For the fourth iteration of its Hasbro Family Game Night series, first popularised on Nintendo Wii, EA has become bored of board games. The latest entry instead focuses upon the real life game show, Family Game Night, which in itself is based on Hasbro’s best-selling games. Currently airing on American TV channel The Hub, Family Game Night has turned the once table-constricted delights into big riotous affairs where families compete against one another to win cash prizes.
Family Game Night 4: The Game Show takes five favourites from the TV show and brings them back into the living room in digital form. What it doesn’t do is tie them into a satisfying package. From the very first moments it''s not game show buzzers that blare out but alarm bells. The visuals are shoddy, with low polygon characters, messy textures and stiff animation, outside of poor Mr Potato Head’s dances. Repetitive music plays endlessly, drowning out the commentary. The announcer — TV show host Todd Newton — speaks over himself, voice clips oft repeating and overlapping. It’s not a good start.
Delve into the games and you’ll find all manner of Hasbro classics mashed into game show-styled reimaginings, always pitting two teams — yellow or red — against each other. Connect 4 Basketball has you lobbing colourful orbs into a gigantic version of the multi-holed grid, attempting to place four balls in a row either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Boggle Flash tests your ability to find as many words as possible from a five letter selection, while Bop It! Boptagon shouts commands in increasingly rapid fashion that must be translated into a certain movement or button press.
The final two games share a similar set up. Yahtzee Bowling has players pushing massively oversized bowling balls down a lane towards five hexagonal pins embellished on each side with the faces of a die, replacing the traditional dice as the means to gain a winning number combination. The ball can be sent trundling up to three times per round, the pins to be kept or ‘re-rolled’ selected between goes to try and gain a final hand that consists of something slightly better than a pair of ones. Sorry! Sliders takes place on a single alternate lane that balloons out into a huge version of the board game’s central space at the end; as in the original game, the objective is to land your slider within numerous point scoring areas and bash other players’ pieces out of the way.
Each of these games can be played on their own, and there are alternative versions such as Connect 4 Basketball Speed Shot, where slots can be secured in swifter succession, Sorry! Sliders Sumo’s addition of wrestler blockades on the board to make point scoring that bit harder, or Bop It! Boptagon Extreme’s increased range of extra commands to remember.
However, the centrepiece mode of Family Game Night 4: The Game Show is, well, the subtitled game show itself. Presented by the detached voice of Todd Newton and a continually costume changing Mr Potato Head — who each do their best to provide comedy and insight that will only appeal to the youngest of players — the 20 minutes-or-so game show hurtles through all of the mini-games in quick succession.
A Monopoly Crazy Cash card is handed out to reward every victory achieved in the individual games, each containing a random amount of money, and once all has been played out the cards’ totals are tallied up — in an excruciatingly slow, unskippable segment — to determine an overall winner. Annoyingly, the cash cards handed out contain random amounts, so you could win all but one mini-game only to find that your opponent has lucked out with a $10,000 card despite being, on game performance alone, the rightful loser. It’s an interesting approach to Hasbro’s history, though, and apparently works well enough to warrant multiple seasons in its native TV format.
Maybe it should have translated well to a game too, but it doesn’t. That’s not the entirely fault of the events’ concepts, which are all at least mildly fun if a bit lacking when scrutinised — it’s a combination of the aforementioned sloppy presentation and inexplicably inconsistent Move controls. The cursor used to navigate menus and Boggle has a tendency to dislodge itself from the initial configuration repeatedly, often requiring a tap of Select to re-centre it; not a big ask the first time, but an irritant that shouldn’t be there as a regular activity.
Motion is registered well in a game like Bop It!, where numerous twists, pulls and pushes pose no problem, only to occasionally stick throwing a ball in Connect 4’s hoop shooting (mainly in multiplayer), or suddenly stop tracking your movement as you position a Sorry! piece before launch. Yahtzee Bowling’s power meter zooms up and down erratically as you try to figure out what it actually wants you to do to control it — it’s certainly not a traditional bowl — until eventually you give up and indiscriminately throw your hand up in the air to release the object instead, which ends up working equally as well. Tighter DualShock 3 controls are available, but to use them misses the point of supposedly taking part in a physical game show; they don’t blend well with the format.
Family Game Night 4: The Game Show is slightly better when played in the multiplayer that it was designed for, but it’s uncertain whether that’s because the gameplay is improved by competing against a real person or if it simply becomes more bearable when the frustration is shared out. Though its licence ensures its uniqueness, it is, we’re Sorry! to say, a harsh drop off in quality compared to other Hasbro Family Game Night titles, which have previously generally provided decent experiences in the party gaming space.