Reviewed: July 2, 2009
Released: March 18, 2009
Hasbro has been the preeminent name in family fun since the 1940's when the Hassenfeld Brothers – then known for school supplies – changed their business model to include toys and action figures. Most famous for classic toys like Mr. Potato Head, GI Joe, and My Little Pony.
As Hasbro continued to gain in popularity, they began acquiring the competition – most notably Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley, both known for successful board game franchises like Monopoly, Sorry, Life, and many more. Hasbro quickly became one of the largest gaming companies in the world – second only to Mattel – and enjoyed many years of success from their diversified brands.
But the world changes, and there is no doubt that the board game industry is floundering in the high tech arena of today. With videogames eating a large portion of the market share, and with popular homebrew versions of Scrabble and Boggle garnering huge attention of social networking sites like Facebook – Hasbro realized the need to enter the 21st century. And now we have Hasbro Family Game Night or the Xbox Live.
The concept of the Hasbro family night is pretty ingenious – offer video versions of the most popular family board games, sell them for at budget prices via the Xbox Live Arcade, and package them all up in an interactive living room themed interface called Family Game Night. As a family that enjoys sitting around a board game every now and then, we were more than happy to take a swing at one of our favorites – the king of word nerd games, Scrabble.
These reviews are going to be short, but sweet – simply because these licensed video versions are spot-on recreations of their brick-and-mortar (or is that cardboard-and-plastic) brethren. Really, the only difference there is between virtual reality and reality being the interactive control schemes and the animated motion sequences. The games also feature full support for Xbox Live avatars, as well as the Party system – resulting in a full-fledged online experience.
The father of all board games, Scrabble, makes its debut on Hasbro Family Game Night – and the results are incredible. Featuring the wildly popular Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition game board, all of the exciting and mind-bending Scrabble gameplay is delivered intact.
The game delivers an awesome single-player experience, as well as full-featured online excitement. The family really had a blast in team-based play against our friends in Chicago and Florida, and I often find my wife and kids playing Scrabble while I am off at the day job.
Visually, the game looks pretty good. There is an almost cel-shaded appearance to the isometric viewpoint, and with Mr. Potato Head acting as an animated Ring Master the result is engaging. Character avatars are in play, but only in the form of player cards rather than their more lifelike polygonal counterparts from the dashboard.
The sound is actually quite good, with an exciting blend of electronic background music that moves from tried and true electronica to some catchy electronic jazz – it is definitely sets a higher bar than the dreary music from similar Xbox Live titles UNO, Hardwood Hearts, and Hardwood Solitaire. The sound samples for movement of pawns is quite realistic, and the sound effects that accompany the onscreen actions fit the bill perfectly.
Scrabble is definitely the premiere offering in family game night, and even though a ll of the problems with the similarly-themed Boggle's controls are present, but given the fact that Scrabble is played at a much slower pace than Boggle, the inefficiencies are hardly noticeable.