Scrabble for Kindle Review: Good Fun, Bad Graphics

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Scrabble for the Amazon Kindle was released about a week ago. As a self-proclaimed Scrabble nut, I downloaded it as soon as I found out about it—all the time wondering how in the world EA could publish Scrabble as the first paid Kindle app while neglecting to make Scrabble available in the Android Market after all this time. Give us Scrabble for Android! But I digress.

If you have a Kindle and you like Scrabble, there’s not much to think about here. The game costs $5 and plays very similarly to the iPhone version.

If you have the iPhone version, though, there’s not much reason to buy this one. While the allure of playing Scrabble on a six-inch screen is compelling, the game fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. If Lady Gaga could somehow dress up as Scrabble for Kindle, it’d be her most outrageous persona to date. It’s bad, is what I’m trying to say.

Now part of that is due to the Kindle’s black and white e-ink screen, of course. But Amazon has, itself, published two free games—Shuffled Row and Every Word—that both look fine despite the lack of color.

Scrabble for Kindle looks like EA took the iPhone version, blew it up to fit the six-inch screen, and took an early lunch. The bonus squares are represented in slightly varied shades of gray, the white-colored letter tiles blend into the white-colored empty spaces on the board, and trying to see the last word your opponent played seems like a cruel joke (hint: look for the number 8 on the board below near the very faint border around the word “soak”).

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The Kindle’s keyboard makes for a nice quick way to enter words, though you’ll have to orient the cursor first with the five-way rocker. My biggest gripe with the keyboard is that the shortcuts used to perform various tasks like shuffling your available letters, exchanging tiles, or passing your turn are facilitated by pressing the ALT button first, followed by a specific letter. It’d be nice to use some of the available non-lettered buttons on the Kindle to perform these tasks—especially shuffling your tiles while you think of a word.

Those gripes aside, it’s Scrabble. On the Kindle. The game itself is fun, the interface is responsive, and there are plenty of different game modes to keep you occupied for a while. And if you have the iPhone version, you may have noticed that EA updates it fairly frequently. If the team behind the Kindle version updates this version regularly, I’d guess it’ll get much better with time. It’s not that far from great—it just needs a quick makeover. Online multiplayer would be nice, too, but I’ll take the graphical enhancements first, please.

Until the interface gets decluttered and smoothed out, this one’s a tough sell to anyone who owns a mobile version of Scrabble already. Everyone else who fits in the cross section of Kindle owners and Scrabble fans, though, will likely find it a worthwhile purchase that hopefully gets better with time.

More on Techland: Scrabble Released for Kindle

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