Friday, September 1, 2006

Word Monaco: a word-based solitaire game for Palm OS


By Heather Wardell

Word Monaco, the newest Palm OS game from Smart Box Design (at is an interesting twist on solitaire. Instead of using a standard deck of cards, the game uses letter tiles. The object of the game is to create words using those letters. When all of the letters have been combined into words, you win. It's a lot tougher than it sounds!

Installation is straightforward. Download the zip file, which contains the single game file, synchronize the game file to your Palm, and you're ready to play. The game is large, taking up nearly two megabytes on my handheld, but this is because the graphics are simply outstanding. Figure A, taken on my Zire 72, shows the game's startup screen. I was really impressed by how clean and precise the graphics are.


Word Monaco's graphics are beautiful. (click for larger image)

The sound effects are quite nice as well. The game plays a vaguely Parisian melody when it starts or you go to the setup screen, but only for a few seconds so it's not intrusive. During the game there are sounds as well, but there is an option to turn off all sounds.

There are three main play modes. In Larvotto Beach, you have to use all of the letters to make words. Royalty Cafe and Train Station have three special cards (colored differently) and you have to either use all of the special cards in one word or one special card in three different words. Royalty Cafe's words must be at least three letters long, and Train Station's must be four letters or more. I play Larvotto Beach most of the time and find it plenty difficult enough. Figure B, taken from Smart Box's Web site, shows the game in action in Larvotto Beach mode.


Here's what Larvotto Beach looks like.

There are also three difficulty levels, which determine which letters you are given. In the easy level, you get two jokers, which can stand in for any letter. The medium level gives you all of the letters of the alphabet except for J, Q, V, X, and Z, while the hard level includes all of the letters. I have never managed to win at the hard level, and very rarely at the medium level. This game will continue to be challenging for a long time.

I find the word list to be excellent. I have occasionally found things that I am not sure are words ('mu', for example) but I haven't so far found the program refusing to accept something that I know is a word. It would be interesting to have the option to edit (or at least view) the game's word list, but as the list seems to be of high quality it isn't a crucial feature.