Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: A Small World; or proof the iPad is board game paradise

The iPad is host to a whole range of board games - timeless and obscure, complex and family-orientated. At Digitally Downloaded, we've already reviewed the brilliant Reiner Knizia's Samurai, and A Small World is even better proof that the iPad is really, really good for board games.

A Small World even goes as far as to start out by asking the iPad be placed down on the table between two human players - this is not a video game adaptation of the board game, but the actual board game packed into a digital format.

Of course, there is some (decent) AI to play against when there's no human companionship, but that's an inferior experience. There's no online option, but that, again would have be an inferior experience so it's no great loss. The beauty of board games is in the social interactions that they encourage, and A Small World is wise to encourage that.

None of this is to suggest the package is no-frills, or 'budget,' because it's actually a very high-quality copy of the game. Visually it's vibrant, the music and sound effects are pleasant, and there's even some DLC in the form of 'expansion packs' that add a lot of extra gameplay for the faithful at a minimum price.

And the game itself is the kind of board game you want to play. In simple terms - you're tasked with capturing territories in a fantasy world using fantasy characters. Races are not equally powerful, but the more powerful the race, the more it's going to cost you. The person with the most points at the end is the winner, so A Small World is a constant stream of basic cost/ benefit analysis that is instantly approachable, but infinitely deep.

Games will take about 30 minutes to complete, so while it's a strictly 2-player game, and thus not good for parties, it's also not a time drain.

A Small World is somewhat experimental. It demands to be treated like a board game, and not like a video game, and it's largely successful. It's the kind of game that could only work on the nice, big screen of an iPad, and given that it's cheaper than a physical copy of the board game, it's a wise investment for anyone who enjoys an evening sitting around a table playing games with family or friends.