PSP Roundup • Page 2

MGS Portable Ops +, Ultimate Board Game Collection, Riviera, Off Road.

Ultimate Board Game Collection

"24 All-Time Classics," boasts Ultimate Board Game Collection's sleeve. "Half as good as '42 All-Time Classics' then?" I joked when Tom handed me the promo, which is drollery that probably would have been funnier if the maths was correct. Still, it's a poor choice of wording on publisher Xplosiv's part, drawing unnecessary attention to their game's limited breadth in comparison to its closest rival.

Reviewing videogame versions of board-games is total pain in the balls. Reviews of established classic board game mechanics are basically pointless to anybody who had a childhood. So you're left talking almost exclusively about the execution: the menus, soundtrack, slickness of interface and other presentational factors that make up far less than half of the whole.

In this regard UBGC is unremarkable. While 42 All-Time Classics (the much-loved DS game, in case you're struggling to place it) is hardly a rollercoaster tour of aesthetic wonder, UBGC's presentation and execution is wholly unmemorable. Sparse, functional menus are populated by tiny, fussy text and soundtracked by musak that does little to draw you into the game's varied experiences. Graphically every game is presented in stark 2D and the interfaces employed to manipulate game pieces swing from sensible to unintuitive.

Games are slotted into one of five categories. All Time Favourites is home to Backgammon, Checkers (standard and Chinese), Chess and Reversi/Othello. Words and Numbers presents Anagrams, Dice (Yahtzee), Kakuro, Sudoku and Word Cubes. Puzzle Games packs Concentration, Enigma, Jigsaws and Mahjong. Family Favourites houses 3D Noughts and Crosses, Battleships, Parcheesi (Sorry), Quattro and Snakes & Ladders while, finally, Strategy Games (as if there's no strategy to Chess) contains Dominoes, Go, Mancala, Gomoku and Shogi.

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We're not six any more, but it's still important that Dad knows we can beat him at this.

There's a good variety of games here to play and, in fairness to the developer, they avoid all of the forgettable card game variations that bulk out Nintendo's package. There are a few neat flourishes beyond the game's raw functionality, such as the ability to use music tracks from your own PSP library as a soundtrack, or to import photographs to use as jigsaw puzzles. But these moments of inspiration do little to flavour the overwhelming blandness of the whole.

With nothing like 42 All-Time Classics' meta-game structure to compel you through each game at increasing difficulties, there's no greater purpose to scoring victories in the single-player 'campaign'. With Pass the PSP multiplayer as well as an ad-hoc wireless mode (available if all players own the UMD), the options are there for group play and the games are obviously more enjoyable when played like this. Even so, the presentation and execution makes for an uninspiring package, recommended only to non-DS owners with less time than money.

5/10

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Simon Parkin

Simon Parkin

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Simon Parkin is an award-winning writer and journalist from England, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian and a variety of other publications.

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