Review: Scotland Yard (universal binary), by Ravensburger Digital
Scotland Yard, by Ravensburger Digital
$4.99 (universal), ***1/2
• Nice graphics and mood music
• Multiple game modes
• Tutorials didn’t work
Scotland Yard is an iOS import of the old board game. In the game, you can either play as the criminal “Mister X” or one of the Scotland Yard detectives who chase him. I played this game frequently in my youth, and was looking forward to a fun iOS version of the game. The images are from the iPad version, but the game is a universal binary.
Figure 1 - Scotland Yard comes to the iPad!
The game is about misdirection and detection. The game board represents London, and you can move around using either the taxi, underground (or subway for those of us in the US), or bus. You use little tokens to indicate which method you move, but be careful because the detectives have a limited number of tokens for each type – if you run out, you can’t use that movement method (potentially leaving you high and dry, out of the chase!). Probably the politicians cut the police budget. Mister X’s movement is invisible for the most part, although the detectives can see what method of movement he used. Periodically, Mister X “appears” on the board for one turn, allowing detective to start to hone in, before he disappears again. So the goal, if you are Mister X, is to stay one step ahead of the detectives. If you are a detective, the goal is to deduce where Mister X is, based on his last appearance and what methods of travel he has employed. The winner is either Mister X, if he escapes, or the detectives, if he is caught. It’s a good game to promote cooperation, strategic planning, and puzzle solving skills.
Figure 2 - Play against the AI, or against other people. Plus you can choose to be "Mister X" if you like!
The board game is load of fun, and I was hoping the iOS game would be as well. But I found the game play a little clunky. If you are playing against the computer, the AI doesn’t seem to have much of a clue. While the AI detectives would start to close in a little, they certainly didn’t try to close in and cut Msiter X off from any escape routes. When I played as a detective, the AI Mister X seemed very limited in his movement choices and made some odd choices about where he would go (at times, he seemed to trap himself). I was playing with the AI on normal, so perhaps “hard” would be a little better.
Figure 3 - Tap on the location to which you want to move, and then choose either taxi, bus, or underground (depending what is available)
The mechanics of the game play are both a little clumsy and well designed. Overall, the method of travel simply involves tapping on the location you want to go, then choosing the movement method. That works okay, but overall the game board jumps around quite a bit, focusing on each player during their turn. In addition, the board movement just feels slow (this could be in part due to the timer, however). There are multiple game modes – local (pass and play or play against the AI), and Multipler player (via wifi, blue tooth, or GameCenter). I would have liked to see a beginner mode (maybe where someone didn’t have limited movement tickets) as this was a method we used when I was a child, learning how to play, but I can understand if they don’t include that. The graphics are nice, and there is some nice mood music included to enhance the mood. A nice feature that is included is the ability to adjust the play clock, giving players between 30 seconds and an infinite amount of time to make their moves (less time is more difficult, as you have less time to try to figure out the locations).
Figure 4 - Mister X (the clear piece) will occasionally reveal himself, giving you a chance to catch him.
There are some clear “misses” in the game design. One aspect that I was initially excited to see was a tutorial mode. They have a general tutorial, a tutorial about Mister X, and a tutorial about being a detective. I thought this was great, because it might give you some tips about the different strategies, depending on how you played. Unfortunately, when I clicked on the tutorials, nothing ever happened. I tried reinstalling the game, but it still didn’t work. I don’t know if I was missing something obvious (a “hit me” big red button) or if it just wasn’t working. In either case, that is a serious minus in my book. Another problem is that the “rules” are written on a black font, with a dark background – poor game design right there!
Figure 5 - Good news: they have tutorials. Bad news: I couldn't get them to work.
All in all, Scotland Yard is a fun board game, and this import has some clear hits and misses. If you can play against a real person, they game can be loads of fun, but it loses something when you play against the AI. In addition, some portions didn’t see to work at all (the tutorials) leading to people learning how to play through trial and error. At $4.99, I would expect more from this game. Because of the strong game play (and, I admit, my fondness of the game), I give it three and a half out of four stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that – opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.