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PictureBook Games: The Royal Bluff - DSiWare Review

Game Info
PictureBook Games: The Royal Bluff

DSiWare | Nintendo | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
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1st July 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

The second game in the PictureBook Games series, 'The Royal Bluff' is proof of the fact that strategy games don't always need to be deep or complicated to be fun. Simply put, this is yet another quality first-party DSiWare title that you'll want to purchase.

    After tapping on and opening the green book found on the Title Screen, the butler will welcome you to the evening festivities. In the background, you can hear clashes of glass dishes, along with chatter that would indicate a dinner party is taking place. But in the shadows, a series of posh individuals are preparing for their own little event, filled with risk and mystery. The Main Menu presents you with multiple game selections: the main 'Play' option, consisting of the single-player Tournament Mode, Free Play and Wireless Multiplayer; the Dossier where you can purchase Trick Cards, view Stats such as your success rate, and the overall number of wins; as well as an Options menu where you can adjust such things as game speed.

    When you're ready to begin playing, you'll observe that you have a series of characters to choose from who will represent you in the game. At the start of the game, only the two human characters, Lady and Lord, will be selectable. But as you defeat more opponents in Tournament Mode, you'll be able to use them freely on outside of this mode. If you didn't already pick up on it, all other characters in the game are anthropomorphic creatures, animals who display human-like qualities. From the eyeglass-wearing giraffe to the ravenous wolf, all of them convey a sense of sophistication that makes them more intimidating than you'd otherwise expect.

    The game itself takes place in, what appears to be, a wooden box. Inside this contained area is the game board, located on the touch screen. Depending on the number of people playing, the board features five or six rows, each for a different-coloured chip. Each player has two randomly-assigned colours at the start of the match. The top screen presents relevant information such as the cards everyone has, and even more details are specified on an additional menu by pressing the L or R trigger. Your objective is to earn the most points possible by the end of 10 turns, or by the time someone completes a row of 10 chips - whichever comes first. It sounds easy, but it's really not. 

Each turn, players use cards that will either add or take away chips from a selected row on the board. You may only use one of these per turn, and your empty space will be replaced by a new card at the end of each turn (until, of course, you begin to approach the 10th turn). Before you place any chips, you have the option to perform a 'Call Out'. If you think you know one of the colours belonging to someone, you can attempt to call them out. If you're successful, you'll earn two bonus points and their colour will be displayed for all to see on the top screen. If you're unsuccessful, however, the accused will earn a bonus point, and the incorrect guess (known as a 'Fake Out') will similarly get recorded. You only have a limited number of guesses so be sure to use them wisely.

    As the name of the game indicates, this is a strategy game where you'll need to bluff your way through if you hope to succeed. Continuously making direct moves on the chips of your colour is sure to draw attention, and being discovered is the last thing you want. For example, adding 3 or more to a colour is awfully suspicious. If your colours are identified early-on in the game, you'll be at a serious disadvantage. To prevent this from happening, you'll need to make wise decisions and use discretion in the cards you play, especially as the number of turns wind down. If you observe the patterns of your opponents and the kinds of choices they make, sometimes you're able to discern their intentions and figure out one of their possible colours. Two people can have the same colour and not even know it, which makes things very suspenseful and interesting.

    'The Royal Bluff' also features what's known as Trick Cards. These can be purchased under the Dossier option by using the points earned from Tournament and Free Play matches. When you give up the 10 points required, a roulette will begin and you'll be awarded the special card that it stops on. Some can be use for an unlimited number of times, while others have limited usage. Before the match starts, you'll have the option to choose which Trick Card you'd like to use going into the match. There's a wide variety of effects that these special items can execute. You can add one chip to all colours, shuffle card hands, lock the row with the most chips, or even make all chips invisible for a full turn so no one sees where things are being placed. These Trick cards make things even more suspenseful and they certainly are a very welcome addition to the gameplay.

If the game advances until the 10th turn and some Call Outs haven't been used, an Extra Game will be triggered. This allows players one last chance to perform a Call Out. Even if you had two leftover, you'll only be granted one extra move so keep this in mind. Once the game ends, the results screen appears, revealing all of the coloured chips, and assigning points to each player. Points are measured by the difference between the two chips you had to work with. So if you had 3 Orange and 7 Aqua, you'd earn 4 points. Bonus points will also be awarded at this time for Call Outs, unsuccessful Fake Outs, and for maximizing a row with 10 chips.

    One of the most exciting things about this package is that the multiplayer not only includes Wireless Play for people who have the game on their own systems, but Download Play as well. Although you don't get to select a character when making use of this underused feature, it's still great that you can play with friends who have earlier DS models. There are some other restrictions, such as the fact that Trick Cards are disabled, but it's still a lot of fun.

    The presentation in this game is top-notch. As mentioned, there's a definitely a feeling of sophistication that translates into everything about the game. This is particularly impressive because of how simple the mechanics really are. The music in the game is really nice, especially the track played during gameplay which is full of intrigue and suspicion. Much to my surprise, there's even some small voiceovers! When you make call outs, characters will make sound effects yelling out a colour or expressing a grunt of frustration. It's a really cool feature and it's something I certainly didn't expect.

    Overall, PictureBook Games: The Royal Bluff is a great purchase for only $5. A solid single-player experience that offers quite a bit to come back to (including achievements), as well as the ability to play wirelessly even with people who don't own the game, make this a definite buy.

25/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Strategic gameplay set to simple mechanics, Trick Cards make things interesting and suspenseful
Presentation 9/10 - Classy yet amusing visual focus, voice acting is a nice touch, colourful and quite attractive overall
Enjoyment 4/5 - A simple game with a surprising amount of depth, especially fun amongst friends to psych each other out
Extra Content 4/5 - Good single-player appeal, achievements for the ambitious player, multiplayer includes both Wireless and Download Play

Equivalent to a score of 83% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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PictureBook Games: The Royal Bluff
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