Price: free to download
Size: 241 MB
Developer: MAG Interactive
Scrabble is one of the best-selling board games of all time, but not everybody has time for long, drawn-out matches. (Especially now the official Scrabble GO app loads a video ad after every single turn.) Cue Word Domination, a bite-sized word game that takes the essence of the popular classic and edits it down to an experience that lasts 5 minutes rather than an hour.
Like the ever-popular Words with Friends, Word Domination just changes enough of Scrabble’s details to avoid legal action from its owners, Hasbro/Mattel. Here, you could almost be fooled into thinking it was an official spin-off. Just like Scrabble, you get 7 letters in your rack and 50 extra points for using them all at once. Nearly all the tiles values are the same, and even the bonus spaces use the same color scheme. Matches are played against real human opponents. Though it won’t win any points for originality, for existing Scrabble fans this familiarity will be a positive.
But the protégé diverges from its master with some modern-day twists that may draw a fresh crowd but won’t appeal to purists. Most notably is the addition of “booster” cards that can be played on your turn to alter the flow of the game. These range from innocuous abilities like swapping bad tiles to truly game-changing abilities like laying down new bonus squares, blocking board space for your opponent, or inflating the worth of your letter tiles.
The aim is to introduce another layer of strategy to proceedings, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that these boosters somewhat cheapen the classic wordplay aspect of the game. It’s hard to plan around your opponents moves when these boosters can change the rules at the drop of a hat. Considering many players at the higher ranks don’t even use these cards, it would be nice if the app included a secondary game mode with boosters disabled to level the playing field properly.
There’s also a bunch of freemium rubbish that’s becoming all too familiar for mobile gamers. Wait timers, coins, gems, energy, power-ups, and pricy in-app purchases to unlock them. Thankfully the in-game ads don’t fire up too often and the virtual currencies can be ignored if you don’t care about getting the best booster cards, meaning these sideshows quickly fade into the background. Unless you come up against a whale who bought the most expensive legendary boosters, in which case matches can feel a little unfair. Thankfully, in our testing this was rare.
With the board shrunk down to about a third of the size and players given just five turns each to outplay each other, these quick-fire contests are easy to squeeze into your day and genuinely satisfying to play. There’s very little waiting around and the matchmaking system does a good job of finding an opponent at the same rank – although beware that any halfway-decent players will have to slog through a series of easy matchups before coming up against a real challenge. You can challenge friends by sharing a unique player code, or initiate rematches with random opponents that gave you a run for your money. And after 15 or so matches, you’ll unlock events, stories, and tournaments mode which mix things up for a little. But for our money, the straightforward core game is what shines here.
Overall, this is a very solid app that gets a lot of things right – so long as you’re not put off by its freemium annoyances. If you’re a word game fan without enough hours in the day for original Scrabble, give Word Domination a shot.