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iOS Review: Scotland Yard

Brad Cummings
United States
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The Stats:
Compatibility: Universal
Current Price: $4.99
Developer/Publisher: Ravensburger Digital
Version: 1.01
Size: 65.3 MB
Multiplayer: Yes. Local and Online.
AI: Yes.
Itunes link: Scotland Yard

The Good:
The graphic design is well done and fits the physical game.
There are great options for local multiplayer
The Bad:
Somewhat small interface on iPhone.
Online Multiplayer could use more features.

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Ravensburger has delivered quality family gaming content for many decades. Recently Ravensburger has done well at delivering quality content for iOS. The latest offering from Ravensburger is the classic deduction game Scotland Yard.

In Scotland Yard players take on the role of agents who work together to catch one player who plays as Mr. X, a wanted criminal. Players take turns moving around the city of London either trying to track down Mr. X or stay hidden if they are Mr. X. The moves of Mr. X are hidden from the other players. All players move using tickets to travel along taxi routes, bus routes, and underground routes. Each players starts with a limited number of tickets for each route, and any tickets the agent players use are given to Mr. X. Every few moves the location of Mr. X is revealed to the agents. To throw the agents off the scent Mr. X has tiles that let him move twice in a row or hide what type of ticket he used that turn. If players can catch Mr. X by ending a move on the space he is currently on before 24 turns pass, they win. If Mr. X can stay hidden for that long he will win.

Ravensburger Digital has delivered several quality iOS experiences in the past. They include Ramses II, Puerto Rico, and Labyrinth. These experiences may not always feature every option or bit of polish but they are always well designed and aimed at a specific audience. Scotland Yard fits this pattern exactly, it is a quality game with excellent design but may not fulfill every desire you wish from an iOS app.

The first and most impressive thing about Scotland Yard is the excellent graphic design. The showpiece of the game, the map of London, is displayed in gorgeous detail. I had never noticed the many landmarks in the physical version but here I find it very intriguing and fun to look at. Initially I thought that the use of the standard pieces from the board game in the design of the app was a mistake but after playing I began to appreciate the aesthetic. Not only does it call back to the physical game but the pieces also look sharp on the screen. When selecting a piece to move the available spaces are lit up nicely. It is usually quick and clear to see what your options are. The game also features zooming options if you need additional clarity. Overall the design is great to look at and to use. One complaint is that the design is not as accessible on iPhone as it is on iPad. It is a universal app but certain elements of the interface can be fairly small on the iPhone. It is still an enjoyable experience but much better on the iPad.

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Another strength of this app is the wealth of options available to a player. The game supports up to six players both AI and human. The player has the option to be Mr. X or one of the agents, or even to control multiple agents. The AI features three difficulty levels, but some have complained that the AI in the game is predictable and can make poor moves. This may be the case for some experienced players but I do find myself getting caught by the AI on a regular basis. It is possible that through enough play that the AI could be solvable. Scotland Yard is certainly a game that plays differently with different amounts of players and the app gives you the options to try all of these different setups. The app also features a few less common features as well such as bluetooth multiplayer and an option to adjust a turn timer for each game. All of these options really allow the player to craft games to their liking and seems set up perfectly for local play whether it be on one device or many. One great option about bluetooth play is that, for example, Mr. X could be on an iPhone while the other players work together on an iPad.

In a recent review on a major iOS gaming blog Scotland Yard was greatly criticized for its “broken” online play system. I initially agreed with them as I had never been able to find a match in my early testing of the game. However, after more experimentation I have discovered that online system is working through Game Center. Random matchmaking is not heavily populated but it is possible to find a game. Some games will be disconnected but that is due to users leaving rather than a fault with the design. Inviting your friends is also a viable system, though games are real time so you will need to make sure they are around. One important thing to remember with this app is that all players will need the most updated version of the game to have successful online games. Like with a local game players are free to decide which role they want to be. This is done on a free-for-all basis but I have yet to see any major issues. The player controlling the agents can control one or all of the agents as they desire. Online games actually function quite well and games are generally pretty quick. My biggest disappointment with the online system is that it is not async. This is certainly a design choice by the developers but in my opinion the game seems like a perfect fit for async online multiplayer. This would also solve some of the problems with low server population and would be a great feature to see in the future. In short, online multiplayer is a functioning feature but one that could be something more.

Scotland Yard is an excellent port of this classic family board game. The graphic design is great and enjoyable. The app will work great for pass and play while on the go or even bluetooth play. The app could use more online features and some additional polish on the iPhone interface.

Rating: 3/4 Great design and adequate features

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