Word nerds everywhere rejoiced at news this week that Scrabble is now available as a free app for Android, but this nerd finds this latest version of the classic game a little lacking.
I have a strong allegiance to the old-school, tactile board game--my edition was manufactured in 1950 and I have a sentimental attachment to the vintage set. So I was rather surprised to be so pleased by the look and feel of EA's Android version. It looks pretty and runs smooth, with an auto-zoom feature that effectively overcomes the challenge of maneuvering the game pieces on a tiny smartphone screen.
But there are a few major flaws that I can already see are going to keep me from having too many word wars using this app on my Droid 2.
Plays Well With Others
The big news about Electronic Arts finally bringing the classic game to the biggest mobile platform is not only that it's free, but also that it allows for interplay between platforms. In other words, someone playing on an iPad could play against someone on an Android smartphone, who could also play against someone on an Android tab. That's all great, but there's still something key missing--the option for single-player games.
Android Scrabble only allows for play against friends, a random opponent, or by physically passing your mobile device back and forth between two people. With the intermittent nature of everything that happens on mobile devices, I want an option to play against the computer so that I can pause and resume a game as I move through my day without leaving someone hanging on the other end. Of course, I soon found the real problem is the inverse--after trying to start three games against random opponents, I was unable to get an actual game going. All three "guest opponents" were unresponsive.
Too Many Ads
And then there are the ads. Ug. So many ads. After every few turns of gameplay, everything comes to a halt as a full-screen interstitial page loads, requiring a click on a tiny 'x' in the corner to get out of it. It's tough to avoid accidentally clicking through at least a few ads, especially when playing in a less than stable environment, like a subway or bus. The full screen ads come in addition to the constantly present banners at the bottom of the screen, which just seems like overkill. It appears EA's strategy in releasing Scrabble for free is all about selling more $2.99 downloads of Tetris.
If it seems like I'm being picky, it's only because I love this game so much and hate to see it sit idle on my phone due to a few obvious design mistakes. The good news is that fixing them would be a breeze. Fortunately, I've got plenty of time to kill until EA releases an update with fewer ads and single-player play--I've already been waiting for Guest8354 to play his/her next word for the past 20 minutes.
[Check out PCWorld's Android App Guide for more app reviews.]