The heat is really on! The score is 7-3 their favor, you haven't made a decent move all night, and now it's up to you to save the game! Your fingers are sweating as you frantically scribble what's supposed to look like "Phantom of the Opera," but really looks like a "raisin in a cape." You look on in horror as your teammate stares at you with a totally blank face. Things couldn't possibly get any worse! Now, the challenge is yours, or yours and a few of your friends', as you take on the non-artist's nightmare, Pictionary. Don't get discouraged yet, there are three different types of Pictionary games, not all of which require drawing. WHEW! In fact, some of the games, such as the Wherehouse Shuffle, allow you to use your masterful skills as you move and stack crates before some pesky wherehouse gremlins make them disappear! Sharpen your pencils Nintendites!
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Hasbro has recently built a tradition of porting popular board games to the PC. For the most part, these translations have been well designed and have even offered game options not included or possible in the board game. However, not all board games translate successfully to the PC gaming environment; unfortunately, this is the case with Pictionary.
In case you've never played the popular board game, Pictionary is like charades played with paper and pencil. One person draws, the others try to be the first to guess the word that's being drawn. The first person to guess the word correctly gets to move his/her token further across the board, then the pattern repeats until a player or team makes it all the way across the game board.
As you can imagine, the biggest obstacle the makers of the computerized version of Pictionary faced was how to replicate the drawing aspect of the game without requiring users to own a computer stylus or pen tool. As you can maybe also imagine, there's no good answer to this problem, and that's mostly why Pictionary the computer game will never be as fun as its namesake board game.
In an attempt to get around the drawing issue, the makers of Pictionary offer several modes of gameplay to the user. First, there is the option to draw with the mouse, which is the closest option true to the original game -- yet if your mouse technique is anything like mine, your version of "tree" will look more like a decapitated stick man than a plant of any kind. And just try drawing something like "evolution" ... forget about it. Basically, this option will only work if you have one of those finger mice or a pen tool of some sort, which not many of us do. The other game options include Computer Draw, which has the computer draw a sketch of a random word while all players try to guess it; then there's Pick a Square, where players reveal a picture gradually by choosing square sections to uncover and have an opportunity to guess after each square is revealed. Finally, there's a scrolling match game, where a chain of words scrolls underneath a set of pictures and you get points for buzzing in when a word matches the picture directly above it. While all of these are clever alternatives to the drawing gameplay one would expect with Pictionary, they make for a very different game than one would expect.
Pictionary would be utterly useless as a single-player game. Luckily, Hasbro has included modem, LAN and local multi-play (two or more players at the same computer) as well as free play on Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone. I went up to the Zone a few times, but the Pictionary room was almost always devoid of players.
Well, this is one game where graphics weren't very important. Gameplay is everything. The graphics were certainly acceptable for this kind of game. The games are presented on various walls of a virtual loft apartment, which made for kind of a neat effect. Other than that, though, not much to mention here.
You know the overly-sunny female stereotype (think Carol Brady or June Cleaver). The host of Pictionary incurred my wrath by exhibiting this type of personality. When you load up the game, you get a "Hi! Welcome to Pictionary!" that could sweeten the blackest coffee. Give me an option to kill this "person" ... or at the very least, turn her off.
Required: Windows 95, Pentium 90 or better, 16 MB RAM, SoundBlaster or compatible, 256 colors, 14.4 modem and Internet access for multiplayer options
Reviewed on: Pentium 2-266, 64 MB RAM, 16X CD-ROM drive, Diamond Stealth 2000 video card
If you love Pictionary, get together with some friends and play it for real. You'll only be disappointed with this product. I can't recommend this one to the average gamer, either. If you're in a board game or Hasbro mood, try Risk, Battleship, or any of the other excellent Hasbro titles. Pictionary draws a blank.