Family Games Review—Substitute?
Icon Games is known for producing Minis with almost inextinguishable lifespans. Their existing Minis, Arcade Darts and Arcade Air Hockey & Bowling, are sports titles, and generally, sports titles possess good lifespan as long as they are not broken.
Family Games is not a sports title. It’s a collection of pen-and-paper games (with the exception of matchsticks), totaling eight games packed into this Mini. Still, this game possesses the same attribute as the previous Icon Games Minis: replayability. Now, could the games in Family Games replace their real life counterparts? Could a video game replace real life activities? I would hope not; however, Family Games can.
Family Games’ interface looks like crumpled paper with randomly drawn doodles or smileys all over the playing field/board. Sometimes it serves as a distraction from the game itself, but I don’t find it annoying, anyway. Win or lose, there is a special animation after each game, and it’s quite humorous and creative. This game is jam-packed with content, but I experienced no hiccups, freezes or lags.
I know most of the people eyeing this game are looking forward to Hangman. If you are one of them, stop reading and buy this game already. I find this Mini’s word database robust, and there are several categories to choose from, namely Words, Stars, Music, Movies, Heroes ‘N’ Villains, TV Shows, Kid TV, and Dog Breeds. That’s a lot, right? But, get this, even if you finally found a repeating word (would be a long time before that happened), you could always choose the “Enter Word” option. You ask somebody to enter a word and then pass it back to you. The input becomes the word for your Hangman session. I believe that this feature is for multiplayer, but certainly it can be used to further lengthen the lifespan of Family Games by allowing you to randomly ask people for words.
And yes, you can add time limits (15, 30 and 45 seconds) for added thrills, and there is a Challenge Mode also. Challenge Mode is exactly like a survival mode.
Before you start any of the turn-based games, there is a well-animated micro-game to decide who goes first: Rock-Paper-Scissors. Though it does not have any fancy gameplay (it is just pressing directional buttons before the 3-second time limit expires), it does add to the charm of the game.
Three of the four games that require the Rock-Paper-Scissors micro-game are Squares, Noughts & Crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe) and Morris. I group the three together because they are somewhat similar gameplay-wise, and their game options are similar, too. You can change the size of the grid or the difficulty level, add some time limits and also create a “best of n rounds” series.
The BattleFleet game plays like Battleship. Well, it is Battleship. The Easy AI in this particular game is ridiculously incompetent, but the Hard makes up for it. BattleFleet shares the same customization as the games mentioned above. Safecracker is Mastermind. It does not offer any additional modes except for timed games. Connect Four, I mean, 4 in a Row has the most varied game modes, from turn timers to score ruling. Matchsticks is the only radically different game here. The selection of puzzles in Matchsticks is pretty basic. If you actually play this game in real life, you can breeze through it.
Certainly, I don’t need to explain how these games are played. If you don’t know anything about the games included here, there is an Instructions section in the game that helps a lot, with illustrations. The profile system is very deep. There is a Work Report for each profile, where win-loss record, checklist of defeated AI levels and Matchsticks completion record are tabulated. The game can store four profiles for the multiplayer (hotseat multiplayer). Wouldn’t it be cool to play BattleFleet on ad-hoc? Hey, isn’t it simpler just to get some paper and do it there?
Here comes the main problem of the game: can it replace its real life counterparts? Yes, it can, I guess. But do we really have to? The game does benefit from the portable nature of the PSP, so you can just take it anywhere, but even so, it seems like it can also be done with pen and paper. Nonetheless, the game is smooth and oozing with value. Nothing much to complain about, but still it doesn’t offer anything we can’t get from playing it somewhere else. Well, there is an achievement section in Family Games.