Hasbro Family Game Night DS Review

“Play your favourite games!” boasts the back of the box, complete with illustrative screenshot mock ups of Connect 4, Battleship, Operation and Bop It! Fair enough, board games are a great way to spend social time with family and friends, nothing better than a good punch up over Mayfair or rent disputes. Digital translations of the dice rolling, piece prodding, card shuffling past-time have been mightily successful often adding rather than detracting from the experience, just look at the adult market with Dawn of War, Blood Bowl, Space Hulk, Dungeons & Dragons and more WWII based strategy games than you can shake a fist full of D12 at. That is before you get onto the web-based time suckers that populate the Internets many social networking sites. So where does Family Game Night stand amongst this plethora of board game ports? Last time I saw it, huddled in a corner of the room, smelling faintly of wee and sick.

Reiterating the rules of these games would be like describing the colour of a banana so lets cut to the heart of this abomination:- Mr. Potato Head, your host, opponent, (if you have no friends) and glaring icon of poor coding. He stands or floats around the top screen throughout like a bloated nightmare caricature paedophile, constantly grinning with that ominous moustache, creepily staring with his bug-eyes regardless of the situation. Maybe yours truly has a problem with him, but I can’t imagine how this, ‘thing’ can be seen as anything other than unsettling. If this were not enough, the 3D animation is so poor that it makes you feel embarrassment by proxy just looking at it. It’s a horrible mess of missing frames, jerky movements, disappearing randomly and clipping through the 2D drawn animals that accompany him during each game. At least the creatures are vaguely amusing, ranging from a googly eyed crab in Battleship, a deranged twitching cat in Bop It! and a caffeine stuffed space mouse spasming away during Operation. Connect 4s bouncing ball of a tropical bird is not that disturbing, but at least someone had a sense of humour making these little guys. They represent different backgrounds, of which there are three for each game, the only offering or incentive to replay.

Not that you will. Everything about the game screams for a drop of love, even just one. The menu system is clunky, laggy and plain ugly with its lilac and cyan colour scheme, Mr. Potato Head hovering ominously on the top screen. This is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. Getting into games is a laborious exercise of patience:- select profile -> single, wireless or pass play multiplayer -> select game or look at unlocks -> select game options -> select game location. If you are playing ‘pass play’ then you have to select a profile for player two EVERYTIME. Clearly setting up a play list, being able to switch games after completing one, or even something as simple as selecting the profile BEFOREHAND was beyond the developers feeble grasp of UI design. Finishing or exiting puts you back to the main menu forcing you to go through the whole process, again, often resulting in hair loss or being beaten with a blunt object by your fellow player. For each game there is a choice of AI level and between standard play or special mode. Connect 4 offers a Power Chip mode which includes the use of ‘bombs’ to wipe out chips. Bop It! has the same options as the original, sequential and combo. Battleships offers the largest set of options with both normal and Salvo mode, (where you can fire 5 missiles per turn) plus the option of Super Weapons for either. Operation only lets you change the amount of items and the time limit. None of these extra knobs do anything to mask the fact that the gameplay is practically non-existent, inciting depression, not excitement.

Connect 4 completely loses the charm of dropping chips into a plastic grid with weedy sound effects, more like dropping a polystyrene block into a mattress, bombs or not. Bop It! is a complete mockery of the original game, the actions being translated into touch screen gestures and when used with the mic ‘shout it’, seems to be bugged, or doesn’t like my rip roaring Scottish accent. The sound is muddy making the ‘Beat’ Bop It! mode impossible initially but at least the touch screen controls seem to work reasonably well. However, Mr. Potato Head will attempt to break-dance while you play, so all is lost. Battleship however is again, probably the stand out game, well, the most faithfully recreated one at least. Cute little 10×10 board complete with rocking ships, but the top screen is again plagued by Mr. Potato Head and his mental 2D animal critter. Why was the top screen not employed for your board or your opponents? Is potato face getting paid for this gig, some type of ‘time on screen per min’ contract? Laughably poor, ‘epic’ naval war music more reminiscent of Starfox than Battleships is out of place, as is the rubbish whistling missiles and explosions. Operation is almost not even worth talking about due to its terrible controls, laggy mini game to keep the patient alive and irritating music, almost as bad as the menu track. Guiding objects through the horribly drawn, pixelated body maze is frustrating due to the extremely imprecise touch screen response, the algorithm seems to be stone drunk, much like the monkey that coded it I expect. Gameplay central, we have a problem.

The element that rounds the whole stinking package off is that not only is it about as much fun as grating your fingers, but that you can only play with ONE friend by pass play or wireless. Hang on, it is called “Family Game Night”, right? Not, “Couple Game Night” or “Visitor Game Night”. Other than Battleship, the other games could easily have had 4 player options, it is just plain lazy. However, seeing as the game was exhausted after 15-mins, not an evening in my books, this would be like dividing sheep poo up into 4, tying them up with lilac and cyan ribbons before putting them in a gift box. Sure, now 4 of you can indulge but its still small bits of barely disguised poo. Considering that any of the original games can be bought today for £10 or less, there is no reason for this diabolic digital hell spawn. If there was a mini game where you could murder Mr. Potato Head in amusing ways I might forgive it, but there is not. The only worthy application of this title is as a fuel source during the apocalypse. In fact, don’t wait until then. If you are unfortunate enough to see it, kindly explain the situation to the shop keeper and exorcise it.

With fire.