Scramble With Friends: This Fast-Paced Word-Finding Game Brings Out the Competitor in You
At a Glance
An Android version of Zynga's popular word-finding game Scramble With Friends has finally arrived. Part of Zynga's "With Friends" series, Scramble With Friends is especially fun because it's a timed (and therefore fast-paced) game.
Scramble With Friends is easy to learn but difficult to master. The app presents you with a gameboard consisting of 16 Scrabble letter tiles, arranged in a 4 by 4 grid. To rack up points and win the game, you drag your finger across adjacent tiles to create words (of at least two letters)--in other words, it resembles a virtual version of Boggle.
Each game consists of three rounds, with one board used for each round. Participants play the board individually and cannot see their opponent's score until the round is finished. In the first round, players gain points by creating words with adjacent letters; in the second and third rounds, some of the tiles offer bonuses, such as double or triple points for using a particular letter.
Before each round, players can choose power-ups to help them during the round. The power-up types are "time freeze," "scramble" (lets you rotate the board for a new perspective), and "inspiration" (gives you three words when you get stuck). You may use up to two power-ups per round.
After each round, each player receives a score. At the end of all three rounds, the player with the highest score wins.
Like Zynga's other "With Friends" games, Scramble With Friends lacks the option of challenging the computer: You're limited to playing against other people. You can find opponents by using Facebook or your contact list, or you can look them up by their Zynga username. If you don't have any friends to call out, you can start a game with a random opponent.
Scramble With Friends uses a token system, similar to the one that TripleTown uses, to keep players from playing too often without paying. Each round costs you one token to play. When you run out of tokens, either you have to wait for your tokens to replenish (you get one token every 20 minutes) or you have to pony up some real cash to keep going.
The first power-up per round is free, but your second power-up will cost you one token, as well.
Though the token system is annoying, it's unlikely to affect your gameplay significantly unless you like to purchase extra power-ups. Each game takes two minutes to play, so by the end of ten games (without extra power-up purchases) you'll have another token to work with. If, after 32 minutes of playing, you still want to keep going, you'll have to wait 8 minutes for your next token. Keep in mind, too, that you must wait for your opponents to finish a round before you can continue the game.
Graphics, Audio, and Performance
Scramble With Friends looked good on my Galaxy Nexus: The colors were vivid, the resolution was high, and the app looked polished. There's no real soundtrack, but the game does have sound effects--including little expressions of praise when you find a particularly impressive word.
The app performed pretty well, though it did crash twice during my testing period--including once during a round; but when I restarted the game, it had paused the round so that I could continue where I had left off (but without my previous momentum). The free version of the app is a bit of a battery hog, probably because of the many ads that appear on the opening screen and between rounds.
I may be a bit biased, because I'm a word nerd, but I liked Scramble With Friends a lot. That said, it has some issues (aside from the occasional crashes) that need to be addressed. In particular, even though each round is fast-paced, waiting for your opponent to complete a round is not. The second issue--that the game is designed exclusively for multiplayer competition--could be remedied with a solo option; but for some reason, Zynga hasn't ported single-player Scramble to Android yet.
Even with its faults, Scramble With Friends is fun to play, and it will definitely bring out the competitor in you--more so than the other "With Friends" games.
This app was tested using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0.2.