The idea of downloadable games is certainly nothing new. With the ability to deliver content to consumers without them ever having to leave the couch is certainly one of the most exciting advances this generation. EA and Hasbro have teamed up to bring us some of their most classic board games direct to your living room complete with Mr. Potato Head as a guide. Hasbro Family Game Night is a central hub where you can download seven of these titles and play them either locally or on Xbox Live with up to three friends. With everything going digital it was only a matter of time before board games joined in on the fun.
To get started you first have to download the application that runs all of the games. Once this is done you then have access to the entire collection as well as trial versions of each game. Each game runs 800 points (or ten bucks) and can be purchased through either the app or by selecting them in the Marketplace. As of this writing only four of the seven games are available: Yahtzee, Battleship, Connect Four and Scrabble. By the end of it all there will be seven games total including Sorry, Boggle and the brand new Sorry Sliders. One of the biggest concerns to this iteration of the game though is that when all is said and done you will have dropped $70 for the entire collection, whereas you can pick up all of the games in disc form for PS2 and Wii for $40. While this is entirely true there are some benefits to choosing the XBLA version.
For starters each game can be purchased separately, so if you only have interest in playing Yahtzee, then you can simply download one title, spend ten bucks and be done with it. The second reason this version stands out is because each game can be played online with up to three friends; the PS2 and Wii versions only support local multi-player. Regardless if you intend to purchase each and every game in this collection it would be wise to consider how much online and Achievements really mean to you before committing to the pricey downloadable version.
One of the coolest parts about Family Game Night is the presentation. All of the games take place in a giant hub area that is designed like a gaming room. You can even customize the room with downloadable skins (all of which at the moment are free). As I mentioned earlier Mr. Potato Head will be your guide, and he animates around the room as you move from game to game. As you progress not only will you be able to unlock a whipping 1400 Achievement Points (200 for each game), you can also earn trophies and even new items to decorate your virtual pimp pad with. All of these are unnecessary, but certainly fun, and surprisingly well done.
Battleship was the best way to take a simple concept and make it more entertaining by adding the idea of sinking large aquatic vessels. If you have ever dabbled in the highly addictive guessing game the XBLA version will certainly not disappoint, but there are a few things missing from this digital update that make it feel a little less nostalgic than you might remember.
For starters the game employs the honor system and is always played via a single screen. What this means is that when you play locally you have to trust that your opponent will actually not peak at where you are placing your ships on the board. You can quickly close the cover to block their eyes, but this does no good as you are also unaware of where you placed your ships. The ships remain hidden throughout the game, and it is easy to forget where you placed all of them. Playing against the AI is a quick lesson in mediocrity, and unless you are playing online (or with an honest friend) the game feels more like a reason to earn Achievement Points than anything else.
Thankfully Battleship for XBLA does have a few enhancements that make the game differ from its plastic counterpart. The first new mode is called Salvo and allows each player to take as many shots during their turn as they have ships remaining. This is insanely addictive and fun, especially online, where things can quickly turn in the heat of battle. The other new mode is called Superweapons, and like the name implies this gives each player special power-ups such as torpedoes and bombs for a more action-oriented experience. Both of these modes truly separate this version of the game from its original incarnation, and make it worth checking out for die-hard fans of Battleship.
Out of all the experiences in Family Game Night Battleship is the hardest to recommend. Playing by the honor system is not always what it is cracked up to be, and there are often times where finding a solid online opponent will prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. At ten bucks you definitely want to give the trial version a whirl before making a decision, but if you absolutely love hearing those famous words “You sank my Battleship”, then you will probably find enough reason to pick up this modernized classic.