Hasbro Family Game Night Nintendo Wii review

Six board games, stuck in a Nintendo. And it just about holds together, albeit with a couple of problems...

I am always in two minds when a table top or board game shows up on a games console. My initial gut reaction is ‘why should I pay for this when I already own it in real form, or could easily do so?’ However, in a society where board games have been marginalised towards family gatherings rather than regular fun, it may be that there’s a place for reintroducing board games in electronic format. So we welcome EA’s latest offering after Monopoly, Hasbro Family Game Night on Nintendo Wii.

Before I even open the case, let’s get this straight – it says “FAMILY” in the title. That should already tell gamers one thing – this is a game aimed at kids playing alone or with their families/parents etc. This is not something a teenaged son will want to steal and run off with, nor will your 20-something sister. To be fair to Hasbro Family Game Night, we must view it in the light that it is intended, unlike entering a pumpkin in a water melon contest. Everyone knows that real Marines use watermelons for target practice anyway… *puts down CoD 4*

Upon booting up my copy, I was initially annoyed by the size-changing interface. It pops up at you and every time you select a new screen, more options pop up as well. Why developers feel this urge to have something change size or shape when you ‘mouse over’ or click on it, I’ll never know. It’s hard on the eyes and just annoys me. Developers, please. Cut it out! In fairness, though, this doesn’t directly effect playing any of the games on here, so let’s move on …

As you might expect from EA, profile creation is used in Family Games Night. I do find myself wondering if Miis would have been better. A Sims-esque trophy room is included per profile, which will appeal to collect-em-up types and kids. Boggle slippers?! Get yours here! The game presents everything through the viewpoint of entering a gaming room, which is yours. Themes of the room can be altered to suit your taste in background music and colours etc, and items unlocked. Load up a new profile and everything changes, so personalisation is good.

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As soon as you start selecting games you want to play, you’ll meet another developer nightmare – the tooltip window. Until you switch these off, they constantly spring up if you don’t act quickly enough within any game. This is intended to help you if you’re stuck, but in reality, they pop up too soon. Turn them off so you can get down to gaming without feeling like there’s a backseat driver telling you what to do every five seconds.

And so to your choice of games. Hasbro Family Game Night includes six games: Battleships, Boggle, Connect Four, Sorry!, Sorry! Sliders and Yahtzee. Each game does have custom modes which you can tweak as well as new and advanced modes. Essentially, it’s a six game package, but the choice element is strong. In value terms, this represents well. Buying all of these games in board format would certainly cost more than a Wii copy (the game is also on PS2). Also, it’s worth noting that the new modes are actually quite different to play, so it isn’t just a case of new packaging, same product. Now what about the meat of the games within?

Sorry! Sliders is going to get first mention to get it out of the way, really. This is my least favourite game and has one very big issue that, for me, ruined it in electronic format – even with the Wii ability to swing the remote. Sorry! Sliders badly needs some sort of power meter as you have no idea how hard you’re swinging or where it’s going to go. You are able to ‘aim’ your sliding piece, but I found it impossible to relate the aiming to where the piece actually slides to. The aim of the game is to slide your coloured tokens into the middle of a target board, knocking other players off the high scoring inner rings whilst trying to avoid moving any of your own pieces or losing a piece off the edges in all four corners. You add up scores on the target board after everyone has ‘slid’ four pieces into the middle, and these scores are then used to move four pieces up a coloured board until your pieces reach home. All four pieces home means you win.

This is a real example of a game that is far better suited to real life. I dread to think how disconnected this must feel on the PS2, which is even less ‘life like’ with no motion control. I’d avoid Sorry! Sliders in electronic form until a version appears with a power bar of some sort.

When you’re playing Sorry! Sliders or Sorry!, the game rotates the playboard around as each player takes their go. This is quite nauseating after a short time, and didn’t need to happen as it’s perfectly possible to see the entire board at all times. If you feel wozzy, take a break.

Sorry! is actually very well converted aside from the rotating board. This is a board game classic that I was raised on, and it can get very bitchy and fun when played with friends or family. I noticed one difference from classic Sorry! which is that, instead of taking a new card from the deck each go, you actually hold a hand of cards and can choose which card to enter play with on each go. This probably makes it easier for younger or new players, but I did miss the ‘pick a card up’ scenario.

