Review: A game that understands what Xbox Live Arcade is all about.
Uno on Xbox Live Arcade is a lot of fun, no doubt about it. The team at Carbonated Games has taken what is essentially a simple ?family? game and given it a breath of fresh air thanks to some vibrant and functional presentation, varied options, and very addictive online play.
The basic premise of Uno ? in case you never got a chance to throw down on some in your youth ? involves a deck of cards that are numbered and colored. When a round is started, any card can be placed and then successive players must match the color or number of the card played. Mixed in with these basic cards are turn skip and change direction cards, and these are useful for not allowing a person to play that might be getting close to using up all of their cards. In addition, Uno features several ?draw? and ?wild? cards that really force the issue; a color change card can change the color for strategic purposes, and the draw two and draw four cards will cause the next player to have to pick up two or four cards, respectively.
A lot of the fun in Uno comes from bluffing, as well as actually calling ?Uno? (your last card) ? the Xbox Live Arcade version makes both of these features quite entertaining. Bluffing can occur when someone plays a ?wild draw four? card; this card is only supposed to be played when you have no other choice (numbered or colored) so if it is used in a suspicious circumstance, a bluff can be called. If it wasn't a bluff, the recipient has to eat two additional cards (six in total), but if it was a bluff, the bluffer has to draw four, effectively reversing the punishment. Calling ?Uno!? is also well executed in this game, as you have to hit the X button in order to do so and if you forget you can be challenged, which means you have to pick up two more cards.
The great thing about Uno for Live Arcade is that it lets you customize a great deal of the experience. Many players of the card version are probably used to having various rules (progressive penalties, different scoring, etc.), and Uno allows for tweaking of all sorts of options in all areas. The customization of rules is about as robust as could be expected, and once you factor in the inclusion of partner Uno and different card decks, there's certainly a lot to get into.
The only alternate deck available at the present time is a 35th Anniversary deck, but it is a free download that puts a few new wrinkles into the Uno experience. The music kicks into a Mardi Gras-esque beat and streamers fly through the air, but there's also an additional 35th Anniversary card that requires the next player to either play a 3 or a 5 ? that's all. This card actually creates some pretty serious quagmires for players, as many cards could be drawn until the player could actually get the right card to play. According to Carbonated Games (when queried at E3), future decks will be available with some being free and others requiring MS points.
The presentation of Uno is quite good, with several people who designed the slick MS Games' Texas Hold ?Em contributing to the interface of Uno. The simplicity and vibrancy of the game really shines through, and all of the animations are snappy and to the point. A cool little visual touch is the cards being stacked in a mish mash of a pile as players continuously take their turns. When playing online, you'll notice occasional slowness in some of the animations, but this is pretty minor and doesn't really hinder in any meaningful way. Also of note is the way in which cards are presented; the currently usable cards are highlighted for you to see, and you can effectively scroll through your hand to survey your options (which you might have to do if people have constantly hit you with draw fours). This card layout is effective because it gives you a lot of information and choice, but does so in a very quick and efficient way.
Online play with Uno is a great deal of fun, and the game even substitutes in a CPU player if you've only got three players or less. In fact, users can jump right into an ongoing game of Uno and take over for the CPU ? a very cool touch. Generally, the experience of Uno is social and fun, and you'll easily get into the simplicity and silliness of the experience. Still, there's a bit of strategy to be had, and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the depth of partner Uno and how the team element adds a new dimension to the game. Also, with the addition of camera support for Uno in the near future (which looked totally functional at E3), Uno could get a whole lot goofier.
So for 400 Marketplace points ($5), Uno delivers a very entertaining and well-presented experience that is a lot of fun for the social gamer crowd. Once again, Live Arcade shows how a twist on an existing (and simple) concept can be quite a bit of fun and great value for your money.