iPad Game Review: Boardbox Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Boardbox, published by Chillingo, as you may have deduced from the title, is a virtual box of game boards. Chess, Checkers, International Draughts (think: supercheckers), Reversi, Go, Backgammon, Tic-tac-toe, Tournament (!) Tic-tac-toe, Chinese Chess, and a plethora of chess and backgammon variants. If you're like me, the single most overwhelming reason you're not playing these tried and true standards in the real world (aside from the lack of flashy graphics and jarring sound effects) is the much-hated process of schlepping to the hallway closet, finding the game, pulling the game out from under the other games, picking up the game pieces that you dropped while pulling the box out, and lastly setting up the game board only to find that: (a) you've forgotten how to play or (b) some of the pieces have been lost or chewed beyond recognition by children and/or pets. Well, you?re in luck, because Boardbox is here virtually!
Boardbox isn?t like most other electronic games in that it has no AI and therefore requires you to actually find another human being to play with you. This last part is crucial and may, in fact, be a lost art to most gamers out there. This is not an oversight on developer?s part. It is a deliberate attempt to tap into one of the iPad?s most endearing and unexpected consequences; the return of social gaming. Assuming you can find an opponent, these games play exactly as you remember them. If you have never played them, fear not, as very comprehensive rules are included for each game. Although these rules are essentially reprinted Wikipedia pages, you do not need an Internet connection to access them; something that surprised me, but for which I am quite thankful. Speaking of rules, the game can be set to ?enforce? official game rules, or you can turn this feature off and make up your own. Frankly, I don?t see very many people using this feature, but in case you were raised by a pack of wolves that played some unusual variant of chess, you?re all set. As you would expect with an app of this quality, games are saved automatically upon exit. There is also an option to save your game at any time.
Although there is currently no option to play over the Internet, it is possible to play by email; a cool feature to be sure, but one that is likely to be used minimally as it could potentially turn a simple game of checkers into a tedious, nearly lifelong experience. It?s promising, however, because it suggests that this app already has some of what it needs under the hood for true Internet multiplayer via Chillingo?s ?Crystal? network. Frankly, though, I don?t really miss it as I?m enjoying plopping my iPad down on the couch at night and challenging my kids to a quick game. With their alarmingly short attention-spans, I have been continually surprised at how often they will turn off the TV or the video game to play a simple board game with me. To me, this is the best part of Boardbox; it facilitates interaction with my family.
The graphics of Boardbox are sharp and crisp, and include subtle lighting effects. You are given several different board options, none of which affect gameplay in the slightest, but do a nice job of keeping things fresh. I especially like the granite boards and stone pieces as they seem to shine with detail and polish. The pieces are not animated, of course, but they move smoothly, utilizing the excellent touch interface of the iPad to its fullest.
The in-game sounds are subtle, as they should be in a board game. They can be turned-off, however, even with iPod music playing in the background, they are never distracting or annoying.
Boardbox does a great job of doing what it sets out to do. It excels at giving the user a powerful, yet easily accessible set of board games. The lack of an AI, however, makes it unsuitable for solo players. But if you're looking for a quick and easy way to set up and play the "classics" with friends and family, look no further; Boardbox is the champ.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Polished interface with excellent graphic presentation of classic board games. Sound: - 4 - Sound is minimal, as it should be with board games. No in-game iPod controls. Controls: - 5 - Easy to navigate and intuitive. If you can play the real thing, you can play this. Gameplay: - N/A - Gameplay is faithfully reproduced for multiple players, however, with no AI I can?t really give it a rating.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-Read the rules to learn some of the variants. I found myself enjoying some of them more than the classic versions I grew up with.
-Don't forget to turn on your iPod music before starting a game as there are no in-game iPod controls.