It's been around in one form or another forever it seems, but now everyone's favourite word game is set to hit the Amiga, as Tony Dillon discovers.
When I first saw a Scrabble computer game (written by Leisure Genius for the Spectrum almost 10 years ago!), I remember thinking what a totally pointless conversion it was. Back then, the tools to create the sort of Artificial Intelligence and the storage capacity necessary for all the possible words just weren't available, and so you ended up with a very basic version of the game that was only slightly better than playing alone.
Now we reach 1993. The base level Amiga has at least 1Mb of memory and there are chess programs that can compete with Grand Masters. US Gold have brought forward Scrabble once more and this time I can honestly say that it gives me a real run for my money.
Everyone knows how to play Scrabble: intercrossing words are laid down on a grid rather like a crossword with a score calculated from the letters that make up the words and any special tiles the letters might be placed on. Each player has seven letter tiles, and each time they use one, it is replaced with a random letter. Play continues until no more words can be made and there are no more tiles to be drawn from the bag. Whoever has the highest score wins. And that's about it.
PUZZLE IT OUT
The question is, how do you take game that is already that simple and effective on a board and use a computer to improve on it? You don't. You merely add lots of options, menus and help and try to keep it as faithful as possible. Consequently, Amiga Scrabble lets you alter the colours on the board, play the whole thing in black and white with or without music, play with up to three other people or a computer opponent with 16 different skill levels (the highest of which uses a lot of strategy and tries to create nine letter words!) and use help if you like.
Help? Yes, to aid in your quest for Scrabble superstardom, you can get a little help from the computer. This comes in two forms – hints and advice.
If you find the idea of someone whispering in your ear things like 'Oh no, you didn't want to do that' or 'I can think of a much better word than that' then you most definitely want to turn the advice off. After each move you make, the computer checks your letters and then tells you how many higher scoring words you could have made. This might not sound too bad, but it really gets up your nose when you have thought for hours, placed a six letter word scoring you 50 points, and the computer tells you that there are 72 more profitable words you could have placed! Aaargh!
All things considered though, Scrabble is a superb conversion of the original. If you like the game, then of course you'll want to get it. Otherwise, well, if words are your thing, then you could find yourself using it to sharpen up those skills. Scrabble may not be to everyone's liking, but this is a perfect version.
CU Amiga, May 1993, p.70