A long time ago, board games were cultural artifacts that were, for all intents and purposes, timeless. They were immovable objects, unchanged even as generations of families would gather around to enjoy a fun evening of personal social interaction and fun. Today, times have changed. Clue has been modernized for a cell phone-and-tabloids status quo, while the visages of Master Chief and Mario adorn special editions of Risk and Monopoly, respectively.
Progress over the past several console generations has also given families the opportunity to plop down in front of the television rather than the kitchen or coffee table to play electronic versions of many of their favorite board games-this is the market EA and Hasbro were after when they threw their lot into the digital board game market with last year’s Hasbro Family Game Night. Although the question over whether there is a need to own digital versions of board games you’ve probably either at one point owned or still do is still a valid one, at least the original Game Night’s collection of games, which included favorites like Sorry!, Battleship, and Yahtzee!, was a good value, complete with EA’s typically high-end production values. Game Night 2 offers up a crop of (mostly) new board games in the same slick package, but the value of this year’s iteration is somewhat lacking, and at times the collection struggles to retain relevance when stacked up against its real-life counterparts.
This is largely because only a couple of the five games included in Game Night 2 are worthwhile in digital form (namely Connect 4×4 and Operation, the latter only being mildly entertaining), while two are odd choices for digital representations (Jenga and Bop It!, which I don’t even think can really even qualify as a board game). The last game, Pictureka!, is little more than a picture-hunting exercise which quickly loses its appeal even when playing with friends.
Like the original Game Night, there are also “party” modes in the form of the single-player High Score Challenge and the Mr. Potato-Head-hosted Family Game Show mode which you can play with multiple players. Both modes take varied challenges from the five games, mix them up in random order, and set you to work. High Score Challenge is exactly what it sounds like: score enough points to get multipliers, which can be cashed in between the mode’s ten round set. The higher the multipliers, the more points you can get, but at the cost of resetting your multiplier count back to zero. The game show mode is more or less the same idea, only players compete to take the majority of a circular game board by winning challenges. Be the first player to make it to one of the board’s quarter marks and you win that zone of the board-win the majority of zones to be the winner of this mode. It’s pretty straightforward stuff.
Another holdover from the original Game Night are the remix modes for each game, which basically take the rules of the game and twist them to make for a less traditional and potentially more interesting experience. For instance, Connect 4×4’s remix adds specialized slots on the game board that create bombs, reign down a hail of your colored chips, or take an extra turn; Operation adds shooting and pattern-based mini-games to its regular extraction proceedings; you’re tasked with taking certain colored blocks out of the titular Jenga tower; Bop It! has extra functions for you to repeat.
Though the remix modes make things a little more interesting, the classic game modes are kind of hit-or-miss. Operation involves twisting the Wii-mote to rotate the object you’re extracting through windows of the same shape. Pictureka! is played with an auto-rolling die that dictates the types of picture category you have to find objects from within a cluster of stylized drawings, with points awarded to faster completions.
In Jenga you highlight which block you want to pull out with the Wii-mote, manipulating and twisting the angle and force of your pulling action with surprisingly good motion controls (though the Jenga tower itself seems to be made of Jell-O). Connect 4×4 is basically Connect 4 with chips on both the front and back of the board, for up to four players. And then there’s Bop It!, a physical simon-says-type toy with various motions and actions to perform, dictated by a voice giving you instructions. Whether or not you can actually call Bop It! a board game is highly debatable, and manipulating a digital representation of the thing isn’t really fun. Its controls are also pretty suspect.
Aside from some of the game choices in Game Night 2 feeling a little off, the collection also seems to be mostly superfluous, and the games themselves not particularly rewarding. With a physical board game, there’s some value in the sheer physicality of manipulating the game pieces along the board; the experience, both in terms of game mechanics and the resulting social interaction, is its own reward. Translated to a digital medium, things feel flat-people engage with interactive mediums differently than physical games, and when you’re simply exchanging the real thing for polygonal representations of game pieces (with no added flourish, unlike, say, a Magic: The Gathering or D&D video game) the whole proceedings somehow lose some of their luster. The games in Game Night 2 are made and presented in a competent manner, but it seems like the kind of shorter-attention-span gameplay involved in simply competing for a high score on a screen doesn’t have the same kind of intrinsic value as playing a real board game. Needless to say, you (or your kids’) attention probably won’t be held for very long.
Some parents with kids who really like board games and video games may find some value in this one-the whole package is only $40-but I would wager the number of children that want to play with a virtual Bop It! is probably pretty low. For those few that are gung-ho about their virtual board games may appreciate the high-quality presentation here, but for everyone else, you’re not missing really anything by simply dusting off your physical board games. For once, keeping the TV turned off wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Game Night 2 may not be very interesting, but it sure looks pretty. 4.1 Control
Controls are generally not an issue unless you’re playing Bop It!, which you probably shouldn’t be doing anyway. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is a forgettable mixture of happy, if generic, kid-centric muzak. Mr. Potato Head doesn’t talk, but his utterances of excitement may start to grate on your nerves. 2.5
Most of the games here work fine, but the justification for playing digital representations of them is still highly questionable. You might be better off playing a real board game.
2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.