble—native to Mac OS X and a Universal Binary for Intel-based Macs—sticks to the basics, offering you the traditional board game (in a Classic mode) played either alone against the computer or another human player, playing in “hot seat” mode (taking turns on the same computer). When you play against another human, the computer pauses the game in between each turn so you don’t see each other’s tiles. There’s no online game component, unfortunately—so if you’re home alone, the computer is the only opponent you’ll find (although there are different skill levels you can set the computer to, so there’s always a challenge).

Tile Pile There’s plenty of similarities between the new Mac version of Scrabble and the classic board game—which will suit Mac-using Scabble fans just fine.

There’s also a time-based speed version—Blitz makes you race against the clock, forcing you to lay down words within a set number of seconds; Tournament mode, in which you play as long as possible within a set number of minutes; and Custom Tournament, which lets you set time and word assistance options yourself.

Scrabble has some nice features to simplify game play, like automatic pause if you click in a window in another application (it hides the tiles on the board so you can’t cheat in timed play) and an automatic save feature that saves the current game in progress if you quit for any reason. There’s also a hint feature (it doesn’t give it completely away, just shows you the approximate area you can make a word using your letters), as well as the official Merriam-Webster Scrabble Player’s Dictionary built in.

There are a few sound effects—some musical accompaniments, the sounds of tiles being laid on the board—but nothing too showy or overwhelming. And game options are on the austere end of simple—you can adjust sound effects volume and choose to have the game in full screen or windowed mode, and that’s it.

You can also create several players, and since Scrabble tracks your progress, this is helpful if you’d like to keep stats on more than just yourself, if you’re on a computer that’s occasionally shared. That’s also used for high score tracking—alas, it’s local to the computer only (no global high score tracking).

Bottom line

At $20, Scrabble from Gamehouse is a fine value for anyone who wants to relive the fun of Hasbro’s classic criss-crossing word board game on their Mac. There are a few shortcomings, such as an absence of network play or score sharing, but those are forgivable exclusions.

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Includes player dictionary
    • Timed and untimed game modes
    • Supports multiuser “hot seat” games

    Cons

    • No network score sharing
    • No network play
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