Gameplay: This is a collection of virtual versions of five well-known family games: Operation, Jenga, Bop It, Pictureka and Connect 4x4. Each game can be played in a manner approximating the real world format or in a 'remixed' interpretation with aspects only possible in a computer game.
- Operation - Extract unlikely items from a patient by quickly and carefully pointing and twisting the wiimote. The remixed version includes additional stages, such as scrubbing wounds.
- Jenga - Use flicks of the wiimote to pull blocks out of a tower without it falling down. Extra features include bomb blocks which must be removed quickly before they explode.
- Bop It - Press buttons and shake the wiimote as instructed without messing up.
- Pictureka - Hunt through a jumbled mass of doodles to look for specific pictures or a set number of a certain type of item. Remix makes things harder, giving only the silhouette or the sound of what you're looking for.
- Connect 4x4 - In Connect 4, two players take it in turns to drop discs of their own colour into a vertical grid, attempting to get four in a row in any direction. Connect 4x4 requires four players and uses three different kinds of counter: rings, discs and double-thickness blockers. The grid is two counters deep, with rings going down one side, discs the other and blockers both at once. This means that each position in the grid can have a ring of one colour and a disc of another, leading to all kinds of strategic complications.
Solo players can play against the computer or take on the High Score Challenge in a selection of mini-games based on the five main games. With multiple players, a Family Game Show is available. In this, success in mini-games brings extra lives for a final challenge which decides the ultimate winner.
The whole package is presented by Mr or Mrs Potato Head. Doing well in specific challenges wins new accessories to dress them up.
Difficulty: Children under seven may struggle with the fine movement required to play everything other than Connect 4x4 and Bop It. Bop It will have even adults pulling out their hair in exasperation.
Save System: Progress and rewards are associated with Miis rather than actual save game slots. When a player wins a reward, it is automatically saved for use with the Mii they're playing with at the time.
Comments: At first glance, turning board games into computer games seems crazy. The main point of board games is to get families away from the TV and sitting round a table together. Also, much of the fun of board games is in being able to touch and feel. Counting the money in Monopoly might be a pain but the whole reason for playing is the prospect of being able to wave a huge wadge of notes at your opponents. Even with the waggling options presented by a wiimote, that kind of thing is hard to replicate.
On closer inspection, however, there are a few possible advantages to board game conversions:
- An entire shelf of entertainment can be squeezed onto one disc. (Which, believe me, is becoming more of an attraction all the time as the kids get older and my house is filled with Gogo's and LEGO.)
- The computer can make up the numbers when extra players are needed.
- Laborious set up is avoided. (Good news if you've ever attempted Jenga with a child and spent more time stacking than playing.)
- Cheating is much more difficult.
- The computer can keep track of the score.
- The game can be expanded in new ways.
- It's impossible to lose pieces down the back of the sofa.
Pictureka, meanwhile, gains and loses in equal measure. The Wii can shuffle the doodles around in a way impossible with a 'proper' copy of the game and it can also fairly judge who found an item first. Control is somewhat fiddly and frustrating, though.
Things start to fall apart after that. Operation, Bop It and Jenga are very tactile games. Much of their appeal is lost in translation. Using the wiimote to approximate the normal lever-pulling actions in Bop It brings a level of abstraction that takes away any fun. It's simply hard work. Without physical feedback, Jenga becomes more luck than judgement. Operation, at least, has been sensibly stylised to make it more suited to life on the Wii but unfortunately this means it doesn't actually feel that much like Operation.
Happily, these problems are less of an issue in the bite-sized mini-games, meaning the Family Game Show is still playable. Nonetheless, most players seem to opt for Connect 4x4 whenever possible. Despite being the hardest of the five games to explain, it's easiest to pick up and play. It's also much less of a lottery than the others, particularly for newbies. (Jenga and Bop It are impossible without practice.)
All in all, the selection of games isn't what it should be. That said, there's still fun to be had. Children obsess over collecting parts for Mr Potato Head and the Game Show is organised so that everyone stays in with a chance until the end.
It's just a shame about Bop It...
Conclusion: A mixed bag but worth considering for Connect 4x4 alone.
Graphics: Perfectly adequate for the task in hand.
Length: Solo play isn't going to hold anyone's attention long but the multiplayer can keep kids entertained for days. Connect 4x4 is the only game with really lasting appeal, though.