Yesterday, I traded in two NES games (Mickey Mousecapade and Pinball) and two Gameboy Advance games (a pair of Yu-Gi-Oh titles). These were garbage and thus, not worth much. But that’s okay, I didn’t want much.
I decided to grab Ultimate Board Games Collection for the PSP.
Yeah, I know, “Board games? Really?” Well, bite me, I like board games. Some of them, anyway. This collection included 20 digital renditions of classics, including Go, which was what caught my attention. I wouldn’t mind marking territory and scoring ataris while on the road, so I sprang for it.
The collection so far is pretty good. It’s got a decent selection, including public-domain versions of board games you played as a kid (Connect Four is called “Quattro” here, and while I haven’t played it, there’s a game called “Naval Battle” which I’m guessing is just Battleship), and every game has a tutorial–although cryptically, you access it by clicking the head in the lower-left corner during the actual game (rather than, say, there simply being a “tutorial” option on the main menu). It usually does an adequate job explaining how the game is played, using both a text explanation and a helpful graphic.
So I played Go first of all, and right off the bat found one thing to be disappointed about: the only board size options are 9×9 and 13×13 (a standard Go board is 19×19). I’m not sure if the bigger size has to be unlocked, or if they simply didn’t include it because of the PSP’s small screen size or something. Anyway, I do feel a bit let down, as it makes the experience less authentic.
Now, Go is a game that relies a lot on intuitive thinking, and for this reason computer AIs are normally not good at it–this game is no exception. Even when I set the game to “hard” (which does nothing but remove all handicaps) the computer plays like an idiot. It seems to think that the idea is to put stones wherever he can, which leads to him cluttering up territory and making needless sacrifices, which means its always an easy win. The good news is, apparently I can play this game two-player with anyone who happens to own a PSP, and they don’t need to own their own copy of the game. So ideally, I’d be able to find a human player somewhere. I believe I read somewhere that you can also play by trading the PSP itself between players.
So I skipped on over to the other games. There was a game called Gomoku (essentially Tic-Tac-Toe, but its five in a row and you play with Go stones) which… well, either I really suck, or the computer is much better at this game. Seriously, it seems like the comp always gets into a position of “no matter what you do next, human, I’ll win on the next turn!” I’ve managed to beat it three times… and it won five.
Oddly enough, there is a 3D Tic Tac Toe on this collection, and I always kick the computer’s ass at that.
Then I skipped around and looked at Mahjong. My dad used to play old computer versions of this all the time, and honestly it always frustrated me because I never understood the rules. Thank god for that built-in tutorial! Now that I understood how this game is actually played, I was able to somewhat enjoy it. Basically, in Mahjong you find pairs of matching tiles and remove them from the board, but there’s a catch: the matches have to be free on either the left or right. The idea is to clear the board, though usually what happens is you play to a point where there’s no more possible matches and the game just ends. I wonder if there’s some kind of superstition about this, like whoever actually clears the board will be blessed or something. This is normally a solitaire game, but there is a two-player mode on this collection, which seems to be just a race to see who can clear their board first. It also gives you a choice of different layouts, and tilesets that replace the Chinese iconography with blocks that look like they came from a children’s nursery.
That’s a thing about board games. A lot of them seem like they would actually be pretty complicated to set up and play if you were playing them for real. They almost demand to be played through a computer or a video game. It just is so convenient, saves so much time and effort. And (and this goes back to when I used to play collectible card games) there were no rules arguments–if the computer allows it, it goes.
So anyway… Kakeru… even with the help of the tutorial, I don’t understand this game. Then again, I’m not good at math. Didn’t even bother with some of the Sudoku and stuff on here. Tried Anagrams and the virtual Jigsaw puzzle (which lets you import photos, so technically you could use this to preserve that Jem and the Holograms puzzle you bought as a kid).
Last game I tried in my trial run was Reversi, a public-domain version of Othello (no relation to the Shakespeare play). It’s another black-versus-white game, except this time you’re trying to sandwich the enemy pieces between your own in order to win converts. (Incidentally, I once played a variant on the NES — the 7up Spot game–which was like Othello but with different rules: it was enemy pieces who were adjescent to your move that switched colors, not those who were sandwiched between two of your pieces. This made the game slightly easier, in my opinion. And no, this variant rule is not included in this collection, likely because it was invented by Virgin games–and they later recycled it as a puzzle in The 7th Guest… 7th Guest? 7up? I smell a conspiracy!) The computer is really good at this game, and I only managed to beat it once. I had a version of this on the NES and I was never very good at that, either.
So… first impressions are ultimately pretty good. Its a collection of classic board games, about three that I really like and the rest I can get used to or play when I need a break from fucking Ninja Gaiden stage 6-2 ARRRGH. I wish the Go game allowed a full-size board and had better AI, but I’m not gonna hold that against it. It was worth the trade-in.