Computer Scrabble (Leisure Genius) Review | A&B Computing - Everygamegoing

A&B Computing

Computer Scrabble
By Leisure Genius
BBC Model B

Published in A&B Computing 2.06

Computer Scrabble

I waited with some expectation for almost eight minutes while this program loaded thinking I'd see a replica of the Scrabble board - the up Kensington board was an excellent copy! - so I was very disappointed to find a very small board taking up less than 25% of the screen, with the double and treble letter/word options indicated by an arrow * -, instead of different background colours. In fact, it was such a busy screen with a variety of coloured areas and text that the first time I used it, I was put off the program.

However, remembering that this is a cassette-based program and the programmers are working within the limitations of the dear old Beeb's memory, really they've done a remarkable job to include a playing vocabulary of over 8,000 words. That's probably more important than the finer points of display.

The main display is contained in a window which takes up the central section of the screen - approximately fifty per cent, and is subdivided into three: the left hand taking up the board, the top right quarter giving the scoring area and the bottom right quarter the various menus.

The game allows up to four players to participate and any or none can be designated as computer players. The computer asks you to type in the names of the players and if the name entered is to be a (BBC) computer player. If yes (Y) it will then ask at which level you wish it to play - ranging from 1 up to 4. The last question to be asked is whether or not you wish to see the computer's rack(s). This information is displayed in the area below the main window, which is then taken over to display the letter racks/scores, the name of the player whose turn it is and his/her word or option, e.g. pass or use turn to change any tiles in rack.

If you don't like the colours used for the screenboard, function keys 1 and 2 permit you to make alternative choice of background and foreground colours. Other function keys are used to good effect to juggle your rack, display letter distribution or values of each letter - these are shown in the menu area, the pass option, change tiles or abandon the game.

The usual Scrabble rules apply. A word is made up, using the letters on your rack plus any already in position on the screen board, and typed in. The cursor is moved to the position intended for the first letter of the word and the letter A (across) or D (down) pressed.

The computer indicates the possible score and asks you to accept or not. Accepting confirms the placement; rejecting allows alternatives to be explored. If the word you try to place, or other words resulting from the placement, are not in the computer's vocabulary, it asks you to confirm that they are acceptable, i.e. contained in the Chambers' 20th Century Dictionary.

A Word Rejected Menu appears if the word goes over the edge, is illegally placed or requires a tile not in the rack, and gives a reason for the rejection. Play continues until all the letters are used or not further letters can be placed.

I enjoyed setting up the program for two or more BBC players and sitting back to watch how things developed - sorry ardent Scrabble fans! Children, and novices of any age, could learn a great deal about the game using this method if there were some sort of speed control, e.g. a pause (manually controlled by the space bar or automatically with a time lapse) between the word being displayed and indicating its placement to allow the child to see if he/she can find the position first. While working in this mode, it appears impossible to use the F9 - Abandon the Game - key.

After playing with the game off and on for a number of weeks, my initial objections to the graphics have been mellowed somewhat by the quality of the game played. I'd like to think, however, that the authors will take advantage of the disc system to produce a version which will at least double the size of the board and match it more closely to the original. Watch out for our very own version of the famous word game in a forthcoming issue of A&B Computing.

Shingo Sugiura

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