Friday, July 12, 2013

Video Game Review: Scramble with Friends for iPhone

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun way to play Boggle electronically
Cons: The coin system is mostly pointless
The Bottom Line
Create many words
Stringing letters together
Scoring points to win

Boggle Goes Digital

The “With Friends” brand of games seems to be always expanding.  I’ve recently started playing my third game they’ve released – Scramble with Friends.  Since I’ve been a fan of Boggle for years, I’m enjoying it.

I initially tried to download this game for my iPod Touch, but it’s 3 years old and the software won’t support it at this point.  But when I got a tablet recently, I downloaded their version of that, and I started playing, and now I've moved on to playing it on my iPhone.

Before you begin, you need to find an opponent.  You can either enter a user name for someone, like the game’s page on Facebook to find out which of your friends play, or play with a random opponent.

A feature I don’t like is the tokens.  You get 15 tokens, and you use one for every turn you take.  Every 20 minutes, you get a new token until you are back to 15.  You can always buy more, but I haven’t seen a need for that.  I’m only playing about half a dozen games at most, and some of those people only play every two or three days

If you are familiar with the game Boggle, you’ll get this game no problem.  When you take your turn, you are presented with a 4 by 4 grid of letters.  Your job is to make words with those letters.  They can connect horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  Select letters by dragging your finger across your screen; lift your finger to complete the word.  Each letter has a point value, and each word gets a score based on the sum of the letters you use plus a bonus for the length of the word.  While it does accept two letter words, those are only worth one point.  You have two minutes to find as many words and earn as many points as you can.  If you make a word that doesn’t exist or you’ve already done that round, it makes a noise and doesn’t count it – no penalty involved.

Once your turn is over, your friend will be notified to play next time they log in.  When you’ve both taken your turns, you’ll be able to compare scores and word lists to see what you both got and what only one of you found.  All words count, even if you both found that word.

A game consists of three rounds.  For round two, three letters are double letter score and one letter is a double word score.  Round three ups that to triple letter and word.  Create the right word, and your score will shoot right up there.

After all three rounds are done, scores are totaled and the game announces that I’m not the winner.  Okay, so I’m bad at it, but I do occasionally win and I have fun along the way.  I’m getting better, but unfortunately so are my opponents.

To help out, there are four potential aids every time you start a round.  You can choose one or more.  The first one is free.  After that, you have to paid an extra coin for one more or 3 coins for two more.  This is the only reason for the coins, and if you really use the aids, you might need to buy more.  Personally, my favorite is “Inspiration,” which will highlight three words for you when you request the help.  There’s also “Vision” which gives you three words to find and a time bonus if you do, “Scramble” which rotates the board, and “Freeze” which gives you more time.

Sounds and graphics are pretty basic, but they are perfect for this game.  Everything is intuitive and you’ll get used to what you see and hear in no time.

I started with the free version, which means you get a 5 second ad after every round.  Hey, a round takes 2 minutes.  It's not that bad a thing.  However, when I got my iPhone, I went ahead and upgraded to the paid version by paying a one time price.  Now I don't see the adds and I get a new coin every 10 minutes instead of every 20 minutes.

Each round takes a bit longer than the other games I play, but I enjoy seeing just how many words I can find in the grid.  Scramble with Friends is another keeper.

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