by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 90/100

UNO Review
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios
Developer: Carbonated Games
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade)
Reviewed By: Wencke Schuncken

As a recent proud owner of an Xbox360 I’ve moved all my other consoles aside. All of my gaming time is now being absorbed by two games and one particularly and unexpectedly. The main reason for purchasing the console was besides recommendation from friends, the Rockstar’s Table Tennis game. But what happened after discovering the Xbox Live Arcade, referring to a game called UNO?

As an Xbox360 newbee I started to check its possibilities and within no time I was downloading the UNO demo from Xbox Live Marketplace. Close friends already told me that it is an excellent card game, great multiplayer enjoyment and absolutely worth checking out. As a free demo is available, why not give it a chance? Originally UNO is a classic party card game, but I never heard of it before. As no difficult rules are involved it's a suitable game for young and old who would like to play a simple and very enjoyable game of cards. Every player starts with a deck of seven cards and the main goal is to get rid of all of them before anyone else has the opportunity. When you’re playing the second last card it’s very important to call UNO by pressing the X button otherwise another player will challenge it and you'll get two extra cards. The challenging player has to be fast because when the next player plays his/her card it’s too late for a challenge. To avoid any possible challenges it is important to yell UNO while holding the last card in your hand / playing the second last card. When you play the final card, you’re the winner of that round and all players' cards will be summed up and addressed to you on the player’s overview. When someone reaches 250 points the game is over and the final winner is official.

Winning Winning Winning! Sorry, I’m just a fanatic card player. Of course there are lots of other rules which apply to UNO and the above story doesn’t really explain how the game needs to be played. Each player has a deck of seven cards and one card is lying in the middle. Basically there are four different colored cards (blue, green, yellow and red) numbered from zero to nine. The player at turn can only lay a card on the table when it has the same color or number as the card lying in the middle (or later on top of the pile). For example if a green number five card is on the table, you can play either another green card or another colored number five card. Other types of cards are also included in the game to change the pile’s color, to change the players turns direction, to let the next player skip a turn or that he/she needs to take two, four or even six additional cards and can determine the pile’s color as well! These types of cards make the game more interesting and exciting.

To increase the excitement even more there’s the opportunity to make certain challenges. As already explained someone who forgot to claim UNO can be challenged by another player by using the Y button. The player, who forgot to claim the UNO, gets two additional cards. One of the trickiest cards in the game is the one which is comparable to a joker, perhaps even better. This card can be played anytime and the next player needs to decide whether you are bluffing (because you may have played a right colored or numbered card) or not. If the player challenges but you weren’t bluffing, the reward will be that the challenging player has to draw six additional cards. But if you were bluffing you’ll receive those six cards! Of course there’s the possibility to accept the card, avoid a challenge and therefore receive four additional cards instead of taking to chance to get six.

If you don’t like the automatically applied rules, you’re free to customize a game. Apply your own House Rules; create a two against two player’s battle or install a rule that if a player cannot play a card on the table that it’s game over while the other players can keep on competing. Also tricks with the extra cards are possible. For example if you play a “draw two additional cards” and the next player plays the same type of card the next player will have to draw four cards! In a “normal” game you’ll win after reaching the 250 points limit but also this can be changed. House rules cannot be changed while playing a multiplayer ranked game but can be used in each single player or a non-ranked multiplayer game. If you download the UNO anniversary edition, another rule comes into play; whenever the special “35” card is on the pile, the next card must be either a number three or five card. If the player at turn cannot comply, he/she has to draw a card and perhaps skip a turn.

It’s a very colorful game and presented in a perfect way. The player at turn has a white blinking border around its avatar and possible playing cards at turn are highlighted to make it easier and faster to pick a playable card and to keep the game going on a decent speed. The white arrows around the pile (in the middle of the screen) indicate in what order players are at turn. Yellow, blue, red and green cards are “flying” over the table with a smooth light blue background. Whenever it’s time to claim UNO it will be visualed on screen. Also the buttons with available action functions are visible on screen (X to claim UNO, Y to challenge, A to put a card on the table and B to draw a card). If you’ve chosen to play the anniversary game, you’ll find yourself in a party styled game with a golden background and Party Poppers flying around whenever a “35” is played. Very cheerful theme!

The music in the normal game is very relaxing and comforting. A Spanish guitarist is playing easy tunes and sometimes I’ve got to be careful not to get hypnotized by it, especially while playing late, a bit tired and no talking players are around. If you’ve selected the anniversary game, the party is going to start with some Samba music. If you cannot stand the original music, you can turn down the in game music and sound. Preferable via the Xbox you can hear your own music. Although I recommend keeping the sound volume on to hear the UNO tone to keep you alert (while chatting with other gamers in multiplayer game mode or being “hypnotized” by the music).

UNO is a very cool, simple and very addictive game. Download the demo now via Xbox Market Place and make sure you’ve got some extra 400 Microsoft points; you’re going to need them to be able to download the full game, download the extra anniversary edition and to be able to play against real opponents via Xbox Live. The ratio between female and male gamers is quite equal, although it seems that the male gamers I met do talk more than the girls. And who knows, maybe in the near future the Xbox Live Vision Camera can be used as well to see your opponents (bluffing) faces! The camera option is already included in the menu, now we only have to wait until the camera is released! In the meantime I do hope to meet you all in the near future for an encouraging and fun game of UNO!