Bringing their “Family Game Night” concept to video game audiences is something that Hasbro has been trying to succeed with over the past few years, and it’s met with mixed results. While games like Jenga World Tour and Operation Mania were flops, recent releases like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit have been meeting with moderate success, both critically and commercially. Could Yahtzee, a simple game that combines dice and poker rules, really offer the level of depth and replayability that so many gamers demand nowadays? Much to my surprise, the answer is a resounding yes.
Rather than offering a straight up adaptation of classic Yahtzee, Yahtzee Adventures introduces several variations that keep things fresh throughout. In addition to Classic Yahtzee you’ll find yourself playing Rainbow Yahtzee, Duplicate Yahtzee, and even Battle Yahtzee.
Rainbow varies the least from tradition, simply offering up dice of multiple colors and adding in new opportunities for scoring that reflect this. Duplicate Yahtzee is a mode for multiple players. Rather than rolling your own dice at the beginning of each turn, you’ll both start with the same five dice and try to make a better hand than your opponent. Battle Yahtzee is easily the most exciting. You’ll take on an opponent (sometimes more than one), and rather than competing for score, you’re each competing to get your opponents score down to zero. Instead of earning points for certain hands, points will be deducted from the opponent of your choosing. It’s a completely frantic mode, and you won’t want to put down your iPhone until you finally master it.
Multiplayer is offered, albeit in a “hot seat” format. If you’re sitting around with a few friends you can easily start up a game and pass the iPhone around. Most of the time though, you’ll likely find yourself checking out Yahtzee Adventures solo. Thankfully the game seems geared to catering to those lonely player needs.
Custom play will allow you to configure any type of match for any number of players, be they AI or friends. But the real meat of Yahtzee Adventures? That would be, as the name suggests, the Adventure mode. Adventures offers up a single player campaign that will take you around the world challenging Yahtzee masters. The game dabbles in each of the game modes and works as a great introduction to everything Yahtzee Adventures has to offer. The storyline is simple, but the characters are cute and they definitely help to give the game some personality. You’ll face 10 competitors over the course of 15-20 matches, likely working your way through the main game in only a few hours. Thankfully the game offers a list of “challenges” for you to tackle, giving every player a reason to keep coming back. The challenges range from attaining a certain score to getting a set number of Yahtzees, with lots of stops in between.
Despite the great level of polish and fun to be had in Yahtzee Adventures, there are a few technical issues that prevent it from reaching its full potential. In an effort to be gimmicky, the developers included the option to either push an on screen key or shake your iPhone to roll the dice. While it sounds like a fun twist, the sensitivity for shaking is downright ridiculous. When playing one-handed as many of us do with certain iPhone games, it became near impossible to make a selection with my thumb without re-rolling the dice because of the slight movement of the unit. Turning the sensitivity to the lowest setting helped, but for some reason they didn’t see fit to include an option to turn it off.
The situation with the tutorial is a little odd as well. Most games, by default, will feature an initial tutorial. Yahtzee Adventures doesn’t. If you feel like you need a refresher on the ways of the six-sided die, you’ll need to track down the tutorial option and turn it on manually. Yahtzee isn’t a game you can figure out at a glance, and with the new game modes the need for a tutorial ramps up even more. So why hide it away from gamers who could so badly use a refresher?
Yahtzee is a game that has stood the test of time, and the iPhone is a perfect platform for an electronic adaption. Quick bursts of gameplay mixed with addictive competition and a well rounded offering of game modes make this one well worth the $2.99 price of admission. I could hardly even remember the basics of the game when I picked up Yahtzee Adventures on the iPhone, but after a week of rolling out sixes and getting large straights, I don’t think I’ll ever forget.