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Tonight we are going to take a look at a family game that you should purchase for your family… if you happen to hate them. From the usually brilliant minds at Milton Bradley, this is Connect 4X4.
Connect 4X4 is a new twist on the classic board game, Connect 4, which is actually itself a twist on Tic Tac Toe. Well, since this game doesn’t offer much in terms of things worth talking about, I may as well give a brief history of Connect 4. In 1974, someone at Milton Bradley felt that regular Tic Tac Toe was boring, so he/she/space alien decided to change things up a bit. Two players dropping checkers into a seven column six row grid, with the first player to make a straight line (vertical, horizontal or diagonal) consisting of four checkers being declared the winner.
Before we dive into how Milton Bradley handled the changing of one their most beloved games, lets talk about Connect 4X4’s graphical and audio presentation. Although, there really isn’t much to say about either of these aspects.
Graphically, the game looks ok. With this being part of Hasbro: Family Game Night, you must select the game from HFGN’s menu screen, which is actually fairly interesting. The game select screen is actually a shelf, which has all of the different board games featured in the package on display. You pick your game of choice (for the purpose of this review, let’s say it is Connect 4×4) and it is then set up on table in a rather nice looking living/family room, with Mr. Potato (the game’s mascot) looking on. The game board and its pieces look as good as they should and Mr. Potato looks as dapper as he does in doll form and is actually animated very well. I should also say that there is a nice looking cityscape that can been seen in the window. The overall presentation isn’t overly stunning but it serves its purpose and looks good for what it is.
The music (and by music, I mean the one tack that loops continuously) in the game is pretty much the standard light-hearted stuff you would hear in most family oriented games. Some may like it but I find it kind of bland and generic and if Mr. Potato Head is going to cheer you on, he should have dialogue rather than spouting off random gibberish. Gibberish can be cute when executed properly but here it’s just an annoying interruption. But I do think the sound effects of the game board itself are ok and I also like the xylophone notes that are struck as you move through the game select screen. It was a nice touch.
Gameplay wise, you can choose between two styles of play, the original or the new remix mode. In the original mode, the first player to make a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line using four checker pieces of the same colour wins the game. So, you would think that it is the exact same thing as the regular Connect 4, well to them I say, “Not exactly.”
In Connect 4X4 players are given three different kinds of checkers. Those being regular checkers, hollow checkers that have a hole in the center and blockers, which are too wide for the hollow checkers to pass through. And perhaps the biggest change of all, four players can play it at once.
Did you get that? So four players have to make sure that four of their checkers rack up to make a straight line in any of the three allowed forms and have the ability to stack up the plain checkers onto top of one another, as well as have the ones with the hole in the center pass through them and they can use the blockers stop the hollow checkers from being used to complete a line. Confused yet? I have played this game for hours and I’m still a little confused myself.
(Bob looks bored. I would be to.)
OK. I’ll try to explain this all again but this time with a little more clarity. The game will have four players. One being your avatar and three others being controlled either by your friends/online players or the computer or both. Each player is given checkers of a certain colour as well as two blockers. Players get to make one move per turn. They can place their checker in any spot on the grid, this includes being able to use a hollow or solid checker to pass through an opponents checker (with both checkers sharing that spot on the grid) or using a blocker to prevent an opponent from completing a line. So, the first one to have a completed line consisting of four checkers (any combination of the three types) wins. I really hope that you aren’t still confused because I know I still kind of am. In fact I get confused a lot when I play this game because there are is such a huge mish-mash of different coloured checkers sharing spots and filling up the grid that I can’t always tell which player’s colour is on the verge of winning. So, I don’t always know who to block. But they know who to block.
Me! Every time there is a choice between blocking my chance at victory and blocking the chance of another AI player, that bastard is going to pick me just about every time. So, it doesn’t even feel like all of the players are playing against each other but rather a three on one handicap match that pits all three of the computer players against you. That isn’t fair. Not only is the game confusing but it has cheap AI. You better set the difficulty to Novice until you get used to it. But after you get used to it, you’ll be too bored to bother continuing.
(If you thought the regular game was confusing. Feast your eyes on this ridiculousness)
The Remix Mode offers a lot of unneeded craziness in the form of a point system, time limit and power ups. The rules are basically the same, as the Original version except the game doesn’t end when the first line is made. Nope. The game ends once the time limit expires and the person with the most points wins. Points are earned by either making the straight line with four of your checkers (which gives you 25 points and an extra turn every time you do so) or by having one of your checkers land on a number (5 or 10) which determines the number of bonus points you receive when your checker falls on that spot in the grid. Don’t worry if you miss one these numbers because there are plenty of them scattered all over of the grid. And not only is the grid cluttered with bonus points but is also cluttered with power ups like the bomb, which allows you blow up any checker in the grid. The arrow, which allows you to teleport your checker into any space that is currently filled up by an opposing checker. How about the spaceship, which allows your checker to hover in place for a little bit rather than falling through the grid? I don’t know why that one is useful. There are also the stars. Stars give you an extra turn and a cluster of stars magically fill the grid (well not the whole grid) with your checkers. This doesn’t add to the fun of the game. It makes it more challenging I must admit but it isn’t making the game anymore fun. It just makes it an even more irritating cluster of confusion.
This review does seem a tad short so I guess I could talk about the few demos that were a part of the Family Game Night download. In short, they are not overly impressive.
Connect 4, Scrabble and Yahtzee play just as they would in real life or at least I think they do. I would barely get a couple of moves in without the demo’s time limit expiring. Making them the lamest demos I have ever played. From what I can tell, they are just digital versions of the genuine artifacts.
(Mr. Potato Head seems to be enjoying himself. At least somebody is.)
Although the demo for Yahtzee actually let me play a full game or close to it before I turned it off. Playing Yahztee alone is boring.
The only demo I found slightly interesting was the one for Battleship. The effects used when a ship was hit by enemy fire were actually pretty cool. I could see myself having fun with it for at least a couple of hours.
(You sunk my Battleship! Ha! Ha! Ha!)
But overall, I would urge you not to waste any of your Microsoft Points on any of these games but rather buy their real life counter parts, which are a lot more fun. Except Connect 4X4. It probably sucks.
Final Score: 3/10
I would like to thank Game Focus for the download code, which I won in a contest.
Fun fact: There was once an urban myth going around that Connect 4 was actually invented by rock legend David Bowie.