Boggle CD-ROM is a faithfully computerized and expanded version of the board (cube?) game, enhanced with new variations on the basic theme of spelling words from a random assortment of cubes with different letters on each face and expanded to allow multiple players to battle each other across networks.
Boggle 101: You and one or more of your literate friends stare at a 4x4 or 5x5 matrix of letter cubes. You all spend the next two minutes ferreting out and writing down what long and hopefully hard-to-find words can be spelled legally from the letters in the grid. To spell a word legally, you must by able to place a mental finger on its first letter and move your finger through the grid, traversing the letters that make up the word in order, and always moving from one letter to another that is adjacent to it, either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. After a couple of minutes of spelling words, all players stop and compare their lists, crossing out any words that appear on more than one player's list. Then, scores are tallied; longer words score more points. Winners are determined, and fortunes are made and lost.
On the computer, Boggle changes a bit. Hasbro has provided word gamers with the classic Boggle game, as well as five variations. Since a computer has but one keyboard, two or more human players cannot play seriously on the same computer. (The CD-ROM does allow multiple players to use the keyboard sequentially and play a game that way, but so much of the pace of the game is lost this way that I cannot recommend it at all.) Those who will enjoy this game will enjoy playing against a computer opponent, bettering their own high scores, and competing with players connected to the Internet.
Boggle across the Internet is great. Of the five different games one can play off the CD, three can be played on Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com), and they've all got their merits. While I think I have to claim Classic Boggle, with the simple 4x4 or 5x5 letter grid, as my favorite, I had some tense matches online playing a more head-to-head variation called Battle Boggle. In this variation, you and your opponent take turns placing letters from your letter stashes on a small grid and spelling as many words as you can from the letters there before letting the other put another letter down. Since the game starts with only one letter on the grid, the first few rounds are mostly spent analyzing your own and your opponent's letters, but after a few more letter cubes have been placed, one player or the other will always burst through with an exciting flurry of words. You both play on separate three-minute timers that only tick while you are on your turn, so you can conserve time and have a lot to play with when the words in the grid are more plentiful. Of course, you never can tell when there's a nine-letter bibliographic behemoth lurking amidst the J's, G's, K's, and Z's; that's what makes the game so tense.
At the end of any of the game variations, you and your opponents (human or computer) have your scores tallied and your word lists displayed onscreen, often spurring a bit of self-reflection as you spy obvious and familiar words on your opponents' lists and curse yourself for your own intellectual shortcomings and sometimes calling up perhaps a moue of incredulity on your lips as you notice something on someone's list that you've never, ever heard of before, and which quite possibly looks like a misspelling of "syzygy" or worse. Here's where a nice touch by Hasbro pays off - every word on every list is clickable and will call up a dictionary-style definition for it, with pronunciation, usage, and multiple definitions. No more arguments!
Solitary word-gamers will enjoy the CD, but most will treat their solo forays into the game as practice for online competition. Computer opponents provide some motivation, but as we all know by now, there's no substitute for the kind of inspiration that can be provided by a sneaky, nerdy 15-year-old bookworm who's kicking your butt from Aardvark to Zygote. If you're going to have fun with this game, you've gotta get online. Whether you do it with a modem, on your local LAN, across the Internet head-to-head, or through Internet Gaming Zone, head-to-head play against human opponents is where Boggle shines.