The original Uno was one of the first games on the Xbox Live Arcade that really showed how good online play could be. There was something intrinsically relaxing about pulling a few friends up on Xbox Live, jumping into a game, and watching the hours go by. With support for the Xbox Live Vision camera, it was a social affair too, and we remember spending many an evening chatting with our other half, or our friends over a game of Uno. Even better, at a price of only 400 Microsoft Points (or less than £4), it was cheap enough that you could twist almost anyone's arm into buying it.
Fast forward some 9 years (yes - nine years, God that makes us feel old), and with Ubisoft now finding themselves as the owners of the Mattel license, they decided the time was right to bring Uno back on the PS4, Xbox One and PC.
At its core, the base game here is the same as always. Facing off in four player battles, either against human opponents over the internet, or against computer controlled players offline (there is also a local co-op mode, which we'll get to later), you're given a stack of cards, with the objective being to simply be the first person to play them all. The catch is, you can only put down a card that matches either the colour, or the number of the last card that was played - so if the last player played a red four, you can play a green four, blue four, yellow four, or any other card in red - but if you don't have one of those in your deck, you have to draw a new one.
Along with the normal numbered cards, there are a variety of special cards too. There are Draw Two cards, which force the next player to draw two cards, Reverse cards, which change the order of play (handy for trying to keep the turn away from someone on their last card), and the infamous Wild Draw Four, a card which you can only play if you have no other moves you can make, and which not only lets you change the colour of the pile - but also makes the next player draw four cards. The catch is, if you had any other cards you could play, your opponent can choose to challenge it, and you have to draw four instead.
Oh, and before you play your penultimate card, you'll need to make sure you call Uno (by hammering square on PS4) - or else your opponents can challenge you, and force you to draw two cards as punishment.
So, that's the basics of the game, then - but what else is there here? Going above and beyond the original game, there's a suite of settings to customise the rules for each match (although annoyingly, one is locked off unless you're a member of the Ubisoft Club. It may be free to join, but it's still frustrating), including some that won't be familiar to players from the Xbox 360 - including a rule called Stacking. This lets players who would be the victim of a Draw Two card play their own Draw Two card to stack the penalty and pass it on to the next player along. This rule also applies to Wild Draw Fours, causing some potentially pretty hefty penalties. There's also 7-0, a rule that lets you swap hands with someone if you play a 7, or sees everyone switch if you draw a 0.
Outside of rule settings, there's also a special Rabbids themed deck, which comes with four new special cards, although it's not quite as good as it should be. There's Hurry Up, a card which makes your opponents play their next cards within 3 seconds; Coming Through, which distributes five cards amongst your opponents randomly, then sends five more cards to everyone (including you); Explosive Results, which places a bomb on the reserve pile, and causes the next player to draw a card to have to take three more; and Wild Blue Yonder, which defends against a Draw Two or Wild Draw Four.
Arguably the best new feature, though, is the new local co-op mode. Bringing some much needed local multiplayer gameplay to what's previously been very much an online only affair, this lets you and a friend pair up to take on a pair of computer opponents with your choice of rules - perhaps the only disappointment is that you can only play with two players.
Yet despite being much the same as the Xbox 360 game, there's some things here that rankle. First up is the fact there's some awkwardly long pauses after playing certain cards - a skip go card seems to spend way too long making various graphical effects appear rather than letting you just get on with actually playing the game, causing the whole thing to feel a lot slower and ricketier than it really is. Then there's basic user interface issues, like the fact the game doesn't grey out the cards you can't use - something else which would help the game flow that little bit quicker.
If you're looking to play on your own, Uno is something of a shell of a game, too. There's nothing in the way of progression here - there's nothing to unlock, no levels to work your way up, and not even an adjustable difficulty for the computer players - something which has the potential to be frustrating, as they aren't exactly a walk in the park to beat.
Then there's the question of price. One of the best things about the original game was just how affordable it was - at less than £4, it was a real pocket money price that meant almost everyone who owned an Xbox 360 also owned Uno - and that gave it a constant player base. New Uno weighs in at £7.99, which, while it's still cheaper than many download only games, is a long way off being an insta-buy price. At this sort of price, you'll have to think about it that little bit more...
And while we haven't taken this into account when scoring, the fact the game weighs in at over 3 gigabytes seems insane. Remember, Uno on the Xbox 360 was less than 50 megabytes, yet it did exactly the same things. At double the price...
As it stands then, Uno kind of straddles the land between two different markets, but doesn't do enough to entice either in properly. For those looking to play on their own, the total lack of any sort of single player progression here will give you reason to err, while for those looking to play online as a group, the price tag will make it that little bit harder to persuade all your friends to pick it up. If Ubisoft add some more themed decks in for free (perhaps to promote its upcoming games..) it could be worth it - but as it stands, you should wait for this to come round in the sale.
Format Reviewed: PC