Do you love card games but are tired of playing the same old poker and solitaire? What about a game of UNO instead? UNO – Undercover takes the classic UNO card game and gives it a complete facelift, with a bunch of interesting new game elements wrapped in a quirky and amusing adventure.

The story introduces Felicia Blue, who was a whiz kid in the competitive UNO circuit, advancing all the way to the final round of the UNO world tournament…until she was disappointingly disqualified for showing up late to the final round. Seeing her incredible talent, she was recruited as an undercover agent for the UNO Rules Enforcement Agency, until she decided to give it all up to raise a family. Years later, with her husband and their two children in tow, the family sets out for a relaxing vacation in California. Little does Felicia realize that her old arch nemesis Madame Zero is on the loose, and she’ll need all of her UNO playing powers to stop her!

The card game components of UNO – Undercover are played a lot like the classic card game. Players are dealt seven cards. One card is placed face up on the discard pile. At each turn, you can discard any card of the same color, type, or number as the top card on the discard pile. If you don’t have a card to discard, you must pick one from the draw pile. The object of the game is to get rid of all of your cards before your opponents can lose theirs.

When just one card is left in your hand, you must call “Uno.” If you fail to do this, an opponent can “challenge” you, and you’ll be forced to pick up two more cards. Similarly, you can challenge opponents who have neglected to call Uno, forcing them to draw additional cards! To add to the challenge there are wild cards, draw four cards, skip, and reverse cards to contend with.

There are tons of special new cards which you won’t find in a classic UNO deck, and these add fun and interesting new complexities to the game. “Redecorate”cards allow a player to change all of the special cards in their hand, as well as changing the color of the discard pile. “Clone” cards allow you to make any card in your hand match any other. “Lucky Croc Tooth” cards protect you from other player’s draw cards, and “Shooting Star” cards let you discard up to four cards of one color in a single turn. That’s not to mention toe-hold, double cross, highland two-step and sleep cards, to name some more. All of these are gradually introduced into the game with tutorial instructions as you play, so don’t worry about having to learn them all right away.

As you beat out your opponents in adventure mode, the spy story follows in a linear fashion. There are plenty of funny characters, jokes, and situations, and just the right amount of detail – it’s just too bad that every mention of the word "UNO" in characters’ dialogue is followed by the (R) trademark symbol, which is distracting to say the least.

Sound effects include the usual “hmmms” and “ahhhs” of characters as they play, along with some decent voice acting and appropriate thematic music for different backgrounds.

The artwork is cute and simple, and users have the option of scaling back on the graphics to increase game speed. One caveat – setting the graphics to “low” can also effect the text in mission briefings, making it difficult (but not impossible) to read.

The writers and artists were very generous with the game backgrounds, taking players all over the world to many different cities and locations, including Paris and Morocco to start. There’s also a generous amount of play time, making this a great game for players who want a long game with reasonably good replay value.

While the story is good, there’s no flexibility, so nothing you do will change the linear outcome. Pretty much everything you need to do is highlighted for you, so you can’t stray from the script, even down to clothing changes. One annoyance when playing the card game is that it sometimes boils down to sheer luck and not strategy. This can be frustrating if you’ve lost a few hands in a row, and those darn opponents seem loaded with “Skip” and “Draw 4” cards. Still, since you get endless replay opportunities, it’s just a matter of time until you win.

In addition to adventure mode, you can also play the game in “quickplay” mode. This gives you the choice between playing one hand against several AI players, or trying to beat your computer opponents to 300 points (earned by tallying cards in the other players hands after a win). You can also choose between manual or automatic “uno” calling. It’s too bad there’s no option for multiple players. It would be fun to play UNO against others online, or with friends or family at home.

UNO – Undercover
does a great job of bringing the classic UNO card game to life in an entertaining casual game. The addition of new playing cards really enhances the gam play. It’s not too difficult, but still proves exciting and relaxing, with plenty of humor and a light-hearted spy story included. In short, it’s the sort of game that makes you want to keep playing even after you’ve won.