The success of the digital version of a physical board game hinges on three things: the quality of the base game, the accuracy of the representation of said game and if both of these things are pulled off well enough to sustain a community long after you’ve tired of getting beaten by friends and family. With that in mind, is Scotland Yard [$4.99] a successful iOS port of a classic board game? No, but it could be.

It’s not as if Ravensburger’s Scotland Yard, the 1983 Spiel des Jahres recipient, isn’t fundamentally sound. One player is Mr. X, terribly creative criminal mastermind, stealthily darting about London in an attempt to avoid the grasp of five Scotland Yard investigators, represented by the other players. Players move about via ticket cards allowing access to modes of transportation around the game map: taxis, buses, boats or the London Underground.

The goal of the game is for Mr. X to ultimately evade captivity, while the investigators have twenty-two moves in which to capture him by either landing on whatever space he occupies, or trapping him so that he is unable to take another move. The catch is that Mr. X is invisible... for a time. Every few turns Mr. X’s position is revealed to the rest of the group, and though his movements remain otherwise hidden, the method of transportation he uses each turn is not. So, knowing his general location, it’s up to the investigators to use the limited number of ticket cards divvied up before the start of the game to coordinate with each other and entrap him.

It’s fast-paced and encourages teamwork, ironically the iOS version’s fundamental flaw thanks to weak computer AI and broken matchmaking. The game, while designed to have six pieces on the board at all times, can be played with as little as two people, seeing a single player control up to five investigators. This is actually hugely advantageous, as it allows the single player to focus the efforts of each piece, sending investigators out to flank and herd, or assigning different methods of transportation, or routes, to individual investigators. Play like this, one-on-one, also happens to get very boring very quickly.

A shame then that the AI is so little fun. Most of my games against the AI as Mr. X saw me shuffling in a triangle in the corner of London before escaping up the sides, or using the Tube to steal away to another portion of the map. Problematically, these are the same buffoons you’re stuck with should you just want to play a quick game with some AI partners against Mr. X. It’s really aggravating when you’re certain a fellow investigator is sitting a mere space away from Mr. X, only to see the dude travel in the opposite direction, across the Thames, to what I can only assume is his favorite kebab stand.

At the time of this writing, Game Center auto-match play is broken. That means you’ll either be playing the dim AI, your Game Center friends that have room in their lives for another board game or your loved ones. Local pass-and-play along with basic Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality seem to work, but borked matchmaking is just one of several annoying technical and usability issues the game has including an updated game board that’s a strain on the eyes, 3D architecture that obscures important information, unresponsive clickables, crashes and an overly pithy rulebook.

Having done a bit of research, I was pretty excited to play Scotland Yard. Given its heritage, I envisioned a future with it as a permanent fixture on my phone, alongside the likes of Carcassonne [$9.99] and Ascension [Free] But it doesn’t have the heft of a good iOS board game. The comforting simulation of tactility, of texture, of weight; the aesthetic cohesion. Or the capacity to sustain a community. So no, ultimately Scotland Yard is not a success, but something to be shelved in the hope that Ravensburger soon revisits it.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://www.facebook.com/m.m.fisher Matt Fisher

    I don't get it. You pan the game but give it 3 stars? This sure sounds like a 2-star review. Lately it seems like TouchArcade has been a flood of 3 and 4-star reviews for good-but-not-great games, pretty much diluting the usefulness of ratings altogether. Would love it if you were stingier about giving out high marks.

    • Arch Deluxe

      Anything under 4 stars stinks. They've been fairly consistent about that.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Something that a lot of people don't really seem to understand is we typically ignore games that we'd rate 1 to 2.5 stars. There's no shortage of terrible games on the App Store. So, in doing this, the bulk of our reviews naturally are going to fall somewhere in between the 3 and 4 star range. I'd say 3 stars is the definition of "Good, but not great," if you must assign some sort of phrase to a numerical rating.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Spammo-Twatbury/100002426967566 Spammo Twatbury

        1. If you're using half stars you're marking out of 10, not 5. Jeesh, what is the MATTER with people?

        2. If you're not running anything below "2.5" (ie 5/10), what are those marks doing there at all if they're never used?

        3. From points 1 and 2 we can see that you're actually running a five-point marking system (3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5) disguised for some reason as a 10-point one. So why not just be honest and mark PROPERLY out of five, with no halves, but with 1 star meaning "Okay", up through "quite good", "good", "really good" and "great"?

        (Answer: because advertisers don't want to see a good game get 3 stars where it would have got 4. Which is the modern way of things, but don't insult our intelligence while you're doing it, eh?)

      • IMNS

        I think the only person who's insulting your intelligence is you yourself by not being able to understand such a simple concept.

