Hasbro Family Game Night
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-11-18 PS2 Party E (Everyone) EA

Back in 1998, Hasbro Games developed their "Family Game Night" campaign, which targeted busy families with the goal being to encourage parents and their children to take one night each week out of their hectic schedules to spend some quality time together playing one of Hasbro's various board games. Now ten years later, their campaign is still running strong, and in an effort to further help those who have little time for family bonding, Hasbro has partnered with EA to bring six of their most popular board games to life on the PS2.

Being that most physical board games take some time to set up, it only makes sense to release digital versions to the public that take but a few button presses to set into motion, thereby saving families even more time in getting to the fun. Hasbro Family Game Night combines five fan favorites: Yahtzee, Battleship, Boggle, Connect Four and Sorry! with the all-new Sorry! Sliders to offer a versatile mix in a very easy to pick up and play setting.

With Mr. Potato Head as your guide, players are led through a very simple player creation process that allows you to pick a name and an avatar to represent you through gameplay. Afterwards, it's onto the fun as you are taken to your virtual homestead, complete with a modern living room featuring a massive coffee table that serves as your playing surface, a large trophy wall, and a mechanical set of cabinets that store all of your gaming goodies.

There are two basic sets of menus within the game. The first allows you to choose from one of the six games available within the title. Once you choose a game from your cabinet, you are brought to the living room where each game is set up with virtually no loading times and allows you to jump right in against either computer opponents (with varying skill levels) or other real-world players.

Each game comes equipped with a fairly deep range of options, with basics such as opponent difficulty being available choices for all games, along with game specific options such as including power chips in Connect Four that can double your score, block your opponent from playing a chip in a particular column and so on. Another example is the inclusion of special cards in Sorry! like the "sideswipe" card that advances a token of your choosing to the next corner of the game board, wiping out everyone in your path, but the options really do go on and on.

Luckily, with such a depth of gameplay modes and options, the title comes equipped with in-game instructions and hints, if you wish to utilize them. However, if you are already completely familiar with one or all of the games, you can skip this feature altogether and get straight to the gameplay.

Each game comes with an intuitive set of controls, some with as few as three buttons to concentrate on. Obviously, X is the action button throughout the title, with either circle or triangle canceling an action, depending on the game, and the analog stick performing most of the movement within each.

Apart from the games themselves, the second set of menus within the game contains the more technical aspects of the title, such as game save and load options, along with giving you access to the various prizes that you'll invariably win throughout gameplay.

These prizes consist of various pieces of furniture or decorative accessories which can be used to spruce up your home's d??cor, with each item fitting a particular game's theme. For instance, Boggle themed items like pillows or mugs include the game's familiar grid-like pattern, while Sorry! items tend to include colorful patterns made up of variations of the game's player pieces.

While these items aren't necessary for the continuation of gameplay, they are a nice touch, especially for those like me who love receiving every unlockable or completing every side quest within a game. The process of unlocking said items can be compared to the system of achievements found on the Xbox 360. Each item is unlocked after achieving a certain status or performing a certain action during gameplay, such as completely decimating your opponents using a set amount of Sorry cards within one game, or completing a game of Boggle using a specific amount of three-letter words. Unlike 360 achievements however, there is no list letting you know what you need to do to receive the next prize, meaning that you'll just have to keep playing until you figure it out.

Similarly, the game's trophy system works in the same way, by challenging you to complete certain tasks to receive various trophies, but won't actually tell you what those tasks are. Unfortunately, this does create a bit of frustration after you've played the same game dozens of times and have received nothing, but at the same time also creates a great sense of accomplishment when you do finally unlock one or all of them.

Since the entire title is very focused on repeatedly playing each game, it's a lucky thing that everything looks and sounds as good as it does. With an overall pallet of intense colors from every part of the rainbow, along with very futuristic lines in terms of both your game room's structure and the menu system itself, I often found myself quite impressed with what EA has been able to present on the now mostly abandoned PS2.

Furthermore, it seems as though the sound department received just as much attention, as the entire game sounds very realistic. That is, when moving your pieces around the Sorry! board, for instance, it actually sounds as though you were moving along a cardboard game board. Likewise, when scrambling the letter cubes in Boggle or shaking the dice cup in Yahtzee, each action is accompanied by very realistic sound effects that make each experience all the more engaging.

As well as sharing the overall look of the compilation, each individual game also comes with multiple creative touches, like sparkles and fanfare when you connect four of your chips in Connect Four, or the subtle blips and other sound effects of each player's sonar during Battleship.

All the while, your action is followed by Mr. Potato Head, who has numerous sound effects of his own, and who reacts appropriately whether you are winning or losing your current game. Another constant is the mix of electronic and pop music that plays throughout. While each song is fairly repetitive, as to not distract from the gameplay proper, they are also quite catchy and had me humming along on more than a few occasions.

In the end, Hasbro Family Game Night has everything going for it. While EA could have easily thrown together some sloppy gameplay and stuck Hasbro's name on it to cash in on a few dollars, instead care was obviously shown, resulting in a fun compilation perfect for both families with little time or room for the real deal, or for single players, like myself, who can never seem to find another real world player who's willing to come to the table.

Special thanks to Alexis Mervin and EA for providing a copy of this title.