Developer: Rocketmaker Productions
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

IMG_0030Word-freak that I am, I’ll always jump for a new word game, especially one that styles itself after Scrabble. Grabl resembles a Scrabble variation often called “speed-Scrabble.” You start with fourteen tiles, and you have to form words using as many tiles and as quickly as possible; you receive more tiles after you form words. It’s a great one-player Scrabble-Solitaire game, but it suffers from a few flaws.

There are two basic game modes: timed and “frenzy.” Timed modes works like it sounds: there’s a time cap on your game. This comes in 1, 2, 3, and 5-minute varieties. Frenzy, on the other hand, rewards you with extra time when you create words. My favorite is frenzy, hands down, but if you want a quick on-the-go game of grabl, the timed options are a nice touch.

When I first booted up grabl, I was–to say the least–confused. See, here’s the thing: Rocketmaker Productions decided that a start-up menu was unnecessary, and you’re kicked straight into a game. No instructions, no pop-up window with options; the clock starts ticking as soon you start the app. Talk about bothersome. Should I really have to access the pause menu just to declare what kind of game I want to play?

IMG_0032Once you really get into the game, though, things are good. Words are automatically highlighted in yellow when they pass dictionary validation, which is a godsend. You have to ensure that all your words are linked, and that you stay within the grid; I’ve had lousy experiences where I had a perfect word lined up, only to run out of room! Thankfully, you can shift as many tiles as you want even after words have been formed. The game overall is very well balanced, and Grabl presents a nice level of challenge and flexibility that’s rare in single-player word games.

There are some other nice touches here and there. The global leaderboards are great; both total score and the longest word formed are tracked for all game modes. There’s a few gimmicks, too: you can substitute your own photo as the background or “show off your board” by emailing it to a friend. Most of these aren’t too important, but grabl feels like a more complete game for it. That feeling of completeness is important, because grabl doesn’t have the flashiest graphics ever…and when you’re based off of a game with flashy visual effects (see EA’s Scrabble app) those tiny things do count.

On the whole? If you enjoy a good one-player word game, grabl should definitely be on your list. It’s not the most polished game ever, but the core gameplay is what makes it shine.

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