Pros: hand-held, can play without a human opponent, automatic score-keeping
Cons: anti-social elements, less fun without a human opponent
For those unaware of what the game "Scrabble" consists of, let me quickly explain it to you. Scrabble is a game where you have between 2-4 players playing at the same time, with the object of the game being that you try to spell out words. You are given a random selection of 7-letters at the beginning of each game, and the first person who plays, makes a word using the letters that he/she has. After the first player has completed their turn, it is up to the second person to spell a word off of what the first person has placed. So, if the word was "music", player 2 then would have to lay down a word, only using their 7 tiles, that had the letter m,u,s,i, or c in the word. The turn goes around the circle until each person has had a turn to try and spell a word.
Each time that a person plays tiles, they get a certain number of points. On the letters, is a small number in the corner ot the tile that says how much that specific letter is worth. If the letter is really common, like a, e, or r, it is only worth 1 point. But, as the letter gets more rare in its over-all use in the English language it becomes worth more points. Along with those points, there are specific spots on the board that can give you more points. Placed throughout the board, and along the outside edges are spots where you can receive double or triple letter scores, or double and triple word scores. If you have a letter on one of the letter spots, you increase the number of points written on it either 2x or 3x. If you are on a word bonus, you increase the total value of your word 2x or 3x. What this allows you to do is amass a large amount of points. It plays heavily into the strategy of the game, because you attempt to get the higher valued letters on the higher valued spots before your opponent has the chance to do so.
Every time that you are done with your turn, you take the amount of letters that you have played from the extra letters you have face-down in a community area. So if you start with 7 and play 4, you then get to draw 4 back at the completion of your turn. By being able to play all 7 of your letters in one turn, you can receive a big bonus of points that can be added to you total point score. The game has a lot of benefits that are not as superficial as merely winning at a board game. While you are playing it, you are also learning a lot at the same time. When I used to play this game with my Grandmother, I would be learning all kinds of words that I had never heard of. It also helps you with quick thinking. When you get your letters, you have to think about what you are going to play, and plan ahead based on what your opponents are doing. By planning ahead, you stand a better chance of being able to score a lot of points, and it gives you a slight advantage over your opponent.
The Hasbro Scrabble Express Handheld game sticks to all of the basic premises of the original board game. The object is still to try to spell word using the letters that you have been given, and on top of that you no longer need a human opponent. One of the great things I found about the handheld game, is that I can choose when I want to play it. I don't have to wait around for my opponent to come play me, nor do I have to make sure that it is the right time of day to be playing. If it is 3am, and I can't sleep and am bored, I can just sit back and play a game of scrabble by myself against the computer. What I have found to be the best feature, is that I don't have to wait for my opponent to think about his next move. Whereas we humans take a while to assemble the letters, and figure out what we are going to play, the computer can do it right away. The only problem with it, is that the computer can compute quicker, and knows exactly what word it should be playing at any given time. This forces you to think really hard at times, and it may make the game a little too hard for people who are just beginners.
The bonus, is that you can choose what the computers intelligence is going to be set to by deciding its IQ level. If you set it really low, you can beat it pretty easily, but if you set it high, you are going to see words you have never even heard of (or at least that is what happened to me). There are 4 game modes, and there are modes where you can play against other humans. This is done by taking your turn, and then handing the game over to your human opponent who then takes his turn. This is a somewhat difficult approach to playing the game though, and I have stuck to having the computer beat me rather than a friend who could find out just how much smarter than me they are. The game is built to have sound on or off, and even if you leave it on and walk away you aren't going to kill off your batteries. Instead, the machine goes into a "sleep" mode that shuts it down, but not to the point where you lose your game. Just pressing a button brings back up the screens again.
The game itself is a reddish tan color, with blue tiles for the letters, and light red tiles for the bonus squares. The key pad is to the left side of the screen (unlike a GameBoy which has the pad under the screen) and is really simple to manipulate. Of course there is an on/off button, there is also an option button, a "done" button for when you are done entering a word, and a "pause" button that allows you to pause a game midway through. The 4-directional key pad is between the buttons, and there are 3 additional ones underneath the screen itself. Those buttons are the "exchange" to exchange your tiles for new ones, "shuffle", and "grab" which allows you to grab a letter and drag it on to the board. The other easy thing that I cant stress enough about being its best feature, is that the computer keeps score for you! No more chances at miscounting, or having to sit and wait for someone to figure out how much a word is worth.
The game itself takes 3 AA-batteries that last a pretty long time. It is a very fun game, and the score is actually shown on the screen as you are playing out the words. As I stated earlier the game comes in 4 modes that you can choose from to play. First, there is the Scrabble Express game that is the normal 8-turn game on the "machine." Then there is a shortened 5-turn game for those people who want more of a challenge, and less time to catch up if you fall behind against the computer. Mode three is a "beat the clock" game in which you are playing against the clock to get the best score, and the fourth mode is the best one in my opinion. You get one rack of tiles, and you play them on two words that are crossed on the grids.
This is one of those products that is for long-trips, or if you just like scrabble so much, that you want to play it even if you can't find an opponent. It even comes with the batteries in the package for easy, and quick use! I have had a great time with this product, and I highly recommend it to all the Scrabble enthusiasts out there. It is easy to use, and fun to play, so it has no downsides