Reviewed: November 27, 2011
Released: November 1, 2011
The Hasbro Family Game night franchise started in 2009 as a series of individual game releases via the PlayStation Network (PSN). Priced at $10 each, these virtual versions of the popular board games Sorry!, Sorry! Sliders, Battleship, Scrabble, Boggle, Yahtzee, and Connect 4 were fun, but a bit hard to cost-justify. A year later, Hasbro added versions of Pictureka!, Jenga, and Connect 4x4 to the PSN list, and shortly thereafter shipped a retail release called Family Game Night 3 (1 and 2 were already attributed to Wii retail releases) which included The Game of Life, Clue, Twister, Mouse Trap, and Yahtzee Hands Down.|
In late 2010 Hasbro joined forces with the Discovery Channel, redubbing Discovery’s Discovery Kids cable channel as The Hub, featuring content based on Hasbro properties; cartoons like (My Little Pony, Transformers, GI Joe) and a live-action game show based called Family Game Night. Similar to the Nickelodeon game shows, The Hub’s Family Game Night has teams of families competing in action-based challenges themed around Hasbro’s trademark board games – having family members play larger-than-life versions of the shuffleboard/curling game Sorry! Sliders and bowling with giant-sized balls and multi-faceted pins in Yahtzee Bowling. Family Game Night 4: The Game Show attempts to recreate the excitement of the game show by allowing gamers to take part in a handful of the televised challenges, but ultimately falls flat due to lackluster presentation, monotonous gameplay, and questionable PlayStation Move integration.
Family Game Night 4: The Game Show starts just as it should – booting up with an opening sequence similar to the The Hub’s popular game show. The game asks players to pick a team (red or yellow) and then the character they would like to represent them from a limited selection of generic clones of various ethnicities. I cannot believe I am saying this, but this was one of those times I actually wished that PSN had a form of three-dimensional avatar character (like the Wii and Xbox do) so I could have some sense of bonding with my character rather than the boring plain-Jane folks that are offered up.
Players are allowed to choose to either play through a virtual game show, or to take on the challenges individually. This is accomplished via a central hub platform from which characters rotate to the desired selection. Offering a total of five challenges for gamers to participate in – Connect 4, Basketball, Boggle Flash, Bop It! Boptagon, Yahtzee Bowling, and Sorry! Sliders – the variety is seriously limited given the fact that most challenges take a minute or less to complete.
Bop-It Boptagon places gamers under an archway (the Boptagon!) adorned with oversized accoutrements from the Bop-It contraption. The announcer shouts commands like “Twist It!” and “Bop It!” and the gamer has to either press the correct buttons on the Six Axis controller or perform the associated motions with the Move controller, upon which the onscreen avatar makes the appropriate motion.
Scrabble Flash (aka Boggle) presents gamers with five letters, and challenges them to come up with the more (and longer) words than the competition. It is important to note that much like the real game of Boggle, full value is given just for adding an “s” to the end of existing words (nouns that is), so a word like “DOG” will garner 3 points, while “DOGS” is worth 4. It is a smart strategy to use this during single-player, but during the turn-based multiplayer game this can often pose a bit of an unfair advantage to the leading player.
Yahtzee Bowling is a bit like a traditional bowling title, except that aim and speed are pretty much insignificant since the purpose is to push a giant ball and knock over five giant-sized multi-faced pins that have been labeled on each of their six sides with dots corresponding to the six sides of a dice. The gamer is presented with the outcome of each roll and is tasked with holding or re-rolling to achieve the best Yahtzee round – the team with the highest score being the winner.
Connect 4 Basketball is the highlight of the game, with players shooting basketballs at a row of basketball hoops aligned over the columns of a standard Connect 4 matrix. While this may sound pretty basic the fact that the basketball can bounce off the rim and end up in a different cell than intended adds a sense of risk to the game. The game can be played either turn-based alternating between players or as a time-based free-for-all. Turn based definitely adds a sense of strategy as gamers open and block row and column combinations, whereas the time-based variation generally boils down to whoever can shoot four shots in the same column the quickest.
Family Game Night: The Game Show’s final offering is Sorry! Sliders, which as mentioned earlier is a Sorry! themed variation of the Canadian sport of curling. We have seen this in prior versions of Family Game Night, but this time it is presented under the ruse of the televised game show.
And that is precisely where Family Game Night falls flat on its face; presentation. There is little doubt that Family Game Night was developed with Wii owners in mind and ported up to the PS3 and Xbox consoles. It shows in the poor visual quality, which is barely on par with a PS2 title, and in the PlayStation Move control mechanics which are sketchy at best if not altogether broken at times. While the box art shows support for both the ball-ended Move Motion Controller and the shorter Move Navigation Controller, I was never able to make it work with both. In fact, I found that if I wanted to use the motion controller at all, I had to turn off all other controllers as the game seems to default to the SIXAXIS first, the Move Navigation controllers second, and Move controllers third. And don’t try to use the Navigation Controller alone as it does not have all of the face buttons, so Bop-It! will not work.
But that’s only the start, as every game that used motion input seemed to be only getting about half of the signal required. I repositioned my PlayStation Eye camera numerous times switching back and forth from near to far and never once felt like things were meshing. We turned the lights up, the lights down and nothing seemed to work. Connect 4 basketball – which was supposed to play like Wii Sports Resort’s basketball title – was nowhere near as fluid as it should have been, and there was absolutely no finesse to be found in Sorry! Sliders or Yahtzee Bowling.
If that weren’t enough, given the fact that most games consist of three rounds or less, it will take gamers roughly 20 minutes to see everything that Family Game Night: The Game Show has to offer. While some games have gameplay variations available when selected individually, the changes are not enough to warrant any extended play – especially with the control issues that all-but make it impossible to achieve any degree of mastery.
As a fan of the original Family Game Night fare, I found myself utterly disappointed with Family Game Night 4: The Game Show. The short-format gameplay is too brief to to warrant a full release (at any price), and the lackluster presentation and horrid controls only make it worse. Over the many decades of its existence, Hasbro has done a lot of things right, Family Game Night 4: The Game Show is not one of them.