One might have thought that Hasbro - the makers of almost every family-centric board game imaginable - would be struggling for IPs to mine for this third outing of their Family Game Night series. Having already had releases featuring Battleship, Boggle, Connect Four, Sorry!, Yahtzee, Bop It, Pictureka!, Jenga, Connect 4 and Operation, it seems the library of rainy day dice and spinner games isn't yet empty and EA are keen to capitalise.
That's not to say this is a sloppy third outing for the evergreen casual title - far from it, as the team at EA have done another bang up job of what it has to work with, taking board games that are systematically complex, rooted in their physicality and more than a little stuffy and converting them for the home electronic entertainment unit to (largely) great effect. For your - most likely just prior to Christmas - money, digital adaptations of The Game of Life, Cluedo, Twister, Mouse Trap and Yahtzee Hands Down are included on the disc, all available for up to four players to take part in. There’re some 'dress up Mr. Potato Head' antics too if you're interested, but you're reading a review on a video games website, so you probably aren't... moving on...
Cluedo, Mouse Trap and Yahtzee Hands Down have worked out just fine: players take their turns to roll, watch their pieces move along the board, make simple decisions and pass the Wii Remote onto the next player (or not, if you're fancy and have multiple controllers), with slick animations accompanying the proceedings that don't outstay their welcome. EA have nailed that fine line between canned animations spicing up a potentially dry digital board game experience and those same animations becoming intrusive of a smooth flow of play. Many of the interludes can be skipped, characters move round the boards quickly and everything has a great sense of pace about it, keeping the attention of you (and no doubt your siblings, grandparents, family friends, et al) for extended periods of time.
Though Hasbro Family Game Night Vol. 3 won't blow you away visually, it is bright and vibrant and the textures are surprisingly good. If I were being hyperbolic - and I am - I'd say the graphics engine renders cheap plastic accessories better than any other game out there right now - you can quote me on that! Where it does get a little rough is in the on-screen avatars of your opponents. Though human players use their Miis to represent them, the AI utilises what look like Mii knock offs - let's call them Mees - which contain oddly polygonal features, looking mighty rough when stood beside their official cousins. The Mees I experienced seemed randomly created, such was their misshapen visage and, though looks aren't everything, looking at what can only be described as a 'gurning harridan' for the best part of half an hour, is a little off-putting.
Clearly the stand out game in the collection though is The Game Of Life which translates, with very little tampering, incredibly well to Nintendo's white slab of smiles. If you've never played it, the basic idea is that you live out an entire lifetime in an hour long game, making big life choices such as going to university, having children, buying a home and so on, with the aim to reach the end with the most money. Think The Sims but with more structure and less drowning. The scope for self-made stories and ability to instigate conversation between players is excellent, well suiting the casual audience that will have their eye on picking this up. Twister is another matter, a very weak Bemani / Simon Says clone that has shockingly little to do with the exquisite teenage game of a plastic floor sheet, left hand green, right hand red and 'accidentally' falling on top of Becky Waters who lives down the road from you and who you secretly totally fancy, but don't know how to ask her out without ruining your friendship and alienating the rest of her mates.
Great recreations of the original games, simple controls and a rapid rate of play.
Barring a few cut corners, this is a polished visual experience producing a Cluedo that's clean and crisp.
The satisfying sound of plastic on plastic action, good quality music, Mr Potato Head has never sounded better.
You'll bust this out to entertain younger family members year after year.
A great third volume then for the Hasbro Family Game Night series, one for painfully sober social occasions with relatives, young and old. The refined framework, ease of access for all levels of skill and the colourful style ensures a great looking, stress free experience for all involved, combining a bunch of entertaining board games into one neat package.