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 game of words called Boggle.
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.
Boggle is one of the most underrated word games in the history of word games, period. It's utter simplicity of chaining together words from a random array of letters – all while on the clock – is the recipe for fun for a unique set of word nerds. Sadly, this virtual version does absolutely nothing to help the cause with its incredibly awkward controls that make navigating the game board an utter pain.
Otherwise, the game pretty much a spot-on version of the original – right down to the analog shaking of the virtual game board to shuffle up the lettered dice. The game has a comprehensive dictionary that still has not been stumped, even by the likes of my language major of a wife, Amy. The game even delivers a post-round list of possible words that were missed.
Visually, the game gets the job done – with the dice looking respectfully three dimensional and realistically rounded like the actual game pieces. Mr. Potato Head leads the festivities and is constantly hopping around in the background during gameplay.
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.
Really the game's major downfall is the clunky controls, which make navigating the grid an exercise in frustration and all but cripples the fast-paced gameplay of the board game.