My thoughts on the pricing model of Hasbro’s Family Game Night are well known. Take one retail boxed Wii/PS2 game, which contains a collection of 6 Hasbro board game favourites, and sell them individually on Xbox Live Arcade for more than 1/6th of the price of the retail collection. Not only that, the price point of 800 Microsoft Points (approximately $16 NZD) is close to the retail price of the physical board games, as well as being in the top tier of XBLA games when it comes to pricing. So, having declared any potential biases, how do the games themselves play out?
Battleship is a classic game invented some time in the early 1900s by someone who never thought to patent the idea. So Milton Bradley did it many years later, and profited from the concept. We’ve probably all played it before – I used to play it in my 1E5 maths book. Draw out a grid, and place a fleet of battleships on it. Take turns with a friend to call out co-ordinates to fire shots and try to take down your opponent’s ships before you fleet is destroyed. I always wanted the Electronic Battleship board game, complete with sound effects, but I came from modest backgrounds. Xbox Live Arcade now gives me a chance to relive that childhood dream.
This is, of course, a 2 player game, and while there is an option to play against AI, it is nice that the format of the game allows 2 local players to play on the same TV without having to constantly look away from the TV during your opponents turn. This action is still required, at the beginning of the game when each player lays out their fleet on the board, but after this the ships all remain hidden from view at all times (unless of course they are hit). This is a clever way to manage the problem, and while you won’t be able to remember exactly where you placed each of your ships, it is an unimportant side effect of this setup. After selecting the grid square where you want to fire, the shot is launched and result is displayed, complete with sound effects. Then your opponent takes their shot, and so on, until one fleet is downed. The classic game mode plays well, and smoothly due to the streamlined gameplay with players both being able to watch the screen simultaneously.
The “Salvo” variation speeds up the gameplay, with players being able the number of shots that corresponds to the number of remaining ships they have (starting with 5 ships). Super Weapons is another variation that introduces powerups – it is a weak variation that increases the luck factor. Stick with the other 2 modes.
Xbox Live play is possible, but it always seems a little strange playing board games over the internet, especially with the game being called “Family Game Night“. Local play is obviously available, with up to 4 players taking turns to roll and score. There is avatar support, but this is limited to small thumbnail sized representations.
Achievements are reasonable easy to obtain in generous 10G and 20G servings. However Gamerscore whores will rightly be peeved at this game’s Gamerscore structure. Like other XBLA games, each board game in the Family Game Night has 200 available Gs. So when you obtain all the Battleship achievements, you should end up with 200/200 right? Well I’ve forewarned you already – the answer is actually “no”.
While Family Game Night comprises of 6 separate games, is actually a single XBLA game. You download Family Game Night, and after that you download the right to unlock and play each of the games. When you play any of the board games in Family Game Night, your possible Gamerscore will increase by 1400G. Why 1400? That’s 200Gs for EACH game, including Sorry! and Sorry! Sliders which have not yet been released, and incredibly this also includes 200G for Scrabble, which is not available outside of the USA. We are definitely not amused.
When I pay for some remade version of any game, I expect there to be at least some improvements from the original source material. Therefore the lack of any tutorial in this game I find to be unacceptable. The game provides “hints” which introduce the basic controls of the game, but they do not teach the rules. I know the rules already, so probably would have skipped the tutorials (likely to have infuriated me anyway with Mr. Potato Head as the host), but any new players to the game should not be forced to read pages of instructions on screen in order to learn the game.
The game lobby is a bit of a confusing interface, with number of players and the option of playing locally or over Xbox Live selected before entering the game room where you select your game from those available *ahem* those you have purchased. So if you were already playing a game and decided to change the number of players, you are forced to quit out of the game, quit back to the main lobby, change the player setup, go back into the gaming lounge, and then back into the game. Very convoluted and confusing.
The gaming lounge is where furniture awarded for doing various things in the games is displayed, and you can change clocks, ornaments, and other items as you wish. If you still have any Microsoft Points left over after shelling out for these games, you can also purchase lounge themes to reset the mood.
From the lounge, a “party” game mode allows you to play board-game themed mini-games with friends in short sharp 30 second to 1 minute bursts. Again, you can only play the mini-games for the games you have actually purchased. The mini-games are terrible and one questions the need to constantly butcher these classic board games.
All in all, Family Fun NIght: Battleship is a good recreation of the classic concept, and is fun to play with friends and family. Whether or not you feel $16 is good value will be a decision you make for yourself, and the Electronic Battleship board game would be a worthy alternative. Of course the XBLA version has the added advantage of being able to take your game online.
Streamlined gameplay for fast paced action. Contains explosions. Ability to play against others over Live.
Steep price point. The Gamerscore situation is a downright mess.
The ButtonMasher Verdict:
Easier to set up than using pen and paper, and fun local or Live multiplayer. A good game but consider the negatives mentioned above.