I often used to play Scrabble with my family, especially with my father.
He bought me books like Word Power Made Easy so I would do better on my SAT, and didn’t realize I would become a formidable adversary.
That said, I soon learned that Scrabble is a lot like baseball. You think you’re good at it only until you meet people who are really good at it. Then you discover what talent means. In baseball, it’s when you face a big-league curve ball for the first time and want to go hide in the car. In Scrabble, it’s when you play someone who has memorized all the two-letter words in the dictionary and can build words that go three different directions with seven tiles.
So, when I found out that the official Scrabble game was available for the iPad for 99 cents, I had to bite. What I found was a game fairly faithful to the original with some pretty nice online options (when they work.)
When you install Scrabble, you can play against the iPad in solo mode. It’s a great exercise in humility, because in anything but “easy” mode the game takes great glee in searching the entire dictionary and finding the word with the highest point potential and slapping it on the board in a fraction of a second.
In local network mode, you can connect to another iPad on your local LAN and battle head to head. That seemed to work flawlessly in my testing. In “pass-around” mode, up to four players take turns on the same iPad.
In Facebook mode, you can connect over the Interwebs and play with your Facebook buddies. This works — sorta. You can connect with your friends and play a few turns a day or even connect with strangers and get slaughtered by semi-professional Scrabble players.
This mode does not work very well. Its coders frankly forgot that you’d want to know when the other player makes a move. It appears the only way to find out if it’s your turn is to back out and refresh the game list, which often means re-entering your Facebook credentials a dozen times. Even then, the application frequently crashed in this mode. But it cleared up the mystery of where my old Zeos 486 desktop system went a decade ago, because clearly Facebook is using it to host the Scrabble games. (I hope it’s using all eight megs of RAM.)
In solo mode, Scrabble worked fine and was well worth the current sale price. If you select the higher settings, be prepared for a bit of Scrabble schooling. I won’t get in to the fact that the computer cheats, because I will get tons of mail from Scrabble fanatics.
James Derk, a tech columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, owns the computer-repair firm CyberDads in Evansville, Ind. Contact him at email@example.com