        1. Why does it matter that TA uses a 5 point or 10 point scale? How old are you? Do you not know percentages? Do you not realise 2/5 and 4/10 are EXACTLY the same thing? So why does it matter what scale TA used?

        2. Just coz they dont run anything below 2 stars, it doesn't mean there aren't games worse 2 stars out there. By rating a game as 2.5, it essentially means that it's not a piece of garbage like the majority of AppStore games are.

        3. If you rate an "okay" game as 1/5, it'd mean that it's the worst that you could possibly download from AppStore.

        How dumb can you really be? Will you finally understand it if TA published a couple of reviews for shitty games and rate them 1/5? Are you not intelligent enough to know that much without needing those shitty reviews?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Spammo-Twatbury/100002426967566 Spammo Twatbury

         "If you rate an "okay" game as 1/5, it'd mean that it's the worst that you could possibly download from AppStore."

        Sigh. No it wouldn't, because we've already been told that they don't review the junk apps, so just by being on TA at all it'd already have been judged as meeting a minimum standard of quality. Having a 10-point system that you never use five points of completely undermines the entire concept of ratings.

      • IMNS

        Nope. Not falling for it again. Fool me once...

      • http://www.facebook.com/m.m.fisher Matt Fisher

        It makes sense that you don't want to spend everybody's bandwidth on games that are terrible, though it is weird to have most everything get 3-4.5 stars, because that range is pretty narrow, narrower than the quality of the games you review. So the sense you get is that you've compressed the ratings toward the high end.

        Also, if you're going to use a starred review, then everybody's history with starred reviews comes with them, and 3 stars is a favorable review almost everywhere. I don't think it's splittting hairs too much to say that starred reviews (eg movies, restaurants, G4) are different than x/10 reviews (GameInformer). Starred reviews aren't mathematical, they are more like Likert scales where 3,4,5 = alright, great, exemplary. If you were using a x/10 scale, then a 6/10 is definitely a pan, but 3 stars (even out of 5) is a pretty good review.

        My point was that this review said the game isn't ready for prime time, so doesn't deserve 3. Per the review, this game was less than 'good but not great.'

  • http://twitter.com/afaehnle Andrew Faehnle

    Poor review.  One-on-one play is probably the most challenging way to play as Mr. X, as the detectives should be more well-coordinated than if played by multiple players.

    I do agree that the AI can be better, however.

    • http://twitter.com/No_Free_Parking BoardgameUnderground

      AI stinks, but the game is incredibly well-polished.  Hope a fix is in the works for the GameCenter auto-match.

      • blindspot

        I think the reviewer may have gotten caught in a time near the update in which version 1.0 and 1.01 couldn't connect. It's not fair to say to simply say "it's broken" and not say what you experienced to make you think that.

  • Alex DeLargest

    Look back through the archives and you'll notice that nothing ever gets one star.

    • blindspot

      And probably for good reason.

  • http://www.fdg-entertainment.com Future777

    Was this tested in single player and iPhone only? Its strength lies in Multiplayer and iPad retina which is included for free (universal app)
    Tonight an update was released to fix a bug - you need the latest version to connect to GC MP properly again.

  • no_pudding

    Little bit of math tells me that 2/5 (40%) is not a whole lot better than 3/5 (60%)....both would be a FAIL in any real measure of quality. Unless the rating system is changed, anything below 4 stars is considered crud by the reviewer...IMHO. 

  • http://twitter.com/bassoonified Hans P. Köter

    Surprisingly weak release of Ravensburger (after Puerto Rico, Labyrinth etc) considering that the four year old NDS version has more content and a strong AI. Sorry guys, graphics candy is *not* the most important thing for an iOS board game. I couldn't care less about retina, when I have to squint to find out, where this bus/taxi etc. goes or what field number is currently obscured by a meeple standing in front of it on another square. The NDS version looked like the original game board and had a permanent bird's view map on the upper screen, making it easy to plan your escape route or your 'fishing net', were you a detective. The iOS AI really sucks, I'd rather live without voicechat than having no satisfying solo-play.

  • Alex DeLargest

    If you fail to review poor games, you fail to review. Full stop. There is no baseline, because one has never been set. This allows Hodapp and co to obscure the reality they they are whores. Everybody is a winrar!!!

  • Ken Stewart

    I agree with some people that this is a poor review. I have been quite satisfied with the port of this game so far. The online matchmaking has worked fine for me and playing locally with my gf is a blast.I don't know what you're complaining about with the graphics (though I am playing on an ipad). Honestly, I would recommend anyone whos remotely interested in the game to just ignore this review and pick it up. There are much more fair reviews for this game on other sites, imo (though most reviews here are pretty decent).

Scotland Yard Reviewed by Jonathan Glover on . Rating: 3