Pictionary Ultimate Edition (PUE) is a straight-forward title out now for your shiny new uDraw Gametablet. Understandably, there is no single player component, and it’s best played with at least two teams. The game supports four teams, and you only need one Gametablet to pass around. You’ll also need a little honesty in getting the players on a team to look away when their team ‘picturist’ is drawing. As with any multiplayer experience, things work best when you have a sincerely interested group of people.
As the picturist, being put on the spot to draw images related to the provide clue word is a borderline bizarre experience, but a compelling one. I think it’s fair to say that most of us can go several days without even holding a pen, much less drawing something, so being tasked with having to draw on the spot, in front of friends and family, can be a lighthearted, challenging experience that will almost certainly generate some laughs. Fortunately, PUE does a good job of paving the way for such experiences without getting itself in the way.
From the main menu, you are able to choose between three modes of play and tweak a few general options. The options allow you to set the draw timer, which is how long the picturist has to draw his clues for his teammates. This can be change in a few increments starting at 90 seconds and going on up to unlimited. Team icons can be edited, taking the default almost Mii-like characters and giving them some kind of altered appearance (including drawing faces on them with the Gametablet). Additionally, a sideshow activity allows you to free draw, practice I guess, and you can reset the tutorial so that tutorial messages will appear again.
Other than those basic options, players can choose between Pictionary, Pictionary Mania, and Family Fun. In selecting Pictionary, you are set to play the traditional game. You can choose between two, three, or four teams, and also how you want to steer the game’s length — normal, shorter, or shortest. You are also asked to select the Clue Type as either Adult or Junior to more appropriately accommodate the age levels of whoever is playing.
Upon launch, a female British voice greets players and you cast the die with a quick flick of the stylus on the Gametablet. The highest number goes first; after settling on a Clue, the team picturist gets to work drawing, using a full palette of artist tools to bring his clues to life. Meanwhile, his team has their eyes closed or is otherwise looking away. I thought the developers did a good job in balancing the need to hide the clue word on screen but not being too obtuse about it. To reveal the clue, the picturist, who should have the Gametablet in hand whenever it’s his team’s turn, has to simply hold X.
Pictionary is ok, but once you play Pictionary Mania, you probably won’t want to go back. The biggest draw to Mania are in the different gameplay elements that are thrown in the mix to make a more engaging experience. These include a numerous game-changing rules that pop up depending on what squares on the 3D-board you land on. These modifiers include things like “Lights Out,” which will randomly make the entire screen go black for a few seconds at a time while the picturist is trying to draw. Other things like Conveyor sets the drawing surface in motion, so that whatever you draw on screen is constantly moving and being removed on the right hand side of the screen. Another fun one is Toolbar Confusion, where your selected tool randomly changes to a different one. So say you’re drawing and suddenly your tool becomes the eraser or paint bucket tool — without some quick reaction, you will ruin your drawing, which can be funny. Other modifiers seek to keep the action going for all teams. Modifiers like All Play and Steal mean that just because it’s the green team’s turn, the other teams can have a chance to steal the clue and earn the ability to roll the dice. There are quite a few other elements to Mania that are broken down nicely in the game manual, too.
Mania turned out to be the best mode of the three because it kept altering the rules and pacing of the game. Family Fun is similar in that it too has a lot of creative additions to the standard game. Family Fun is actually more of its own mode than a variant of the board game, but it offers a lot of the tweaks and modifiers of Mania. A ‘Hand Off’ mode is pretty cool, in that you start drawing an image but literally have to hand off the Gametablet to another player to finish it. Seeing what successive players come up with, compared to your original intentions, is funny and/or cool.
Regardless of the mode of play, the presentation stays consistent. For me, it never really took off and put too much emphasis on bright lights and flashy colors, but that’s probably intended for a younger audience who might get a kick out of it. The Mii-like team mascots may be traditional, I’m not sure, but they aren’t very interesting at all and your customization options are ultimately pretty limited. The overall visual fidelity isn’t something that you would immediately associate with a current gen title. This version was based off of the Wii game, afterall. As for the audio, there isn’t much to it; being able to change the announcers voice would have been nice, but the default voice does okay for itself.
With that, let’s get to the summary…