UNO Review – Draw Four (PS4)
If somebody were to ask me about my favorite games from the last generation of consoles, I would inevitably bring up the Xbox Live Arcade classic UNO. Released in 2006, it quickly became a staple amongst my friends, and I spent several school nights staying up way too late while playing cards. Due to the prevalence of voice chat on the Xbox 360, I often found myself meeting a lot of wonderful characters online that I’d talk to or flirt with (you run into a lot of soccer moms while playing UNO).
These late night play sessions eventually stopped happening as time passed the Xbox 360 by, and I moved onto other games. While I now typically play Rocket League with friends, there is still a part of me that longs for having something easy to play while just chatting and meeting random people. Thankfully, it seems like Ubisoft noticed that I, a lapsed fan, not only wanted a new UNO, but that I needed it, and have put out a new version of Mattel’s card game on consoles.
Ubisoft Chengdu has crafted a faithful digital reproduction of UNO, and anyone who has played the card game in real life will be familiar with the rules. Four players draw seven cards, and then must try to discard them until they have no cards left. To do so, the cards must be either the same color or number as the previously discarded card. It’s all very simple (and there’s an excellent tutorial that goes through it), so I was quickly ready to jump into online matches after not having played UNO in six years.
UNO can be played either online or offline, but the experience is pretty much the same either way. You’re always going against four other players (or computer AI) and competing to get rid of your cards. A score limit can be set in order to shorten or lengthen how long a match takes, but be prepared to play a whole lot of UNO.
One of the things that stood out about playing the 2006 UNO online was that players had a fondness of using the Xbox Live Vision Camera to show a certain body part. Those memories will have to live in the past, as Ubisoft’s UNO only supports video chat between friends. That’s disappointing, but you’ll only be seeing your friends’ appendages this time around.
Despite UNO being a ton of fun, it can get a bit old after a few hours of play. Thankfully, there are several different modifiers (or house rules) that can be toggled on to change the overall experience. These include the ability to stack cards (for example, if a player uses a draw two card and you have another draw two card, you can play that to force the next player to draw four), and disabling bluffing if you don’t like the mind games of high-level UNO play. One of the house rules is actually locked behind Ubisoft Club points, which is incredibly lame. It doesn’t take long to unlock it, but it’s still a really gross thing to do.
It’s really too bad that Ubisoft didn’t add in some sort of meaty single-player component to the game. Something like challenges or even a tournament mode would’ve added some variety to the mix. I’m fine playing UNO for five straight hours while talking to friends, but not everyone will be. There just isn’t enough padding around the great core gameplay.
One attempt at variety is the ability for players to team up and play two versus two. This is how Ubisoft is attempting to solve UNO‘s major problem: it’s a multiplayer game that can’t really be played locally since everyone’s deck would be seen. It’s a decent effort (and playing with one other player is certainly a unique experience), but I wish the developer would’ve took a note from Jackbox Games or Ubisoft’s own Just Dance and allowed players to use their cell phones as a controller. That way local multiplayer could’ve worked for more than two players.
Besides traditional UNO, Ubisoft has also included a second deck of cards that is Rabbids-themed. This version of the game adds in four new cards that make the game even more unpredictable. One card forces players to hurry up and only have three seconds to make their moves, while another randomly adds five cards into the hands of players. It’s a fun mode, and I enjoyed getting to see the Rabbids running around my screen in what is otherwise a pretty boring game graphically.
That’s the only other deck, though, which is pretty disappointing. More are on the way as the main menu proudly declares that DLC is on the way, so I’m hopeful that something as fun as Street Fighter UNO will get added into the mix. That said, only two forms of UNO isn’t much, so players might get sick of playing the core game if they don’t have friends to play it with.
After several hours of play, I also noticed that there are some issues with how Ubisoft implemented some of the finer mechanics of UNO play. For example, if someone doesn’t call out “UNO!” before they get down to one call, it’s a foul. That forces other players to be alert and press the cross button in order to call them out for their transgression. For whatever reason, Ubisoft made it so that the button prompt to call out a player appears on the screen whenever it happens (thus making even the least observant players notice it), and that the command to call out another player doesn’t work before then. So, whenever I would notice that someone was down to two cards, I would just mash on the cross button in case my opponent forgot to scream out “UNO!,” and was able to call out a lot of faults. That nuance of play is destroyed here, and that’s disappointing.
Ubisoft Chengdu’s UNO does exactly what it sets out to do, it’s a polished (although not perfect) digital version of the beloved card game. The lack of decks is disappointing, but it definitely delivers the same brand of fun that gamers had 10 years ago on Xbox 360. I can recommend drawing four cards if you’re looking for some light fun, but this isn’t quite the must-have it could’ve been.
Review code for UNO provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.