There was an immortal scene in The Tall Guy in which Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson stood alone in Thompson's shoddy flat in the early afternoon. "Two people alone, in the middle of the afternoon," murmured Thompson. "Yes," replied Goldblum, "Ideal conditions for Scrabble".
Needless to say, they got up a good deal more than Scrabble that afternoon, but that's not the point. The game has proved fascinating to many people, although quite why I'm not exactly sure. It's been around in this country since 1954, the manual says, and over 35 million copies have been sold in over 90 countries since its launch.
The basic objective is to create words from your seven letters and place them on the board so as to score as many points as possible. Certain squares on the board double or triple the amount of points scored.
I must admit I was sceptical when presented with Scrabble. When the game has already proved so popular in its original form, why convert it to a less portable and far more expensive computer format? Well, I suppose the computer could at least settle disputes over allowable words. In addition, it provides an opponent of adjustable ability to challenge lonely Scrabble players with nobody to play against.
Boards can also be printed out for posterity, if you want, for example to adorn your walls with poster-
The game is controlled via the mouse, and during play the screen is composed simply of a board on the left-
If you're stumped as to what moves you could possibly make with your selection of letters, there's a built-in help mode which makes suggestions to you. The dictionary runs to over 134,000 words, as listed in the Chambers Official Scrabble Words book.
The help mode can be set up to suggest anything from really basic low-scoring words to whopping great killer-
Scrabble fans might be disappointed that a player's letters are displayed on-screen for all to see, although I really can't see any way of avoiding this. When it's another player's turn they do disappear again.
Graphically the game is about as exciting as Scrabble ever could be - that is to say, not very - and the sound consists of an irritating tune and not a lot else. However, this is excusable in a game of this type, since the emphasis is purely on making the gameplay as good as possible.
What else is there to say? Scrabble is Scrabble, and the computer version is a perfectly competent attempt at converting the game to a new media. The problem is that traditionalists will prefer the board game version anyway, and many people won't want to shell out £25 in these financially bleak times, when they could buy the original for a tenner.
The only disappointment for me is that in the computer version you can't cheat and swap your letters for more useful ones when the other players aren't looking.