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?
Yahtzee is a classic dice game, originally released by Milton Bradley in the 1950s before being bought out by Hasbro. You have probably played it, or at least be familiar with the basic gameplay of rolling out 5 dice. If Yahtzee is new to you, think of it as a kind of “draw poker”, but with dice. You have 3 rolls of the dice with each turn, to try and make the highest score you can for each of the 13 score categories. After each of your 3 rolls, you can select which dice to hold, and which dice to re-roll to try to improve your hand.
The categories range from the poker-like “three-of-a-kind”, “four-of-a-kind”, “full house”, and “straights”, as well as the game’s highest scoring combination “Yahtzee”. A Yahtzee means having all 5 dice having the same value by the end of the 3 available rolls. Yahtzee is a simple game full of luck, but with plenty of room for strategy.
The Classic Yahtzee game mode is a faithful reproduction of the game, and there is little more to say about it. If you like Yahtzee, you’ll probably enjoy playing it on your TV. Aside from the basic game, there are rule variations for single and multiplayer. It seems obligatory when you remake something that you have to change what is not broken, and break it, and these variations do nothing to improve what has already proven to be a winning formula.
Turning on “Wild dice” gives you a random chance of getting a “joker” which allows you to change chosen dice to whatever value you want. Handicapping if you will. Block out is a 2 player game in which the first player to enter a score in one of the categories “blocks” it from the other player so that they cannot use it. And Reverse is another 2 player variation in which your opponent gets to choose the category for your dice combination, with the intention of giving you the lowest nett score possible.
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 Yahtzee 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 Family Game Night, your possible Gamerscore will increase by 1400G – why? 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.
Family Fun NIght: Yahtzee is a faithful reproduction of the classic Yahtzee board game and the basic game plays as it should. Fans will enjoy not having to manually score on paper, and being able to play this on a large screen TV. The graphics aren’t amazing, but suffice. After all, it is all about the gameplay. The available rule variations will hold interest for a short time when playing with a friend or over Live, but won’t stand the test of time. The only consideration you will have to make is whether you feel cheated paying $16 for it. Unfortunately the number of quality games out there for the same price or cheaper on the Marketplace makes this a very hard sell for all but the most ardent fans of the game.
It’s Yahtzee. Ability to play against others over Live.
Steep price point. The Gamerscore situation is a downright mess.
The ButtonMasher Verdict:
Cheaper and just as fun to buy 5 dice and a pencil at the hobby shop.