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.
Scrabble is one of those games that you either love or hate. Most of that is dependent on your grip of the English language. Translating it to a videogame has come across rather smoothly, and outside of a few hang-ups this is one of the finer additions to Family Game Night. For those unfamiliar with the premise Scrabble is a game of word association. Each player receives seven tiles and you begin spelling out words worth varying amounts of points.
The XBLA version doesn’t bother updating the game with flash visuals or funky themes; instead it lays the original board out on a table, and drops you straight into the action. Unfortunately for solo gamers there is no option to play against a CPU opponent, which is odd. Instead when you start a single player game you are simply moving your way around the board at your own pace without fear of competition. This is great for getting Achievements, but kind of boring after a while.
Thankfully the biggest omission from digital versions of the game has finally been addressed; online play. You can now hop online against three other players for a chance to show off your spelling dominance. Online works fairly well and lag rarely plagues your experience, but the board moves at a very peculiar and annoying angle when it is not your turn. The other downside is that you can now see your opponent’s word tiles so there is no secret as to who has what letter. This can be overlooked as it rarely makes a huge difference, but be warned some people take this very seriously.
As far as new modes go there is one, but it really only serves to show that the team just wanted an extra bullet point for the fact sheet. Anyone interested in Scrabble is buying this game to out spell their arch nemesis. Scrabble for XBLA is a solid purchase, and probably the best addition to Family Game Night thus far. If you are a fan of the board game there is little reason not to snag this incredibly addiction, and online capable incarnation.