There is little doubt that the Nintendo DS has become the casual gamers platform of choice. Games such as CrossworDS, Brain Training and Sight Training have expanded the handheld's audience and spawned countless imitations. Not long after Nintendo's success many third party publishers started bringing more casual games to the Nintendo DS and the PSP. This brings us to Ultimate Board Game Collection, which has finally been released in Australia, nearly 18 months after the American release. So is the game any good or just another cheap imitation?
Ultimate Board Game Collection includes 24 games divided up into five categories. Under the all-time favourites category there is Backgammon, Checkers, Chess, Chinese Checkers and Reversi. For words and numbers players can choose from Anagrams, Dice, Kakuro, Sudoku and Word Cubes. The puzzle games category includes Concentration, Enigma (which is known as Mastermind in Australia), Jigsaws and Mahjong. The family favourites category includes 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, Naval Battle, Parcheesi, Quattro and Snakes and Ladders. Rounding out the games collection are strategy titles, which include Dominoes, Go, Mancala, Gomoku and Shogi.
Overall, the game collection is sufficient. There are plenty of games, but most of them can be found readily available online, for free. For every game included there are also instructions, so if you've ever wanted to learn how to play Reversi for example, the game will take you through it. Ultimate Board Game Collection may look like a low budget title, but the game does include a few little surprising bonuses. First up, the game includes trophies. Trophies can be earned by completing certain tasks for each of the board games. The trophies don't actually unlock anything, but they're a decent bonus for those who enjoy playing alone. The game also includes custom soundtrack support, so you can play any music on your memory stick through the game. Any photos included on your memory stick can also be converted into jigsaw puzzles, and the developers have really done a very solid job in taking advantage of the PSP.
One of the highlights of Ultimate Board Game Collection is the support for multiplayer. The game includes both game share and ad-hoc wireless options. In game share, you can play five titles with your friends if they don't own a copy of the game. If your friends do have a copy of the game then the ad-hoc mode allows for you to play through every mode in multiplayer. We don't see the appeal of playing through the Jigsaw in multiplayer, but multiplayer Chess on the train without having to worry about Chess pieces falling all over the place is quite appealing.
It is worth noting that Ultimate Board Game Collection will also be making its way to the PlayStation 2 and the Wii. This review is for the PSP version, which is the version that is the best version of the game. In fact, the main appeal for Ultimate Board Game Collection is the fact that you can take these games out on the road with you, whereas on the PlayStation and Wii you can sit down and play these board games on the television...rather than dragging out your old Chess set or other board games. We don't really see the point of playing a game like this in front of your television, which means the home console versions are not recommended.
Overall Ultimate Board Game Collection is a sufficient title which provides quite a bit of portable enjoyment. The game is well suited to the PSP and the trophy support, custom soundtrack option and ability to make your own photos into puzzles shows that the developers put some thought into how to utilise the PSP in the best way. That said, even at a lower than normal price point of $39.95, Ultimate Board Game Collection is a little bit overpriced. There are plenty of really solid games on the PSP that are available at an even lower price point, which does make the game tough to recommend. However, anyone looking for a casual game for long trips on the train, or anyone looking for a game that's just perfect for booting up for ten minutes or so at a time should definitely think about picking up Ultimate Board Game Collection.