Pictionary: Ultimate Edition Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360
It’s a sign of our gaming times that more and more products are being gamified and stuck onto our television screens. No longer do you need to create a character with a spiky haircut or an amusing accent and send them off jumping over or onto danger. No more does level or arena design keep the coders up late into the night, crunching their little hearts out. Sometimes, just sometimes, one of your corporate bigwigs has a child friendly dinner party, makes a few calls, and then walks into the office the next day with a set of rules fresh from a board game and the licence to use them. And probably a latte, potentially a muffin – curse the one percent.
The latest real game to get this electronic love treatment is Pictionary, beloved of genital scribbling teens the world over. While several other games have received the Hasbro Family Game Night treatment over the years, anything that required pen and paper has been off the cards – until now! With THQ graciously inventing and then distributing the uDraw Tablet the whole world of ‘drawing stuff games’ (that’s a real technical term) has now been opened to the core market and some of them are actually quite fun.
For anyone who hasn’t played Pictionary before it’s a guessing game based around words - so far so charades. However, instead of jumping around and embarrassing yourself in front of your friends with ridiculous movements and furious grunting, in Pictionary you get to attempt to draw a picture your word for your team mates to guess. Evidently half the fun is found in dragging the folks who don’t know which end of the pencil is the right one into the mix, with even the simplest of concepts reduced to a series of hilariously confused lines and scribbles. Oh, and you need at least four people to play, otherwise it’s just not a party.
If you are not used to the uDraw Tablet then initially it can be quite hard to associate what you are drawing on the pad with what is appearing on the screen. Interestingly this does seem to be a generational issue, with younger players either keying in right away or taking very little time to click with the dissociation between the act of drawing and the finished picture. As you begin you may pine for a good old fashioned pencil and piece of paper, but the tablet is a great equaliser for a group of people new to it and nothing is quite as much fun as seeing the artist of the family reduced to a quivering wreck only just about able to draw a treasure map (or exam results, as someone who evidently didn’t enjoy school volunteered).
Returning to the video game iteration, the Classic mode of Pictionary gives you a straight port of that experience with all of the dice rolls and word cards taken care of on screen. The uDraw tablet keeps up with the frenetic scribbles you sometimes make for your hurried drawings as you try to keep to time, and the devs even saw fit to include touch gesture support as well as stylus drawing (probably for competitive Uncles fighting to complete their pictures on time). The game gives you a wide range of drawing tools as options, albeit nowhere near that of the Instant Artist suite. However you will generally not have time to make use of these options as you fight to complete your drawing and have it guessed within the proscribed minute and a half. The implementation as a whole works well, although there is a requirement to trust your fellow players when they have to close their eyes while the person who is waiting to draw receives their word. No way anyone is ever going to cheat there, huh?
If the Classic mode delivers what you expect, then the Mania mode actually manages to build on the core game and make relevant nods to the new delivery media. While essentially the same game, now when you move around the board each of the squares you land on is associated with a particular gimmick. These range from having to draw on a board that sometimes disappears into darkness (so you are drawing blind) to having to draw on a rotating screen. Rather than being annoying these are all excellent additions to Pictionary, adding to the overall replayability even if we would only recommend their use once you have somewhat mastered the uDraw on the normal mode first.
Pictionary is a great realisation of the board game in video game form and has the added benefit of requiring much less shelf space than the normal boxed version. While the uDraw tablet does take getting used to and does seem to now be treading on eggshells itself, for Pictionary it opens up a whole new avenue of play, and may even encourage your Granny to agree to a co-op session of a more shooty variety. If you’re lucky.