Party games are hard to judge because there are so many elements that must be taken into account that the developer can’t be responsible for that will ultimately make or break the game for people. Because of that, a lot of people will never even end up trying games such as the recently released PictoParty by Retroid Interactive. Off the bat I’ll say that it’s a well-made, simple, and highly entertaining game. At the same time it’s completely useless if you don’t have at least one other person to play it with. Before you read any further, know that purchasing this game is essentially the same as purchasing a digital copy of the board game Pictionary for a bit less money. If that’s not something you think would be fun for you, there’s literally not a single reason you should read the rest of this review.
PictoParty is not about the graphics, which I guess is both obvious and slightly ironic at the same time. The backgrounds and menus are very simple with static hand drawn art and the appearance of hand drawn text. The general interface, HUD, and menus all look perfectly simple and appropriate. The backgrounds are well lit and childish in style. Your avatar is an actual picture taken with the Wii U gamepad and your drawings look only as good or as bad as you can be with a stylus in a limited amount of time. Essentially all you have on the gamepad screen when you play is a slightly transparent blank white square, up to six colors to choose from, three equally sized buttons, and a timer. All you have on the TV is the timer, the current drawer’s avatar, and the white square. Other than the little fireworks and word card that appear when someone guesses right, there’s really no changes to the game’s appearance during gameplay other than what you draw. Everything about the game’s graphics is simple including the credits and it’s perfect just the way it is as far as visuals go. My only issue was that in the bottom right corner the game was getting cut off a bit on the TV, but not the gamepad. This in no way affected the gameplay and was only noticeable because I was looking for flaws as a reviewer. I can’t say if it was a general issue or my TV specifically. There are no sizing options in the game and when recorded through my Elgato Game Capture the cutoff is nonexistent.
The gameplay is quite simple. There are two modes of play: Normal & Team. You only need the gamepad to play with what seems like an unlimited number of people. When one person is drawing on the gamepad, the other people are seeing what is being drawn with no lag between screens. When someone guesses the word, it is up to the drawer to police himself by declaring the drawing solved and who guessed it correctly. Each person playing has a point added to their individual score when they guess a drawing or if they drew the successfully guessed drawing. At the end of a game, it shows the score breakdown and lets you look through the pictures drawn that game. Each person playing is given the chance to draw before a match can end. You can pause and end a match anytime with the press of the start button, which is the only working analog button in the game and that’s only during actual gameplay. Everything else, including menus, must be touch screen operated. Team mode works much the same way except each of a maximum of three teams must contain no less than two people and only the drawer’s teammates guess during each turn.
Basically every aspect of the game is customizable at the start of each new round. You can choose how long turns are, the punishment for passing words (how many seconds removed from timer), the number of colors available (up to six total), whether or not the player can use an eraser, and the words included in the word bank. You have the ability to add as many words as you like to the game’s dictionary. Words and avatars can be erased via the menu with the push of a button. That’s literally all there is to the gameplay. The drawing system works fine, save for the fact that you only have up to six colors. Everything runs very smoothly with not even the slightest bit of lag. For what it is it’s perfect. But what it is is very limited in scope and usefulness.
The sound is present but pretty much irrelevant in PictoParty. There is a single continuous track of background music which is very childish and appropriate. There are a limited number of sound effects for things such as passing a word, correctly guessing a word, and the final 10 second count down at the end of a turn. The only options in the menu are to toggle sound or music on and off separately from each other. The sound is there and it’s not bad, but it in no way adds to the experience of a game that is built on the idea of people constantly shouting out guesses.
The only writing in this game is the very well done one screen tutorial and the dictionary of words. It has a large number of preloaded words separated into nine categories with the ability to add in as many words and extra categories as you want. I have yet to have a word repeat on me, but I haven’t even played for two whole hours at this point.
As far as replay value, it has an unlimited amount of it because it’s built on the idea of playing it with friends. Even after words start to repeat the game won’t get old. It will only be as fun or as boring as the scenario you’re playing it in and the people you’re playing it with. When comparing it to going out and buying a copy of the analog Pictionary, I have to say that $8 for PictoParty is a very fair price. But just like with buying any board game, it’s only as valuable and as long as you choose for it to be.
Rating PictoParty on a 10 scale is hard because it’s not really meant to be compared to other video games. It sets out to be a digital version of Pictionary that runs smoothly and plays easily. If that’s the only criteria it gets a 10 out of 10. My only complaint about the game is that it limits you to six colors, but that’s still five more than the board game. It is perfect in what it attempts to be and really that’s the only thing that matters in this particular case. Buy this game if you want Pictionary and have people to play it with. Otherwise don’t buy this game because it’s completely useless for literally anything else including practicing your drawing skills because you have a time limit. I greatly enjoyed playing it with my girlfriend, but as a person who rarely has house guests I will possibly never play it again.
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