1.08.2009

An iPhone App Review: Scramboni

I've been having a really good time playing a game called Scramboni on my iPhone (you can also play on a regular computer but you won't be as cool). The easiest way to describe it is multi-player timed jumble, you know, the game where letters are mashed up and you have to rearrange them into a regular word.

Scramboni combines several game elements that really appeal to me (I'm actually playing it right now). Among them, competition, word play, letter play and speed. I've long been a fan of Text Twist on my Clie and still play it pretty regularly. I have a version on my iPhone but they use a foreign dictionary so some of the words are totally bogus to me. I like the game but it annoys the hell out of me when pretty standard English words are discarded as not being found.

Anyway, back to Scramboni. It has a bunch of really good things going for it but it also has a few annoying issues that keep it from being all that it really could be.

Here are a few of them.
1. No option to join a round at the beginning. You can sometimes join a round 18 or 19 puzzles in. It would be nice to be able to wait for the start of a new round before playing.
2. Some puzzle words can be solved in different ways. For example, the letters ARGLE can spell lager, legal, large, regal and glare. Any of which could be the right answer. The use of the red letter to note the first or last letter helps some but not in all or even most cases. And then the game isn't about skill or speed, it is about luck and that's just annoying.
3. No way to see the entire scoreboard, just where you place on it (granted I'm usually in the top 5 and that's all that really matters but still).
4. Some puzzle words are total and utter bullshit. I had one last night where the "correct" word was Retd. Retd, according to Merriam Webster, is an abbreviation for retired or returned. Its an abbreviation. Total BS.
5. Forcing players (well not forcing but severely handicapping) to play at the highest level they've achieved which is basically just a function of playing the game. Accumulate enough points and you graduate to the next level, no matter what. I can play a lower level but I would get half the points other players would get.

All in all the game is excellent and fun and worthwhile but it has some annoying shortcomings that could be dealt with pretty easily to take it from a four star game to a 5 star champion.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to wander the floor at MacWorld to see what is what and why.

Update: I got this cool comment on my FriendFeed from, well, here's the comment. Hey Eric, my name is Peter, I'm one of the authors of Scramboni. Your points about rounds and the non-word 'retd' are well taken. We thought red letters add a bit of a fun twist to the game, plus for some people they make easier to deal with longer words. Thanks for your feedback! Peter Bakhyryev

This is one of the reasons I love the internet. Not only can you post your thoughts about a product, you can sometimes get a direct response from the author or developer. Too cool!
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