Sierra, $29 Requirements: PowerPC, 16MB RAM,
System 7.5, 2x CD. For more information, visit Sierra at http://www.sierra.com.
Review by Edward Carmien
Hoyle Board Games (HBG) is a fantastic collection of 14 board
games. Battling Ships, Mancala, Reversi, Backgammon, Chess, Line
'em Up, Dominoes, Snakes and Ladders, Checkers, Placer Racer,
Pachisi, Yacht, Chinese Checkers, and Zen Bones make up the roster
of games. If you see some games you think you've heard of before,
you probably have: "Battling Ships" is of course "Battleship,"
Pachisi is you know what, Snakes and Ladders is Chutes and Ladders,
Yacht should have a Zee on the end, and so on.
It may seem that HBG is taking the cheesy, rip-off route by
giving these lookalike games soundalike names. Luckily, the excellent
manual includes a droll, but also very learned, history of each
game. In each soundalike case, there existed a game before American
game companies got a hold of it, according to the manual. The
manual, in fact, could quite possibly be the best thing about
this software package.
Opening the game reveals a sumptuous box: as with much software,
the game is overpackaged. It's too bad that software companies
are forced to fight for shelf space using ammunition culled from
the world's forests. Firing up the program reveals a RAM-hungry
little beast replete with animated, talking opponents and a very
slick game menu that gives you a quick peek at each game as you
slide the mouse around.
Most of the games are quite entertaining. Some are duds for
adults; I didn't have a chance to expose the game to any kids
kids, though. Battling Ships moves a little slowly, even with
animations turned off, but it is worth a game or two even for
jaded old gamers...if only for the nostalgia value. I can see
this game being a big hit for face to face play with a live person
(though playing with a physical game would be much more convenient
unless we're talking about a wired, multi-CPU household). Mancala
is a good interpretation of the "out of Africa" game.
Reversi and Backgammon provide good challenges to experienced
players, though. Chess does not however, being much better
suited for casual players. Line 'em up ("Connect Four")
proved to be much more aggravating than I thought it would--the
computer is really good at seeing slant solutions.
The dominos game includes several variations, but is limited
to sixes, which was a mild disappointment. Snakes and Ladders
looks like it might be fun for kids, as does Placer Racer, a
kind of "Tetris With Guns" game (and the only game
in this collection which reflexes count). Pachisi and Yacht are
exactly like their more familiar counterparts, though I found
the Parchisi game hard to control with the mouse, and Yacht moves
slowly, as you spend a lot of time watching the dice cup move
and the dice fall. Chinese Checkers is a delight; I'm sure many
people have seen the game, but few have ever owned the game and
had five other people around to play it. Zen Bones is a variation
on Mah Johng, including multiple setup configurations and tiles
that animate when matches are made. Checkers joins Pachisi with
some annoying mouse-control problems--getting those checkers
to drop on the square requires exact placement. None of the caveats
I've mentioned so far are truly serious, however; they are merely
minor blemishes on an excellent suite of games.
Though the game is a memory hog, it ran without complaint,
except when I asked it to "fill screen," when it quietly
aborted neatly to the finder, causing no other problems that
The animated characters are clever and well-done, and their
antics are completely under the player's control. There is background
music if you like that sort of thing, and the game includes two
animated background environments: a cabin and a spaceship, "in"
which you can play HBG.
Hoyle's Board Games is well worth the money, as it gives you
access to hundreds of dollars of board games. Of course, playing
face-to-face with a crowd at one computer can be awkward and
tiring, so it came as a great relief to see that the game includes
an internet play option, as advertised on the box.
But wait. Does it? Since the game is on a hybrid CD, the box
mentions PC-only internet play. There's even an internet "globe"
on the main menu screen. Unfortunately, the Mac version is not
included in this fun (though it is easy to imagine it was meant
to be, but perhaps didn't make the ship date). Internet play
for the PC version is through www.won.net, and from what I was
able to see of the on-line game-playing process, I'm almost happier
that the Mac version is incompatible. You have to wade through
(using a browser) various Java permissions, including scary permissions
on your computer.
In theory, there is an insert that comes with the game to
let you know that the Mac version is not internet-capable. No
such insert shipped with my copy of the game, so if you run out
and pick up HBG for your Mac, keep that in mind. Then again,
such omissions are not unheard of--if you open enough copies
of enough games, you'll find boxes without CD's enclosed, or
manuals, and so on. Even so, it's a pity Sierra didn't take greater
pains to notify buyers the Mac version does not include internet
play--if you pick up the box, the words "Free Internet Play"
are sure to catch your eye. This is a major disappointment, and
I hope Sierra will take action to either make the game internet
capable or make it clear on the box exterior that the Mac version
is not internet capable.
Speaking of disappointment, discovering that the game was
not internet-capable was the only major flaw I discovered while
using this software. The manual, with history, strategy tips,
and clear instructions for each game (I learned more than one
new thing about various games just by reading the manual--and
I'm a game maven!) is outstanding. I wish more game companies
took the time and effort to produce such stellar documentation.
The games are fun, and players can set a wide variety of options,
allowing for different challenges playing the same game.
An internet-capable version of this game would earn a 4.5
from this reviewer. Too bad I have to downgrade it to 3.5, pending
a patch or upgrade that fixes that problem.