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Sorry! runs smoothly, without problems. You can practice against computer opponents first if you’ve never played before. The basic idea is that, using cards with numbers on them, you have to move four game pieces of your colour around a board and into a safety zone, then finally into the home, whereupon the piece is totally safe and cannot be removed. Get all four pieces home to win. In order to understand Sorry! you must read the scrolling information on every card you’re holding in your hand. Cards have different powers as well as numbers, so you can either simply move a piece the number of spaces, or you can initiate a power. They do various things such as switching pieces with other players. In Sorry! you can barge other pieces off the board and send them back to the start zone, hence the name of the game. This can get very animated if four people who really know how to play get stuck in, and I’d recommend giving this one a try – it’s great!

Battleships, whilst being technically a random game of chance, is very good fun, graphically smooth and well worth a play. The only silly feature here is the ‘Player two, look away now!’ one. I suppose there was really no other way to get you to place your ships without the other person seeing, but this would suggest to me that perhaps this isn’t the greatest game to convert to a games console. But never mind, it’s fun and worth a spin! J7, anyone?

Yahtzee converts well enough, being essentially a game of rolling dice and playing a poker-esque game with the results. I found this to be fairly dull as half the fun of Yahtzee is actually rolling your own dice. Even though the Wii edition allows you to ‘shake and toss’ the dice, it isn’t real. The scoring acts swiftly, though, and if you enjoy playing Yahtzee in general, this conversion is more than acceptable. One for the fans out there…

Now we’re through to the big two – Connect Four and Boggle. Firstly, Connect Four has two interesting new modes, advanced and power chips. These are worth trying out, although personally I prefer the pure strategy of straight up classic Connect Four. Power chips brings to the table a new twist such as bomb chips and chips you can’t place anything on top of, or heavy chips that destroy everything below. You’re still red vs yellow, and you still have to create a row of four chips in any direction on the blue gaming rig.

A group of us discovered that Connect Four has lost none of its ‘one more round’ addictive gameplay and that this conversion is fully justifiable. The sounds and graphics present it delightfully, and I’d play this again. As a real plus point, when someone wins and you pull the bottom out to let all the chips cascade down, though it isn’t as fun as seeing real chips come crashing down, it’s tidier and quicker to reset the game.

Finally, Boggle. This has to be one of the most intellectually stimulating games since Scrabble and, conversely, can be played by absolutely anyone of any age and ability. Boggle gives you a transparent shield on top of a box containing dice with letters on each side and no numbers. You shake the Boggle box (this part is nowhere near as much fun on a games console) and then place it down on the table. The dice will now be showing you rows of letters at random, and every game of Boggle is different.

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In traditional Boggle, everyone plays in a timed round. In silence, you all look at the letters and write on your own bit of paper as many words as you can see represented there. To make a word, you have to be able to create it out of the letters on the dice, without reusing any letter. Letters must link either horizontally, diagonally or vertically. It is usually simple to find lots of three letter words or even four letter ones… anything else gets tricky. Longest words are something like 8 characters long in a typical game.

Being electronic, Boggle in this game is very easy to play because there can be no disputing the dictionary. If a word is allowed, it’s allowed. The game will tell you if it isn’t, and the first to select a word gets it in multiplayer games. This removes arguments about the validity of any word, or who it should go to. It’s worth noting that all sorts of weird words do come up as valid, so it’s worth trying anything!

I think the biggest question mark across this title has to be, if you’ve got everyone together in the living room anyway, why not play the actual board games themselves? Losing the interaction with all the fiddly pieces is, in my view, half of the whole experience and it certainly assists the younger kids in hand to eye coordination and all that malarkey. Tossing the random die yourself is far more satisfying than wiggling your Wiimote, although this is a step up from simply pressing a button and waiting for the die to roll around and stop, which is what non-Wii versions of games such as this tend to offer.

In defence though, we’re making an assumption that every household wants to own board games, and can do so. Board games aren’t cheap these days and they also take up space. Then there are the kids who have never seen a board game before, and consider them… well… boring. Getting the family classics together in one place electronically is a great move, in my view, for it is giving more families the option of playing these games.

Choice has got to be a good thing, and so for that. if nothing else, Hasbro Family Game Night is a worthy contender to the Christmas family get-together package. It’s fun, kid safe and worth a spin. Just watch out for some frustrating underlay and design.

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3 out of 5