Review: Family Game Night – Battleship

Battleship has always been one of the better pieces of the game selection via Hasbro. Appealing to the sailor you probably always wanted to be, it’s a staple of many childhoods and even adulthoods, because it never gets old, telling your opponent “YOU SANK MY BATTLESHIP!” in a shrill, desperate whine. Because you never know – that might turn the tides in your favor. With EA and Hasbro’s Family Game Night, you can finally relive those proud moments of your past (or maybe last week, when your power was out and you realized a board game may be a great way to pass time). There’s fun to be had by all in this addition to the package. However, the question must be asked – is it worth the 800 Microsoft points?

If you’re not familiar with Battleship, the premise is quite simple. Both players are assigned 5 different ships on both sides of a pegboard. The real strategy lies in deciding where to place your ships so that your opponent can’t find them easily, i.e. not all along the sides or all in the center of the peg board. Similar to Bingo, players take turns calling out a row and column, corresponding to the opponent’s side of the board. When a ship takes a hit, it’s marked with a red peg, and misses with a white peg. Players continue taking turns until one player’s fleet of ships has been completely sunk. It’s a very simple premise that takes plenty of underlying strategy in order to master.

Family Game Night’s rendition of Battleship stays faithful to this concept, presenting a virtual game board along with Mr. Potato Head at the side to keep a watchful eye on things. Whether playing against the computer or an Xbox Live opponent, the screen will rotate to focus on where the action’s happening. Thankfully, you will never have to worry about your virtual opponent peeking around the side of the board to see your ships. Rather than pegs indicating where you have hit, red targets appear, along with some light splashes and rumbling missile sound effects. These are both expected augments, but do little to change the overall gameplay.

For all intents and purposes, this is a transition from a real game board to a virtual one. There are no cool or interesting additions such as realistic ships, waters, or anything you might expect from a video game translation. It’s as if you took the real-life Battleship and thrust it into a virtual land. That’s quite disappointing, as the game could have had so much potential.  Both graphically and aurally, the experience is quite vanilla. Where are some frantic ship captains screaming bloody murder as their ships sink into oblivion? We can’t inject a little personality into the game? Live multiplayer is acceptable, but local multiplayer is a trainwreck, as it actually requires players to look away from the screen as each ponder their move. Look at us, looking away from the screen when all it would take is a couple bucks at Wal-Mart to purchase a tactile version of the game that eliminates such a grievance. This is just a tad silly, and brings the question of why even translate these games to the virtual world at all, if you have inconveniences such as these? Beyond this, your ships aren’t actually shown onscreen until they’re sunk. Once you’ve placed them properly, you may find yourself forgetting where they actually are.

Part of the fun, growing up and playing this, was keeping a watchful eye over your board and various ships, monitoring how many hits were left and what you could do to throw off your opponent’s concentration. If you get tired of playing through the regular game of Battleship (which you probably will, after a while), there are a few other modes to check out that really don’t offer much fun, to be honest. Considering gamers who take the plunge to buy this likely want it purely for a game of Battleship, I’m not quite sure that was the best decision to make. 

 Should you spend your hard-earned Microsoft points on this expansion for Family Game Night? My answer is no. While it offers some of the same great Battleship fun you may remember from your childhood, it brings nothing new or interesting to the table that warrants a $10 purchase. For that amount (or cheaper) you could have yourself a good, old-fashioned get together with all the friends you’re ignoring in real life for WoW (aka wasting time). There just isn’t enough fun to be had here, nor new content to warrant a purchase. Why didn’t they just go the extra mile and create a full-fledged XBLA title? If you have the extra cash to burn, go for it. Otherwise, this battleship is sunk.

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