Reviewed: August 26, 2006
Reviewed by: Mark Smith

Microsoft Games Studios

Carbonated Games

Released: May 25, 2006
Genre: Cards
Players: 1-4
ESRB: Everyone


Supported Features:

  • HDTV 1080i
  • Voice
  • Custom Soundtracks
  • Leaderboards
  • Marketplace Content
  • Xbox Live Aware

    Screenshots (Click Image for Gallery)

  • UNO is one of those enigmas that defies explanation. It’s one of those games you play when you are five or six years old and learning to recognize numbers and colors, but don’t be surprised to find college age kids and even adults playing this game like they had big money on the table.

    UNO itself is so simple that it can’t possibly be the game that deserves such a dedicated following, therefore it has to be the party aspect of the game and the rules which encourage you to “stick it” to your friends while you socialize. Over the years the game has evolved and now incorporates player-defined rules and options for a much wider variety of gameplay scenarios.

    With Microsoft’s mandate to make Xbox Live the premiere online gaming destination, it’s only natural that they’ve brought UNO into the Live Arcade line-up. The 360 is more than capable of offering one of the more colorful variations of the game ever seen, and there is no denying that it is much easier to play UNO when you don’t have to worry about keeping track of a massive deck of cards.

    UNO offers three variations, the standard UNO game with four players with the computer filling in for any non-human slots. There is Partner UNO where you team up with another player to challenge two others. And then you have House Rules UNO where you can customize up to ten settings (or rules) to create your own unique variation of the game.

    Gameplay is so easy a preschooler could play (and they often do). Each player is dealt a hand of cards that contain various numbers and symbols. Each player then takes turns playing a card into the center pile. That card must match either the color or the number of the last card played.

    There are Wildcards, Reverse, Skip, and Draw Two cards that you can also play. Wildcards can be played at anytime to change the color, but if you play a Wildcard while you have another colored card you could play to match suit, you might be challenged. There is also a Wildcard that force the next player to draw four cards. You can also play a Draw Two card that forces the next player to draw two cards or a Skip card to skip the next player. And finally, there is also a Reverse card that toggles the rotation of the player order.

    If a player cannot play a matching card and has no Wildcard they draw a card from the deck and play continues to the next player. This continues until one player is out of cards, but there is one small catch. When a player gets down to their last card they must call out “UNO”, or in this case tap the X button. Failure to do so before another player challenges you and you will be forced to draw two cards.

    Calling UNO definitely becomes more of an issue with human opposition since the computer is either really good about calling it even before the card slides to the center, or gives you ample time to challenge them with the Y button. Playing the computer is especially brutal since the computer opponents seem to gang up on the human. I’ve seen cards played that defy odds and logic as two or even three computer opponents will play Skip and Reverse cards with uncanny perfection virtually shutting me out of the game for a four or five card run.

    Once somebody is out of cards the value of the hands of the other players are tallied up and the winner earns that amount of points. Play traditionally continues until somebody gets to 250 points, although you are free to tweak these rules. Again, the computer almost seems to have an unfair advantage. It took me more than 20 games before I won my first 250-point victory.

    UNO supports future downloadable content and there is already a 35 Year Anniversary deck available for free download that even sneaks in a few clever rules. The Wildcard in this game actually forces the next player to play either a 3 or a 5 and if you don’t have one of those cards you draw a card and play continues to the next player until somebody can play one of those two cards.

    UNO is probably one of the more colorful games in the entire Xbox Live Arcade selection of games. The backgrounds are stunning with vibrant colors and the cards all look just like their real-life counterparts. There is fluid animation as the cards are dealt and slide into the center of the pile.

    The overall interface is exquisitely simple. Cards are sorted by order of their point value and the highest scoring card is automatically selected for play, but you are free to override. Face button prompts appear in the lower corner indicating when to call UNO, draw a card, or make a challenge.

    The arc around each player’s hand lights up indicating whose turn it is and arrows around the center pile indicate the direction of play. Things get even fancier when you load up the 35th Anniversary deck and streamers spiral down and everything gets much more festive.

    There is a modest selection of music, mostly atmospheric and trance-like tunes that slip into the background. I had to focus on the music to even notice it just so I could comment on it here. There is fully support for custom soundtracks so you can listen to whatever you like while you play.

    The rest of the sound package is highly synthesized noises for cards being shuffled and moved around as well as an almost song-like calling out of UNO as well as positive and negative sounding tunes for successful and failed challenges.

    UNO, like most card games (other than solitaire) is best played with friends of the human persuasion. Xbox Live makes that almost too easy and there are hundreds, if not thousands of people playing this game online just about anytime you could possibly want to join or create a game session.

    There are 12 Achievements worth the standard 200 points and they range from extremely easy, like winning a single game, to the incredibly difficult, like winning a game without ever drawing a single card. 40 seems to be the magic number since other achievements include winning 40 games, playing 40 Skip cards, playing four Reverse cards, playing 40 Draw Two cards…you get the idea. None of these achievements are particularly difficult to get; they just require a lot of gameplay to eventually unlock.

    UNO is a fantastic game perfectly suited for the Xbox 360 that will delight kids and adults, the same people who probably already play it with real cards. While the computer opposition might be a bit overwhelming (I swear the computer cheats), the online play with leaderboards and voice chatting makes for a great social environment that will keep you entertaining and online for countless hours.

    Expect a lot more competition and a whole new way to play when the Xbox 360 camera arrives later this year with UNO as part of the bundle. Now you can actually see the people you are playing, which may or may not be a good thing.