Archives by Day

September 2018


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Casual
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Chengdu
Release Date: Aug. 9, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS4 Review - 'UNO'

by Brian Dumlao on Sept. 14, 2016 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

In UNO, players take turns matching a card in their hand with the color or number card shown on the top of the deck.

E3 2006 was the first E3 after the Xbox 360 was officially out, so Microsoft decided to release a digital version of the classic card game, Uno. It seemed odd that a platform marketed toward more dedicated players would release such a casual game at such a big event, but they knew what they were doing since it became the first Xbox Live Arcade game to reach over a million downloads. It also became the first game in many instances to embrace new technologies, such as Avatar usage and the Xbox Live Vision camera, the latter being responsible for turning a family-friendly game into a bad chat roulette session. Ten years later, Ubisoft would try its hand at a digital version of the same title, and the result is either better than or worse than the Xbox 360 original, depending on what you're looking for.

For the few who haven't played the original card game, you and three other people are each given a hand of seven cards. The cards are separated by both color and number, with a few special ones thrown in for good measure. After a card is placed in the center from the draw deck, each player takes turns placing a card from his or her hand that either matches the previous card's number or color. Failing that, they can either draw a card or put down a special card that can change the pile's color. Once they get down to a single card, they have to shout, "Uno," lest they get penalized with having to draw two more cards. Play ends once one player completely exhausts their stack of cards. From there, the remaining cards from other players' hands are counted up for points, and gameplay continues to the next round until the point limit is reached.

The above lists the basic rules, but you have the option of modifying them a bit. A few variations have shown up in other iterations of the game, including having to draw until you get a card worthy of the pile or stacking +2 and +4 cards if you have multiples in your hand. New to this version is the 7 and 0 swap. Put down a 7 card, and you can swap hands with anyone else in the game. Put down a 0, however, and everyone has to swap cards in the direction of the turn (clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on what was already played). One thing that may turn off people is that one of the house rules is locked behind the company's Ubisoft Club program. It only takes 20 points to unlock the rule, but it feels dirty to hide something that good behind a service that many people might not want to use alongside PSN or Xbox Live.

While those rules describe the game as a whole, Ubisoft decided to spice things up a bit with the inclusion of the Rabbids deck. Aside from the cards now sporting artwork from the company's manic animals, they also come with four special cards that slightly change the gameplay. One card has a Rabbid run around for a few turns, forcing players to make decisions in three seconds each before they're penalized with more cards in their hand and a lost turn. One Rabbid randomly gives all other players more cards for their hands, while another adds cards to the person unlucky enough to have to draw from the pile. Finally, one is designated as a shield from all of these other cards, but that card rarely shows up. Though offbeat, their presence is completely welcome. They can also be turned off before a game for those who just want to see the artwork without any extras.

Beyond these special rules and decks, Uno is still easy to pick up for all players. The offline game is split into a free-for-all mode, where one player goes up against three CPU opponents, or a partner mode, where you can team up with either an AI partner or another player to take on a pair of AI working together. The online game is largely the same, though it does have a ranking system where you get XP for winning rounds or simply participating. You also get medals for completing objectives, like playing a certain number of wild cards or calling out, "Uno" several times in a match. The ranking doesn't mean much, since it doesn't segregate high- and low-level players from one another, but it is present since players have come to expect it from online games.

By itself, the title is a solid version of a classic card game that has inherent limitations. You can't really engage in local competitive multiplayer since everyone can see their cards, and while co-op play is fine, that isn't really a variation of Uno that many come to play. By that token, it is good to see that the AI is a formidable opponent, since it often does its best to foil your plans and mess you up at inopportune moments. The only time the AI doesn't perform well is when it's on the verge of an "Uno" since it often forgets to call it, leaving you perhaps too much time to call them out. Compared to a game against humans where everyone is pretty vigilant about making that call, it can be disappointing to see that fault in the AI.

When compared to the Xbox 360 game, Uno does better in some parts and worse in others. The number of house rules is more than what was offered up previously, and the Rabbids deck, with its bonus cards, is more exciting to play than the 35th Anniversary version. At the same time, the flow from one player to another seems a hair slower than the 360 version given the fact that the game no longer highlights cards that can immediately be played during your turn. The game also has tight restrictions on both voice and video chat, relegating the latter to friends-only. On the one hand, this is a great move since the internet is fond of exposing themselves on camera, especially on a new version of a game where that kind of thing became rather popular. On the other hand, that unpredictability was a selling point for some players, so seeing it neutered can be unappealing for them.

You don't need much from the game on the presentation front, but it puts in more than a token effort. The title comes with a variety of tracks, all of which are rather relaxing and mellow until someone yells, "Uno." Even then, the ramp up in tempo isn't huge, so you'll never feel like you're in a high-pressure situation. The game space looks like everyone's cards are floating in a nebulous space, since the camera is presented in a slant to give the area a more 3-D feel. It looks fine, with the player turn indicators being the only thing that is a little difficult to see initially.

Uno makes for a good alternative to the type of fare typically seen on a console. Despite its simple rules, it remains fun thanks to the decent AI and the good-sized online community. It may not be as cheap as the Xbox 360 release was, but if you're looking for a fun card game on the PS4, you can't go wrong with Uno.

Score: 8.0/10

More articles about UNO
blog comments powered by Disqus