Hasbro helps WinCE gaming grow up

So you’re an adult. But secretly, you’ve wanted one. A Nintendo Gameboy. But you just cannot bring yourself to buy one. It’s for kids. The games available focus on kids. So you’re relegated to secretly playing solitaire under Windows CE on your palm PC during the morning commute.

Not anymore.

Hasbro Interactive has released four games for CE devices: Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit and Slingo. Each has strong points and weak points.

Scrabble scrambled to the top of the heap with colorful display, brisk play and fun interactivity. Running on an Aero 2130 from Compaq Computer Corp., the game board may be a little small on the 256-color, 240-by-320 pixel touch display.

Still, the game board appeared to take up as much of the display as possible, considering the limitations. I found Scrabble delightful. The computer competitor player known as Maven could give me a good run for points. While not as graphically complex as the desktop version, I still found the CE version lost very little in translation.

Trivial Pursuit pops into second place basically for two reasons. The game appeared only in monochrome colors [making which pies you’d capture sometimes difficult to distinguish] and the limited database of questions. After playing for a couple of hours, I started to see the same questions–again and again. I uploaded alternative sets of questions, but it did not take long for the game play to get a little stale.

Players have a choice of the traditional game, just as if you had the board and player pieces there, or a fun single-player tournament that worked much better with the limited display.

Monopoly slides into third place among the four. Again, the small screen and a monochrome application holds back Mr. Money Bags. Trying to figure out which properties are available, who has them, or even which properties you are sitting on turns out to be quite a challenge. Color would help immensely. But the rather slow game play also causes Monopoly problems. I spent a lot of time waiting–especially for the computer-generated players.

Unfortunately the full-color Slingo gets slung to last place for one reason alone–it crashed again and again and again. I was able to play the full game by turning the Aero off then back on. The CE device’s instant on-off feature somehow dislodged Slingo from whatever loop it was stuck in.

Slingo is a combination between slots and BINGO. A five-by-five grid includes numbers, like BINGO. Pull a virtual one-armed bandit to get playable spots. Because of the bugs, I could not get Slingo to add up my scores, so I have no idea how I did. With a fix, Slingo could easily move into place just under Scrabble.

Hasbro deserves kudos for squeezing three complex games down into the Windows CE operating system. Any CE device slave should consider getting Scrabble now. With the others, you can wait until version 2.0.

Each sells for $30 and are available at www.hasbrointeractive.com.

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