Pictureka is one of the latest additions to the Hasbro Family Game Night category of Xbox Live Arcade games. It snuck out with little fanfare, a fitting marketing plan as there is very little to get excited about here. Pictureka essentially amounts to an entire game – priced at 800 MS points — where all you do is find a specific picture on a board and then press the A button.
Now that I’ve begun writing this review and essentially summed up the entire Pictureka experience in one sentence, I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to stretch this out. I’ll keep it short. Pictureka is devastatingly bad as a single player game. Like other Hasbro Family Game Night titles, there is no artificial intelligence here which means playing alone finds you without any competition in a quest to find pictures quickly. Spoilers: you win every time. There is online support through Xbox Live, but I was unable to find anybody to play with so you should expect to predominantly play this one locally.
Pictureka comes with two modes, the board game original and a new remix edition. The remix is identical, though it adds in a few twists such as a challenge where players must find a picture that corresponds to an audio clue. Up to four can join in the search for pictures or letters, though about 90% of the game is turn based. Rarely does more than one player hunt for pictures simultaneously. The challenges range from the simple (find the picture on this card) to the more complex (find four things with smoke). There’s a lot of extra clutter on the screen to distract you, and any wrong guesses will penalize you a few ticks on the clock, which is how Pictureka adds stress to a simplified version of what you played in Highlights magazine while waiting in the dentist’s office as a kid.
The basic premise here is bland and that’s not the only weak part of Pictureka. With so much of the game turn based, the winner often comes down to who goes first. That is, of course, unless something unfair happens. On turns where sounds of corresponding pictures are played it’s oftentimes difficult to even hear the clue due to poor audio mixing. Or your opponent can just yell and you’re screwed since the audio clue can’t be replayed. Some challenges require players to bid on how many of a certain item they can find, but it’s done through a selection process that flashes random numbers on the screen rather than any actual bidding.
I can’t see any reason to dish out money for Pictureka. Only small children would find the concept compelling for longer than a few moments, but you could similarly entertain them with a simple and free game of I Spy.