I don't know about you, but my favourite part of every Christmas – or any family gathering, for that matter – was when my mother would set up whatever boardgame she'd picked up on the market that year. Nothing very taxing, but sometimes that was half the fun – watching my Gran get by with just Whitechapel and Old Kent Road (both mortgaged) on Monopoly was a sight that sadly only came once a year.
Digital Chocolate's Pictoplay Plus has largely the same appeal as those yuletide offerings: it's simple, you can play it with your friends, and it has the canny ability to make you look a bit stupid on occasion.
Trademarks withstanding, Pictoplay Plus is essentially Pictionary on the fly, with the game drawing random objects that have to be guessed, by you, the player. While the game comes with various twists on this basic premise, that's really all that's involved.
In the main game mode, the aim is simply to try and guess as many of the objects correctly as quickly as you can. Pictoplay Plus offers up four possible options while the picture is being drawn, with time counting down on the right hand side of the screen as you try to fathom just what you're seeing. If you run out of time before guessing, it's game over. If you guess wrong, it's also game over. It's that simple.
Pictoplay Plus is a 'high score' game, in that the main target is to clear each round in quick speed to earn as many points as you possibly can before you inevitably make a mistake. You can't really win, and you can't really lose, but you can have a lot of fun trying to outdo your previous score record. Topping this league is the only real reward available, though even a poor effort can prove fruitful.
That's because sometimes you'll kick yourself with some of the answers you'll give. With time ticking down, all too often you'll plump for an answer that seemingly looks like the half drawn picture on the screen, only for the full reveal to show just what a fool you've been. Only in Pictoplay Plus can drawing of a flute start off looking like the entire continent of Africa.
Somehow, the team at Sumea has managed to make each round a genuine challenge without making it unfair. The pictures in question – of which there are more than 950 – almost always look like the objects they're trying to represent, and the answers available usually give a good mix of options, meaning you never get caught out by choosing 'rabbit' when what's actually on screen is a hare.
Those who find the main mode a little too easy, however, will be pleased to hear that there are three other Challenge modes that shift the goalposts just slightly, each coming with nine variants. One of the modes simply alters the parameters of the game (adding a total time limit, and so forth) while the other two change the pictures themselves.
The Vanishing Wax mode, for instance, still draws the pictures, but unsurprisingly they're drawn in vanishing wax, meaning you have to memorise the parts of the drawing that have long disappeared, all the while keeping a track of what's being drawn at that very second – something which is almost as difficult to describe as it is to play.
The Wacky Crayon mode is slightly more difficult again, drawing the same pictures as in the standard mode, but drawing them in a slightly odd order, leading to even more visual misdemeanours than in the main game. Furthermore, if you're in a position to play with friends, Pictoplay Plus has also catered for that, with the multiplayer mode allowing up to four players to take part.
The idea is to put the phone on the table, with players buzzing in by hitting the number key next to their chosen character to guess the object. Doubtless, multiplayer will be more of an issue when playing on a phone with a small screen, but as it is, it's an addition that gives Pictoplay Plus some real longevity and harks back to those very family get-togethers it seems so inspired by.
Simple, addictive and suitable both in small portions and marathon long sessions (depending on your ability, of course), Pictoplay Plus is the kind of thing mobile phones were made for. Besides making phone calls, of course.