I have to confess, Yahtzee was not a game in which I was particularly well-versed. I tried a little Word Yahtzee as a kid, but the standard game was foreign to me-- as foreign as the notion of a dice game being played on a TV might be to you. Just like the other games in this collection, it translates fairly well to the video game experience, except the online part.
$10 (800 MS points)
Technically not a standalone game, Yahtzee exists as "downloadable content" for the free 250 MB Xbox 360 Live Arcade Hasbro Family Game Night application. Basically, it's like this: you can download a complete suite of Hasbro board games absolutely free, but it's going to cost you $10 a pop to play any of them. It's like downloading an entire Namco Museum collection for free, but each game is going to cost you. The real dice-and-pencil-and-paper game costs anywhere from $10-$20, so this version is priced about right.
For a game needing almost no flashy controls, the developers allowed an option for you to "shake" the dice cup for longer than necessary, which is either a fun little extra or really annoying. I appreciate it.
To play, you push a button to roll the dice, and use the d-pad to select the dice to "keep" or to re-roll. The goal is to roll the 5 dice in various combinations, such as getting as many "2"s as possible, or getting a "full house" with three of one number and two of another. Since there's nothing to hide from another player, it's a perfect fit for either online* or offline multiplayer, plus the computer opponent works just fine.
To keep things interesting there are bonus modes, like a "wild" die which allows you to basically cheat. Well, "cheat." You know what I mean-- if you can reassign a number, it does take a certain element of chance out of the game, but there's still the strategy of filling in the score card as best you can.
This game, like the others, has difficulties being played online. Like the others, it suddenly ends without warning mid-match. About 10 minutes before uploading this review, I played another round just to see if it had gotten any better since the last time I played it. It hadn't. I was about two turns from the end of a three-player match, too.
From my experiences, you are very unlikely to have a good online experience due to the Electronic Arts servers, which frequently drop games or flat-out refuse to let you connect to them after waiting 5-10 minutes. (Yes, I timed it to check.) Just to be sure it wasn't my hardware, I went online and tried several other non-Family Game Night games in a versus match, and all of them were completed to my satisfaction. Except for the fact that I lost, that is. The problems seem to vary by night, but the one consistent experience I've had with this game is that it doesn't work properly online. If you have a friend that owns these, you may wish to ask them how it's working for them before you take the plunge. Heck, ask me, I'll be happy to see if they made any changes.
Is It Worth It?
I want to like this game more, but the bugs preventing online (and some offline) play prevent me from suggesting you dash out and download it. I continue to have fun with Yahtzee as a local game to play against other actual human people. If the only console you own is an Xbox 360 and you're looking for a game to play against friends that doesn't involve a spinning bird kick or a fatality, it's worth giving a try. While some complain about the price tag, it's not awful-- or rather, it wouldn't be an issue were the entire collection of games not available for less on other consoles. Of the initial four games, this one is one of the better translations to the digital realm, but not in terms of how it plays online. I knocked it down another point for still not having been patched or having had the servers fixed. Fun game, other than that, it's just broken.
It's also worth noting that the Playstation 2 and Wii versions of Hasbro Family Game Night have an SRP of about $39.99 and include everything but Scrabble. I've seen the PS2 version at Target stores for as little as $13.98. Your mileage may vary.
May 1, 2009