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Astraware Boardgames: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Tonight while perusing the “New Apps” section in the MobiMadness Store I came across a new release from Astraware called Boardgames.  When I first saw this and the games that are included I was very excited to get this loaded on my BlackBerry Tour and give it a go, unfortunately my enthusiasm quickly waned and was replaced by a general sense of disappointment.

Boardgames is an application that takes 8 classic games (Chess, Checkers, Reversi, Ludo, Nine Men’s Morris, Snakes and Ladders, and Tic Tac Toe) and packages them into one application.  Looking at this list you are probably asking yourself, what could be so bad about these games?  Honestly, in most cases it’s not the games themselves, but the interface that ties them together that is sorely lacking.

Instead of writing 10,000 words trying to describe what I mean, I decided to give you a visual play-by-play (no pun intended, ok maybe a little).


Ugly Icon1 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyThe Icon

The first thing I noticed when I installed this game was how ugly the icon was.  I get the dice, but what the heck is the jagged blue and purple stuff underneath?  Your guess is as good as mine.


Splash Screen 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The Splash Screen

The splash screen is nice looking and uses a very unique scrolling selector to choose the game you want to play.

The center area, between your name and the name of the game fades in and out with information about the currently selected game.  It’s a great idea but the fading in and out takes way to long and needs to be sped up a bit.


Checkers Interface1 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyThe Game Interfaces

When you select one of the included games, a game interface pops up so you can make game specific chooses, such as player vs player or player vs phone as seen in this picture from the Checkers game.

I like the colors they chose for this and even the layout, what I didn’t like (hated) was how the item you have selected looks as compared to an non-selected item.  As you can see in the picture the only difference in the two is a slightly darker border and even on my Tour with the really nice 480×360 screen it still hard to distinguish the two states.

Of course on the big buttons like Done, Cancel, or either of the Name spots it was barely manageable, but when you moved over the Type section it was all but impossible to see.


Instructions 300x295 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyInstructions

After you finally figure out when you have the “Done” button selected and make you way into one of the games, you are greeted with a nice instructions screen.  I really liked this feature as it has a nice look to it.  The bad part about it though is that, by default, the “Next” button is selected which means instead of just being able to click past it, you have to flip over to the “Done” button.  As  a note, these buttons also suffer from the above mentioned issue and it’s hard to tell which is selected.


Checkers 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyCheckers

The Checkers board is visually very nice, but for some strange reason it does not take up the whole screen.  I have a 480×360 screen on my BlackBerry Tour and yet the board only occupies 320×320.  If I had to guess, this is probably because they designed the game and artwork to fit on the 8300 series BlackBerry with a 320×240 screen and instead of altering the dimensions for each phone type, they got lazy and made it a one-size-fits-all sort of deal.

The game is fairly straight forward, it is Checkers after all, but here again I have an issue with a visual component.  Take a look at the picture and you will see I have selected a checker piece for movement.  Notice that ugly blue box, whose color doesn’t match the game styling at all, well that is indeed my checker.  Personally I would have liked to have seen the checker box border change to a red color, while still leaving the checker below visible, and the possible movement spots to yellow, as they are now.

On the good side, I really like the fact that they put the battery and clock at the top.


Checkers Menu 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyThe Menu

On the list of missed opportunities, the menus for me is near the top.  The reason for this is the menus are just plain ugly.  Instead of a nice complimentary style, they went with a light gray background and a gray selector bar.  The words color blind come to mind when looking at this.

Also when selecting Options you are presented with “Checkers Options” and “Game Settings” and believe it or not, they are different.

Caution:  If you want to exit Checkers and select another game to play, do not press “Exit”.  If you do, then you will be tossed out of the app completely.  Instead choose “Title Menu”.

Title Menu?  Seriously?  Someone couldn’t have looked at this and said, nah.  How about “Game Menu” or even “Main Menu”?


tic tac toe 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyTic-Tac-Toe

This one they got right!  It looks great and plays smoothly.  My only compliant is the same as  Checkers and that is they did not use more of the screen area.  As a matter of fact, that complaint applies to all of the games.


Chess 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyChess

The chess game is visually, one of the ugliest games I have ever seen on a BlackBerry.  Honestly I was completely floored when I first opened this up.  Chess should have been their flagship game in this app and visually, this is repulsive.

The whole 3d approach just doesn’t cut it on a 320×320 board and there’s that obnoxious blue color for the selection cursor.

At this angle, I found the game almost unplayable.


Reversi 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyReversi

This game looked decent and did not suffer from the dreaded blue cursor syndrome.


Backgammon 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyBackgammon Dice 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyBackgammon

In a word, beautiful.  I loved the look of this game!

The board looks great with the wood grain appearance and bright red and white pieces.  It looked so good in fact, I decided to include a shot of the dice roll which pops up from the bottom of the screen.


Ludo 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyLudo

Nice looking game.


Nine Mens 300x225 Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the UglyNine Mens Morris

I’ve never played this game before but liked the look of the game board.


Conclusion

Boardgames has a lot of potential, but at the current price of $7.99 I would suggest a pass.  I am sending this review to the game maker in hopes they will address the points I have made.

Rating: 2/5 star Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the Uglystar Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the Uglyblank star Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the Uglyblank star Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the Uglyblank star Astraware Boardgames:  The Good, The Bad and the Ugly 


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About the Author

Daniel Black is the President and CEO of MobiMadness, Inc. Over the last 4 decades Dan has been an IT Director, Project Manager, Firefighter, EMT, and Army Staff Sergeant (retired).

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