Four in a Row
Developer: Ludos Labs
Publisher: Ultimate Games
Genre: Board Game, Party, Lifestyle
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 14/01/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
The board game Connect Four is a staple for household board game fans. It has inspired many companies to produce similar titles over various platforms. Four in a Row attempts to replicate this classic formula while adding a simple twist. Instead of only being able to insert tokens from the top of the array, the player can insert pieces from all four sides.
There are forty-one levels featured in Four in a Row. While the presence of a single-player experience was a good decision, the levels themselves are not worth the price of admission. The levels rarely offer insight on how to play the game. Levels begin with tokens placed throughout the array, and the player is tasked with connecting four tokens of the same colour either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. While this seems challenging, the artificial intelligence behind the computer is atrocious. If the artificial intelligence were not as terrible as it was, some of the levels would be impossible to complete. Although it can be challenging to create a competent opponent, failing to connect four in a row when there are three tiles in a row should be unacceptable. The levels fail to improve the player’s understanding of the game and showcase the faulty artificial intelligence on offer.
Thankfully, there are alternative game modes. The game features quick matches against both human players and a computer player. Playing against the computer is still frustrating here, as even on the most challenging difficulty, the artificial intelligence misses assured victory. Additionally, the human player always goes first. While in Connect Four, it is beneficial to go first, the ability to insert tokens from all sides of the array makes it better to go second. Being unable to go second will frustrate the player, as they cannot experiment with the correlating strategies. Playing alone against a computer player even without the challenge mode is frustrating due to a lack of challenging computer opponents, and a lack of match options.
Playing against a human player was the only time the game was enjoyable. Even still, there are a lack of match options. The game forces the winner to go second. This helps them continue winning, as going second leaves the player in a more advantageous position. There are no options to remedy this. Additionally, this mode is only designed for local multiplayer. There are no online capabilities. Despite a lack of options, the game functions as a decent way to play Four in a Row with friends. Unfortunately, if the only reason to play this game is to play with friends, there are multiple ways to play Four in a Row for free on cellular devices.
The music and sound effects featured in Four in a Row are strangely melodic. This is an odd choice, especially considering the competitive nature of the game. This decision made playing the game a little awkward. Additionally, the music level was so quiet at default, that originally my speaker did not pick up the sound. I was forced to raise the volume incredibly high before I was able to hear the sound. The sound decisions made are subpar. Fixing the level of volume would help, but there is no denying that the tone of the music does not match the tone of the game.
The visuals in Four in a Row are average. While the visuals correctly convey all the information required, the visuals are not special. The menus are cheap, and they do not have their own identity. Moreover, while playing the game, the array of tokens does not fill the screen. To fill the leftover space, the developers implemented a background to fill the void. This looks incredibly cheap, with no depth or varying colours. It is a simple blue background with dots. Overall, while not terrible, the visuals on offer make the game feel cheap and degrade the overall experience.
The game also offers alternate costumes for the tokens. While these could have been something that set the game apart from the competition, the designs featured are lacklustre and do not encourage the player to collect them. These designs are locked behind a gem system. Luckily, the game does not feature microtransactions. However, the player only collects two gems for each level they complete or each computer they face. There are many tokens to collect, and some cost as much as one hundred gems. Instead of a pleasant alternative to the basic colour palette of Four in a Row, these alternate costumes serve as padding and encourage players to continue playing the same content for too long.
The controls in Four in a Row are simple. The player uses the left stick to select which of the rows to place a token. Then, the player selects the row with the A button. While this seems fine on paper, the sensitivity of the control stick is extremely high. There are no options to toggle this. It will inconvenience some players. The controls serve their purpose, but additional control options would have ensured all players were comfortable.
Though Four in a Row is a decent rendition of the classic board game Connect Four, it is hardly justifiable to purchase this game when most mobile phones allow for people to connect online and play the game via their personal smartphone. The ability to play online with friends trumps all benefits there are to playing Four in a Row unless you are seriously committed to the small change of inserting tokens from all sides of the board. Additionally, poorly designed single player missions and the lack of a soundtrack do not add to the overall package. Despite my critical review, I enjoyed my time with Four in a Row, and there is potential for a solid game here. However, I cannot recommend the purchase of this title.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Four in a Row from the Nintendo eShop here
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