IGN Review of Ultimate Board Game Collection
No one seems to like chess any more. That's the vibe right now in the Nintendo nation, at least, as fan reaction to the upcoming
Wii Chess has been lukewarm at best – the idea of paying 30 bucks for a physical Wii game disc and only finding one board game available therein seems to not be sitting too well with most people's wallets. Well, increasing the number of available games doesn't seem to help. Ultimate Board Game Collection offers 11 other classic board games like checkers, backgammon and Reversi in addition to chess – but suffers from a poor presentation and lack of energy all around. Maybe you'd be better off just digging through the closet and getting out your old real world chess set.
Ultimate Board Game Collection is a title that first
came to the PlayStation 2 back in 2006, and then
went to the PSP early last year. As a portable game, it made more sense – after all,
Clubhouse Games took the same concept and created an amazing collection of parlor games for the Nintendo DS. But on the PS2 and again, here on the Wii, it's a confusing package. If you're going to be sitting at home anyway, why not just play with a tangible game set?
And even more odd is this Collection's selection, which has seen the overall number of games considerably reduced. Whereas the PlayStation installments offered over 20 different designs, this Wii version only has twelve.
They're separated into three categories – Classic, Family and Strategy. Choosing the Classic menu brings up your choice of the four games already mentioned up above – chess, checkers, Reversi and backgammon. Family offers jigsaw puzzles, Chinese Checkers, Wordcubes (you know it as Boggle) and Naval Battle (a.k.a. Battleship). Strategy rounds things out with Mahjong, a generic version of Connect Four, Sudoku puzzles and Gomoku, which is a game also sometimes called Pente.
Most of these games are time-tested classics, and the strength of their designs is unquestionable. And Ultimate Board Game Collection does a fine job at properly presenting the standard rules and feel for most of them. But there are exceptions – Naval Battle, for example, seems like it's meant to be a clone of the traditional board game classic, Battleship. But it isn't turn-based – instead, it's a race against the computer (or a friend) to see who can bomb the most grid squares the fastest, with little strategy left to it at all. It's a design decision that effectively ruins the game.
Also questionable is the Sudoku implementation, which buzzes at you if you place a number incorrectly. The whole point of Sudoku is to figure out where the numbers go by yourself – if you're alerted every time you make a mistake, it defeats half of the purpose of playing in the first place. As it is, you can just keep picking numbers and placing them in the same open grid square until the game gives you the "correct" bell. My morning newspaper doesn't have that feature, and I think most players would prefer its absence.
Basic gesturing and pointing with the Wii Remote is used to play each game in Ultimate Board Game Collection, which could be called an advancement over the game's early iterations on PlayStation hardware. This aspect, though, is also sometimes flawed – selecting tiles in Mahjong, for instance, can demand a bit too much precision on your part. The game will buzz at you with a sharp, harsh tone (again, like in the Sudoku design) if you press the A Button while hovering over a locked tile.
And speaking of sound, the music that plays in the background throughout all of these games is one continuous, looping mix of three odd songs. It's some kind of techno/classical mash-up with sections that bleed into one another in such a way that the sound never drops out, but it's confusing to listen to. There's a woman's voice included, too, that speaks the phrase "Can I start again?" every few minutes. Is that intentional? It's impossible to tell. Maybe the sound designer for the game was unsatisfied with her work, asked if she could start over, and was rejected in her request – then somehow managed to accidentally include a recording of herself asking the question in the very music she was dissatisfied with.
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