July 17, 2012 5 Comments
Board games. I love them. But as video games? I’m not so sure. Some games, like chess, are way over-produced. Did I really need chess on my PlayStation Vita? Do I really need two version of Scrabble on my iPhone? That’s ignoring that most of the best board games use “house rules” that aren’t generally an option when you play them digitally. No money for Free Parking, no starting in a room in Clue, no increasing the value of V in Scrabble. But what really irks me is how few video board games there are out there that could only exist as video games. Mario Party is still around, which I really adored as a kid. As an adult, I see that it’s a game that doesn’t put a heavy premium in skill. In fact, outcomes are generally determined by plain old luck to such a degree that it might as well be called Mario Bingo. However, there are nine console Mario Parties now. Obviously there is a market for this thing, and not just because it has “Mario” in the title. Let’s say Nintendo marketed the shit out of a multiplayer game where Mario and his friends performed tax audits on people. Ain’t nobody buying that game, let alone enough people to spawn more sequels than Friday the 13th. Nintendo already proved my theory by releasing Wii Party, which sold 7.5 million copies.
Spectrangle isn’t one of those “it has to be a video game” type of deals. Think of it as a color-coated version of dominoes. You have a grid of 36 interlocking triangles, some of which have multipliers on them. Each player draws four tiles, which are visible to each-other. The first player must place a tile on one of the spaces that does not have a multiplier. The next player then must build off of the placed tile by matching the colors. Each tile has a value to it, and scoring is based on the value of the tile multiplied by the amount of other tiles it is touching. Play continues until there are no more moves open to either player or until someone runs out.
It’s a pretty simple concept, and it is fun. The guys at IronReaverGames have done a fine job of porting it over to XBLIG. Even the AI is kind of balanced. Kind of. I could slaughter the game on easy, while normal took a little bit of thinking power. I lost a few games to the computer on hard, although I would like to say that luck factored into that. Actually, it factored in so much that Brian started laughing hysterically while I quietly stewed and wondered if there was any spot on my Xbox that I could safely stab without killing it or myself. And then I played the game on its insane difficulty and absolutely demolished it twice in a row. At first I thought “damn, I’m just fucking awesome!” But then I went back to the hard difficulty, which was the only setting that beat me, and I lost another two out of three games. So maybe “insane” in this context meant “the game plays like it is in an abnormal mental state.” Because although it had to pause to think, it still made DUMB moves. It’s less “Bobby Fischer playing chess” insane and more “Bobby Fischer doing anything but playing chess” insane.
Despite not being very impressive from a visual standpoint, Spectrangle360 works well. It even has online play, which I was able to enjoy without any glitches. I’m not a big fan of the fact that it dumps you out to the menu after every game, but otherwise I have no complaints. Ultimately though, it has limited appeal. If you’re not into these types of board games, this won’t sway you. It’s not unique enough to be something you just HAVE to try, nor does it need to exist as a video game. Is it fun? It was for me. I can’t tell you if it will be fun for you though. Spectrangle360 is what it is. If you’ve never played anything like it, it’s at least worth trying. Otherwise, you already know whether you will like this game or not just by reading how it works.
Board games will always be ported over to gaming devices. Spectrangle360 is a port itself. And these types of games will always have their place. But maybe if you’re going to port it, you should think about spicing it up a little. Include modes that contain content that can’t be done with boards and dice and luck of the draw. Board games are limited by the laws of physics. Video games are only limited by the amount of cocaine the developer has snorted. I want games to take advantage of this. I want to see Monopoly where you don’t just buy Baltic Avenue. I want to see one where you load up on rifles and take the fucker by force. I don’t want to eat marbles while playing Hungry Hungry Hippos. I want to be eating something adorable and fluffy that looks like it feels pain. I don’t want to just bump a guy off a slide on Sorry! I want to bayonet them in the back, drag their corpse to my home, and eat it raw. Hey, why am I telling you guys this? Yo, Hasbro, get on the ball with this shit. If you could get away turning Transformers from children’s toy into ultra-violent testosterone flick featuring a pot-brownie eating mother, you can get away with making a version of Operation where no anesthetic is used.
80 Microsoft Points noted that the corporeal version of this game costs anywhere between $10 and $50, so obviously this version is the one to get, unless you just really hate money in the making of this review.
Spectrangle360 is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard. Click here to see where it landed.