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Computer Scrabble

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Released: 1983

Genre: Strategy

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Psion

Developer: Psion Software

Submitted by: Craig Hawkins

How good is Computer Scrabble? I'm multitasking between this write-up and playing the game, that's how good. I only loaded it again to briefly reacquaint myself with it after what must be twenty years apart. Now I can't stop.

All hail Scrabble. Hallowed be thy sesquioxidizing.

Countless versions of the board game have appeared on dozens of formats. This is amongst the least interesting to write about because it's a case of doing exactly what it says on the cardboard box. Computer Scrabble by name, computer Scrabble by nature. No messing around. And it rocks!

You're greeted with a simple interface asking you if your television is a colour or black & white model. Bless, it really has been asleep for the past two decades. Thereafter you choose a game between anything from one (yes, one) to four players, all or none of whom can be controlled by the four levels of CPU. Now you're up and ready.

It's a minimalist approach which focuses on playing an absolutely perfect game. That said, it insists on challenging my words more often than I remember it doing back in the 80s. When it does challenge a word, you can just slam that challenge back in its face and make it accept it anyway. You could fill the board with gobbledygook and there'd be no more than a polite 'are you sure?' from the CPU.

There's another option of seeing the CPU's tiles and its thought processes. You may as well opt for this as it procrastinates over its move just as long either way (seemingly going through every single permutation open to it when set to level 4). A problem with any computer or home console version of Scrabble is the ability to see your human competitors' tiles. This is obviously something which sees many stick with their antiquated boards, but even in 2008 Computer Scrabble is a thing of 48k beauty.

If nothing else, it's the one game that had my entire family sitting around the TV while the Spectrum was plugged in. I can tell it won't be another twenty years till we meet again.