Hasbro Family Game Night Review: Mr. Potato Head’s Wild Ride
For the past few years, EA has been doing their damnedest to grab as big of a slice of the casual gaming market as they can. They’ve taken ownership of one of the biggest casual online portals in Pogo.com; they’ve made all of their prized sports franchises more “accessible” courtesy of their All-Play line; and they’ve partnered with one of the biggest toy companies in history, Hasbro. It’s this last partnership that has spawned many recent releases across many different platforms for the publisher in an attempt to get games into the hands of as many potential fans as possible. The latest, and possibly their most creative, release from the two companies is “Hasbro Family Game Night” for the Xbox Live Arcade, which is essentially a port of last year’s Wii release of the same name. While it may not have the “fun” motion based controls integrated into it, “Family Game Night” on the XBLA is something that both traditional gamers, as well as their non-gaming families can enjoy together.
Right now, “Family Game Night” consists of video game remakes of four of Hasbro’s most beloved board and dice games - “Battleship,” “Scrabble,” “Connect Four,” and “Yahtzee,” with the promise of three more to be available for purchase soon, “Sorry,” “Sorry Sliders,” and “Boggle,” and potential for even more after that. Each of the games that are available offer an original style of play, as well as an updated, more video game-centric type of play. Each game offered as part of the “Family Game Night” package is its own purchase, and a separate download, and it’s for that reason that this review will be broken up into a few parts.
I’m going to do short reviews for each of the games currently available as part of the “Family Game Night” package, and those will be based on the games’ own merits, since gamers have the option to purchase, or not purchase each game individually. I will then I will offer a review of the the “Family Game Night” package as a whole, as there are some really interesting features that are independent of what games you own, and should be viewed as its own release. First, the games-
Original: It’s “Connect Four”… you don’t get too much more basic than this in terms of games - anywhere. Line up four of your chips in a row, and you win. It’s easier said than done, but it’s still a great, and occasionally frustrating, game for kids of all ages.
“Family Game Night” Version: The new game mode for “Connect Four” is called Power Chips, and it basically mixes up the gameplay by throwing in chips that serve as different power-ups throughout the game - multipliers, bombs, row blockers, etc. It’s a nice change of pace, but continues to serve as a demonstration of just how bad I am at “Connect Four,” be it in a video game, or in the real world.
Original: “YOU SANK MY BATTLESHIP!” is one of the most memorable lines from any commercial from my youth, and now you can yell the same thing at your Xbox. While it is a little challenging to play a two-player game (it’s the first game I’ve ever played that actually asked me to look away from my TV screen), it’s still just as fun as you remember. And, you don’t have to deal with all those stupid little pegs.
“Family Game Night” Version: The “Family Game Night” version of “Battleship” offers a couple of different modes that really make it feel more like a video game. Salvo mode is essentially the same as the original game, but the number of shots you have each turn is dependent on how many ships you still have afloat; believe me, the game goes a whole lot faster this way. Super Weapons mode injects power-ups into the game IF you miss a shot. It’s weird, but it almost creates a strategical environment for you to miss a shot, in the hopes of getting a power-up for the next time around. Either way, it’s a solid take on a classic game.
Original: Depending on your vocabulary, you either love, or hate this game. The original version included in “Family Game Night” is just as you remember it, except you get to see your opponents letters. Because of this it takes a little challenge out of the game, but in the end, the essence of the game is there, so it’s all a wash.
“Family Game Night” Version: Bridges mode takes is a really unique take on the game, mostly because the emphasis is put entirely on crossing the board first with letters and words. You start on the left side of the board, and you have to make it to the right side of the board, creating a path built by the words you created. The remake of “Scrabble” also offers the feature to change up the premium squares, making the worth different points, or even hiding them on the board.
Original: It’s “Yahtzee” - there’s dice, and numbers, and chance - everything you know and love is here, just in virtual form. Since it’s a turn based game, there’s nothing lost in translation, and the game even helps you figure out your points, and where it’s best to attribute them to maximize your score. As an added bonus, Mr. Potato Head does an extremely entertaining dance every time you shake the cup to roll the dice. Watching the dance alone is almost worth the price of the game.
“Family Game Night” Version: Block Out mode in “Yahtzee” is almost the same as the original version, but, when you pick where you want to allocate your points, you get the points for that section, not allowing you opponents to score there. I feel like these would be the rules of the game if it were to be released today, as it creates an increased sense of competition, all while forcing players to use more strategy while playing the game.
“Family Game Night”
While it may have the least compelling name I’ve ever heard, “Hasbro Family Game Night” offers a really great variety of games, all accessible through one easy to use interface, hosted by everyone’s favorite potato, Mr. Potato Head. The “Family Game Night” hub is a customizable apartment that begins to get slowly decorated as you reach certain achievements in each game. The better you do, the more homey it feels, and if you want to change up the theme, they’re avalible as free downloads via the Marketplace. It was weird, but the whole unlocking lamps and rugs element of the game had a satisfying “Smash Bros.” aspect to it, that’ll keep collectors playing for quite some time.
Each of the games released under the “Hasbro Family Game Night” moniker could stand on its own, as its own release, but if EA had gone that route, there wouldn’t be Party Mode. For some reason I managed to miss the giant “Party” button below all the games my first time through, but it didn’t matter, because I was playing alone, Party Mode is for the entire family, or all your friends, but definitely more than one person. In “Party Mode” you get to choose the games that you want to play, and are then tossed into a competitive tournament of bite-size versions of the games you chose. Essentially it takes the most basic element of each of the games and creates a mini-game around that, where the goal is to win as many of the mini-games as you can. Throughout the game, there are cards and power-ups that are offered to everyone except the player that is in first place, as if to give the competition a leg up, and help them improve their chances of winning. (In the world of casual games, everyone’s gotta have a chance.) After a few play-throughs of “Party Mode” you’ll see that it’s a great way to play a little bit of each of the games, but there isn’t much variety in the mini-games, and they’re all pretty simple; great for the kids, but the adults playing might get bored quickly.
That’s pretty much everything “Hasbro Family Game Night” has to offer currently, and while the online integration is a step up from the Wii version, the Xbox 360 is great for families that own Microsoft’s console instead of Nintendo’s. This version is greatly improved over the original release, and if there are 360 gamers out there that are looking to remember why “Scrabble” and “Battleship” are classics, or if they’re just looking for something they can play with their kids, then they don’t need to look much further than “Family Game Night,” just don’t expect to be able to play with Mr. Potato Head, the lack of a customization option was a huge missed opportunity here. For shame EA… for shame.
“Hasbro Family Game Night” was released for the Xbox Live Arcade on March 18th, 2009. It was also released for the Nintendo Wii on November 11, 2008. This review is based on the XBLA version.