What in the world is a Quoin?
Elementary, my dear reader. A quoin is a wedge used in building. Why, anyone with a masters in architecture would know that! And you thought you were a Scrabble player. You couldn't spell your way out of a paper bag, you sophomoric nincompoop!
Before you e-mail various and sundry insults, this was just an illustration of how Scrabble makes you feel. Sure, everyone plays Scrabble with their friends and loved ones, and it usually breaks down into a screaming competition over the definition of words. Punches are exchanged, hair is pulled. Someone usually storms out of the room. That's the fun of the intellectual crossword game. Unfortunately, technology has once again taken a extraordinary board game and turned it into a cold, unemotional video game.
The graphics are fairly basic. How complex do they need to be to play Scrabble? Essentially, it's a Scrabble board floating in the middle of space. When you play, the letters beam to your hand with various, non-Scrabble-esque noises accompanying the action. It makes you wonder what the people at Hasbro were thinking? If they removed all the useless animation and sound effects, they could have drastically lowered the minimum system requirements. As it stands, the animations were choppy on a 4x CD-ROM. While these are nifty on a faster drive, they add nothing to the game and should have been left out to allow lower end users (ie. owners of 2x CD-ROM) to play the game.
The main way to play the game is one player. You are pitted against one, two, or three computer players, all named Maven (n. - an expert. From Yiddish. Do I have to spell everything out?). Even in Novice mode, you're lucky if you win the game 10% of the time. Remember, your nemesis is a computer with the valuable Scrabble dictionary at its disposal. The computer will never put down a fake word and will challenge, and win, any wrong word that you play. Part of the board game was learning to bluff. I'd never be the poker player I am today if it wasn't for Scrabble.
Many Scrabble strategies also no longer apply. You'll never be able to stick the computer with the "Q". Even if you use all the "U's", Maven still finds some word that doesn't need that letter. If you need a vocabulary builder, you don't buy a game - you buy educational software.
Special features include: A scrabble word finder which gives you your best play options for that turn, the official Scrabble dictionary which you can use to show you the definition of words that you didn't even know existed, and timers to limit the amount of time you can spend waiting for an opponent.
The box claims "Internet Play" in big letters, as if that's not on every game box at this point. As for the Internet play, you'd better sign up with a game provider (e.g. M-player, Ten, Heat, etc.). Otherwise, you'll never be able to gather a game. Unlike Hoyle Poker, Scrabble has no free Internet site where you can meet people to play. You have to find them yourself! If you're going to be hunting for players anyway, you might as well have friends over and play the original board game with them. (Gasp! Human Contact! Eeeeeww!)
The one beneficial feature added to the video game that is not a part of the board game is the classical music. Nothing makes you feel more like an intellectual than playing Scrabble while listening to Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Makes you feel smart even when you're getting whipped by a computer.
In the end, Scrabble is a better board game than a computer game. With useless animations, a really tough computer, and lack of free Internet play, most people should probably pass this up. If, however, you are a Scrabble fanatic who is at a loss for a good opponent, maybe you should give this a try. With a tough computer player, Scrabble is a challenge for even the best players. Otherwise, find a dictionary, some friends, some good music, and play in your living room with living beings who you know you can bluff into believing that a Ponjam is the basic unit of Peruvian currency.