UNO proved to be one of the unlikely highlights of the Xbox Live Arcade, as gamers spent long evenings sat in front of the Xbox Live Vision Camera (remember them?), bonding with strangers and gaining great pleasure in seeing the despair on their opponent’s face as they were forced to pick up four extra cards. Players also saw more than just their opponent’s face… but let’s not go into the finer details. Following its success, it came as no surprise when Ubisoft announced they would be bringing the card game to the Xbox One.
For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the concept of UNO, each player is dealt seven cards with numbers ranging from 0 to 9, in the colours: red, blue, green and yellow. They then have to match one of their cards with the card in the Discard Pile, either by the number or colour. Wild cards can also be played, which alter the current colour in play. The winner is the first player to call “UNO” upon reaching and then successfully placing their last card.
There are two game modes, both of which are available in local play and online. Classic Match is your standard game against computer-controlled/user-controlled opponents, whilst 2 vs 2 Match tasks players to work together to overcome the opposition. In a similar manner to the previous iteration, Ubisoft’s adaptation of UNO gives players the option to alter the house rules, which can provide some major alterations to the gameplay. Whilst it keeps the game fresh and exciting, it also proves problematic when joining an in-progress online session, as the lack of on-screen instructions will require players to spend a round or two familiarising themselves with the active rules.
Another way in which the gameplay can be altered is through themed decks, such as the Rabbids pack. For example, the “Explosive Results” card in the Rabbids pack forces the next player to draw a card for any reason to draw an additional three cards. The themed decks makes each game feel new and exciting, which is why it’s a shame there are only two decks included in the standard version of the game. Further (presumably more Ubisoft-related) themed decks are in the pipeline as downloadable content, just be prepared to have to spend your hard-earned cash on them.
Upon completion of every online match, players earn XP, which determines their level. In somewhat of an oversight, the only real reward for progressing through the level is bragging rights; there are no perks, no in-game rewards and no achievements, something which could have added further depth to the title. Likewise, players can also earn medals by completing a series of challenges, although (again) there are no real benefits of doing so.
The beauty of the Xbox 360 version of UNO was its social aspect. While the voice and video chat feature were renowned for all the wrong reasons, it certainly made for some entertaining and memorable moments. Ubisoft has retained the feature utilising Kinect, but has limited communication to the player’s friends list only. The reasoning is understandable. This is supposed to be a family-friendly card game after all, but online games are underwhelming due to the lack of atmosphere, as they feel no different from playing against the AI.
In terms of presentation, UNO adopts the bright, colourful visuals that the previous iteration flaunted, which brilliantly suits the card game’s style. The soundtrack also fits in with the game’s flair, although its repetitive nature means it won’t be long before players are opting for their own background music.
On the whole, Ubisoft’s UNO is a charming adaptation of the classic card game that is brilliant fun with friends. However, the unsatisfying online play (predominantly due to the limited social features) will come as a huge disappointment to the gamers who racked up the hours on the Xbox 360 version. Unless you have a group of friends who will regularly play or you’re a die-hard UNO fan, it might be worth playing your “skip” card for this one.