PS3 Review: uDraw Pictionary: Ultimate Edition



Note: This game requires the uDraw Game Tablet accessory.

Timed to coincide with the launch of THQ’s uDraw Game Tablet for PS3 and Xbox 360, uDraw Pictionary: Ultimate Edition is something of a no-brainer; essentially Charades with drawing instead of mime acting, the popular game of Pictionary is an absolutely perfect fit for a drawing tablet accessory. But even so, it’s going to take a lot to get someone to pony up the cash to buy a game they likely already own a board game version of somewhere. Thankfully, Pictionary: Ultimate Edition not only makes fantastic use of the uDraw Game Tablet (which is required to play), but revamps and expands on the familiar game in some impressive ways that would only be possible in video game form. It’s an incredibly fun reworking that takes the familiar fast-drawing, competitive fun of Pictionary and injects it with an added dose of craziness, resulting in a ridiculously enjoyable, impressively creative and customisable party game.

If you’ve never played Pictionary before, it’s pretty simple. With at least four people, players are split into teams of at least two, with one member acting as team artist, who then picks a card with a word on it. It’s the artists goal to get their teammates to guess the word on the card correctly using nothing but a pen, paper and whatever clues their imagination and artistic ability can come up with. If the team guesses correctly, they move further along the game board towards the finish, but if not, the other team takes a turn.
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Pictionary: Ultimate Edition follows the same model, with some added bonus modes. The game is divided into three separate modes for added variety. Standard Pictionary provides you with a pretty traditional game of Pictionary. Players roll the dice with a flick of the stylus on the tablet’s pad to move along a game board, with the space they land on dictating which kind of clue mode will come up. Some spaces allow only that turn’s team to answer, while some allow anyone to guess, giving the opposing team a chance to steal control of the game.

The artist (or ‘picturist’) for each team is given a choice of Adult or Junior clues (to suit any kids who might be playing), and is then assigned a random category and an answer that only they’re allowed to see (other players are asked to turn away, but could easily sneak a peek at the screen, unlike the real game). So you might get the category of ‘In the Cafeteria’ and the answer ‘Chocolate Milk’, for example. The team’s picturist can then chose to cycle to another answer if the current one’s too tough to draw. They then take to the drawing board using the uDraw Tablet, sketching whatever clues they can in hopes of nudging their team into guessing the answer ‘Chocolate Milk’, with just the category and their sketches to go on. If their team guesses correctly, they get to keep rolling and moving along the board until they finally get one wrong, but if they screw up or fail to get it right before the clock runs out, the opposing team gets to roll (it’s entirely possible for one team to keep control for the entire game if they’re good enough, never giving the other group/s a chance to play).
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It’s a simple, but amazingly fun version of Pictionary that captures the game’s creative, competitive party spirit incredibly well. The range of artistic tools at your disposal makes the drawing portion of the game much more varied and accessible to non-artists (if a little easier in general) since there’s a wider range of colours, shapes and brushes at your fingertips instantly to help you construct images, compared to the real world game where it’s just pencil, paper and whatever natural artistic skills you may have.

Aside from the odd moment of lag and lack of responsiveness, the tablet controls smoothly, registering pressure sensitivity well (something that didn’t work much in uDraw Instant Artist) and, in a game based entirely around how legible and accurate your sketches are, the smooth and fluid tablet drawing is a godsend. Of course, even if you’re a terrible artist, that’s fine, too; most of the fun of Pictionary is laughing with and at each other as you struggle to summon correct guesses from your friends and family while you’re drawing increasingly bizarre doodles and indecipherable chicken scratches in a mad panic, and that’s a simple joy that the game nails just as well as the pencil and paper version.
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The game’s second mode, Pictionary Mania, is pretty much the “extreme” version of Pictionary. Like the standard mode, two to four teams will compete for control, aiming to beat their rivals to the end of a game board by coaxing their teammates into guessing assigned word answers by drawing clues. This time around, though, a variety of kooky and challenging quirks are thrown into the drawing portion of the game as you land on different spots on the board. Some ‘Lights Out’ spaces might cause the screen to periodically go dark while you’re drawing, other spaces reverse the controls so that drawing down and right moves the pen up and left, some rounds constantly cycle through all the tools, leaving you suddenly drawing only in rectangles or with white paint, while some modes limit your amount of ink or have you drawing only in eraser on a black canvas.

Pictionary Mania takes the standard version and amps up the fun factor by a massive amount, adding a whole new level of party game chaos to the game. The wide variety of weird and wonderful curveballs that the game throws into each round of drawing adds a tonne more diversity to the Pictionary experience. Being at bat and struggling to draw coherently while the controls are flipped or the canvas is moving underneath your pen only increases the fun panic, confusion and hilarity that often occurs in a game of Pictionary. It also levels the playing field if you have a talented artist in your midst, and though their team might dominate the standard game, the parade of fun wrenches that Pictionary Mania throws into the works means they’ll likely find their drawing skills don’t count for squat when they can’t tell down from up. As well as the friendly competitive element, Pictionary Mania also encourages the party spirit, with some modes having each team hand off the tablet mid-drawing to finish or improve each other’s doodles – the first team to guess right wins the round. It’s a fantastic reworking of the traditional game, and one that gives the familiar game of Pictionary an incredibly enjoyable shot in the arm.
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Finally, Family Fun mode pretty much takes everything from the other modes and allows you and your group of friends and/or relatives to customise the game to your liking, setting the time limit, win conditions and picking and choosing any modes from Pictionary Mania that you’d like to include or exclude. It’s a great idea, and means that players can tailor-make the game to their liking for added enjoyment. Also incredibly cool is that, no matter which of the three game modes you pick, you can customise your avatar by drawing on it, too. The game’s avatars are a bit like Munny statues, and you can choose a pre-drawn one, or create your own by taking a blank avatar and drawing on its face and body. It’s only a matter of seconds before someone in the room draws a penis or several on their avatar, but the open customisation is a wonderfully creative idea and a perfect use of the tablet.

Continuing the ‘shape the game to suit you’ customisation fun, you can create your own categories and answers to add to the game’s roster of clue answers. Again, it’s only a matter of time before someone stacks the deck with answers based around genitals and poop, but that’s probably half the fun, and the option to add new clues is a fantastic way to boost the amount of answers in the game and add some longevity to it without ever having to pay for DLC. There’s no online multiplayer (naturally, since you need the other team in the same room to ensure they’re not just showing each other the answer and cheating) and you’ll need a minimum of four players around whenever you want to play, so it’ll only be something you play at parties or during family/friend get-togethers, but the same’s true of the original game as well.

A phenomenally fun party game that’s overflowing with creative, inventive ideas to keep the game of Pictionary fresh and enjoyable, it’s a fantastic update of the familiar pen-and-paper board game. If you own a uDraw Tablet, the Pictionary: Ultimate Edition is essential.

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uDraw Pictionary: Ultimate Edition is available to buy now on PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.
Click here to buy it from Amazon.co.uk.