I know that, as a GeekDad or GeekMom, you’re probably pretty busy, so I’m working on a new format for game reviews. Here at the top is my quick summary and facts at a glance. If you’re interested and want to read a more in-depth explanation and analysis, hit the jump for more. I hope this will help you weed out the games that you’ll enjoy from those you’ll want to skip.
Overview: Scrabble Flash, just released this fall, is made up of five electronic tiles, each displaying a letter. The tiles can recognize their placement and automatically keep track of each word you spell as you shuffle the tiles around. There are three quick games you can play, two solitaire lasting 75 seconds each and one multi-player elimination game. The tiles fit into a small, portable plastic case and are great for a quick game anywhere, anytime.
Players: Any number, including solitaire
Ages: 8 and up
Playing Time: 75 seconds for solitaire; multi-player depends on number of players
Will You Like It? If you like word games like Scrabble and Boggle, you’ll love Scrabble Flash.
Will Your Kids Like It? Your kids will like the electronic tiles; whether or not it holds their interest may depend on their spelling skills.
Each Scrabble Flash tile is a small plastic frame with an LCD screen, a small button on the bottom edge, and two inconspicuous slots on the sides which allow the tiles to communicate with each other. They’re lightweight and seem fairly sturdy; each has its own tiny speaker and uses a CR2032 battery (thankfully, batteries are included). The cubes are roughly 2″ square, and about 3/4″ thick, a pretty good size for shuffling and sliding around. The whole thing fits in a small plastic case that’s perfect for throwing in a bag for games on the go.
What’s particularly fascinating about the tiles (and they’ll draw a crowd if you play with them in public) is the way that they recognize what order they’re in and when they’re touching. You start the game, and then just shuffle tiles around. When the tiles recognize a new valid word, the letters highlight briefly and a beep sounds. When time runs out, the tiles beep and display a clock, and then they wait for you to line them up so they can display your score.
There are three ways to play Scrabble Flash. The first two are solitaire, and the third is multi-player.
1. Scrabble Flash: This is the basic game. You’re given five letters, and form as many 3-, 4- and 5-letter words as possible in 75 seconds. Each 5-letter word formed gets you an additional 5 seconds. Every word (regardless of length) gets you one point; when time runs out the tiles will display both your score and the maximum score possible with those letters.
2. Scrabble Five-Letter Flash: You get five letters and must form a word using all the tiles. Once you’ve found the word, the tiles change and show five new letters. The goal is to spell as many 5-letter words as possible in 75 seconds.
3. Scrabble Pass Flash: As with Game 2, you must spell a 5-letter word within a short time limit. If you’re quick enough, the tiles will say “Next” and you pass them to the next player, who hits a button and gets five new letters. Too slow, and the tiles say “Out” and you’ve been eliminated. The time limit decreases as the game continues, and you play until all but one player has been eliminated.
Finally, you can play all three games using only four tiles instead.
It’s hard to tell from these basic rules how addictive it is to just play with the tiles—I took Scrabble Flash to PAX, and it was an easy game to just break out in between events or even at the restaurant, waiting for the pizza to arrive. Since each single-player game lasts just over a minute, you can easily play several games and pass the tiles around, comparing scores on the first two games or playing the elimination game. I happen to be a huge fan of Boggle, and this is like a miniature, gadgety version of that.
For you wordsmiths out there, Scrabble Flash is a great casual game that you can take with you. Although the recommended age is 8 and up, younger kids can have fun with the tiles, even just guessing at words. Scrabble Flash is quick, easy to learn and a blast to play.
Wired: These little smart gadgets are a great twist on Scrabble and Boggle. Portable, addictive and (arguably) educational.
Tired: At thirty bucks it may be a bit pricey, but you’ll get a lot of play out of them. Unfortunately, replacing all five batteries can be almost as pricey as the games themselves.
Disclosure: Hasbro provided a review copy of the game.