|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Jack of All Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Valcon||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 1, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
June 6, 2007 - Ultimate Board Game Collection: 24 Classics from Around the World is a wild ride of wait a minute, no it's not, but it is a pretty nice little collection of classic gaming fun. This may not be the blockbuster hit of the summer for the PSP, but it is a well made title, released appropriately just before the summer vacation season. The UMD is filled with 24 classic board games and supports the importing of personal photos for jigsaw puzzles and Concentration, custom audio tracks for easy listening, and game share capabilities with just one copy. A large array of your favorite games is here, along with a few others that you've probably never heard of, but are equally as fun. If you're looking for a simple game to help fill your PSP library before that long car ride to grandma's, give Ultimate Board Game Collection a shot, you won't be disappointed.
The title's hallmark is simplicity. The menus are straightforward, and so is the gameplay. If you're not sure how a game is played, simply consult the excellent tutorial. There is nothing flashy to be had here, but it is by no means necessary. There are a whopping 24 games which include: Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Chinese Checkers, Reversi, Anagrams, Kakuro, Sudoku, Gomoku, Shogi, Word Cubes, Dominoes, Go, Mancala, Concentration, Jigsaws, Mahjong, 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Enigma, Parcheesi, Quattro, Naval Battle, Snakes and Ladders, and Dice. The games are divided into six categories. These categories are All Time Favorites, Words & Numbers, Puzzle Games, Family Favorites, Strategy Games, and Game Share. The Game Share category is uniquely interesting because it allows you to play five different games with a friend while only shelling out for one copy. Games that can be shared in this way are Backgammon, Checkers, Chess, Mahjong, and Sudoku. Needless to say, these are real crowd pleasers, so you don't feel short changed even though every game isn't accessible in this way. Many other games still will allow you to pass the PSP from one player to the next. For example, Naval Battle is turn based so that it can easily be passed from player to player to make for a lot of fun even when there's only one PSP.
Controls are also simple. You will use the analog stick to navigate through the games and menus. A little hand appears much like the mouse cursor of your PC. This works pretty well for most part, but can be annoying and slow while playing Mahjong or Concentration. This is more of a systemic problem inherent to the PSP rather than a design flaw of the development team.
The graphics are fine and show clearly on the PSP's beautiful screen. The games are not particularly pretty, however, and there certainly could have been some improvement. I would have loved to have seen more intricate boards with stunning backgrounds to heighten the gaming experience. One special feature that I did find intriguing was the ability to import personal photos in JPEG or PNG format. This allows you to put together jigsaw puzzles or play a game of Concentration with your own photos. It's a nice touch that makes the game that much better.
The sounds and music are simple and pleasing. The theme music is a bit generic, but also appropriate for the title. Another extra, which is probably the game's greatest asset, is the ability to play your own music. Load up your Memory Stick Duo with your favorite MP3 tracks and jam to your tunes while playing a serious game of Backgammon. It's very rewarding and should be an option used by more developers.
Whether you play against the computer A.I., with a friend, or over the Wi-Fi connection, you'll always have a lot of fun. Multiplayer options are plentiful, and help make this game better than the ordinary value title. Having the ability to Game Share with one UMD is great, passing the PSP around the car from player to player is essential, and being able to connect to a world full of gamers via the Wi-Fi connection is the icing on the cake.
This is not the best game you'll ever play, but it is an entertaining one. If you log some hours with the game, you'll get to be pretty good at these classics. That way when you do finally get to grandma's house, you can show her who is boss and win some cookies out of her. To help you in that effort, the developers have included 27 unlockable trophies. They are goals to work toward, which provide a bit more of a challenge. It is perfect for long trips and will provide you with hours and years of quality entertainment. I wouldn't call this game a must have, but it will make any gamer's library a bit more extensive. If you like Sudoku, Backgammon, Chess, and Reversi, then your going to really enjoy this bargain title.
CCC Freelance Writer