Cranium, the board game version, is one of my favourite tabletop activities. It’s right up there with Hero Quest and Heroes of the Maze. Unlike those rather geeky and ancient recreations though, Cranium is new, lively, colourful and very family orientated. That last point is important when you come from a family of seven and nobody wants to play “those stupid geek games again”.
Cranium is simple. Teams of ideally three or more go around the board and compete in various little challenges in a race around the board. Tasks are divided into four broad categories and have a number of different sub-types. There’s charade-alikes, Pictionary clones, simple true/false questions, anagrams and all sorts. It’s a fun little time-waster and makes an excellent drinking game if you adapt the rules a little.
Cranium Kabookii is the videogame adaptation of that boardgame for the Wii. It sure looks as colourful and fun as the board game judging by the packaging but, not entirely convinced, we decided we’d better give it a review to be sure. The Nintendo Wii is pretty much stuffed with mini-game collections and party games but, apart from Wii Sports and Wario Ware Inc. they tend not to be any good.
The anagram puzzles tend to be insultingly easy, but are fun nonetheless
Could Cranium Kabookii join those rather elite ranks? There was only one way to find out – I invited the whole office back to my flat to play the game, ordered some pizzas and broke out the fancy whisky that my girlfriend got for Christmas. After we sobered up, this was our overall consensus…
I booted the game, examined the rather sparse main menu (Play or Options), divided the rather large gathering of people in my very small flat into two teams of five people and hit the play button.
One of the things I immediately liked most about Cranium Kabookii is that, just like the board game version, an unlimited number of people can play and teams can be any size you want. Unfortunately that door swings both ways and, just like the board game version you need a minimum of four participants (two for each team) so that one person can perform a challenge and the other person can try to guess the answer.
Now, in the board game that isn’t a problem. Nobody plays board games on their own really and the whole idea of it is that it’s a family game. With the Wii though, things are a little different; people do play video games solo and the medium is in fact more targeted at lonesome gamers. Therefore, the fact that there’s no VS computer, practice or stripped-down two player mode means that the game is suddenly very limited. If you don't have three friends to play with then you may as well stop reading now.
The game is colourfully presented, but poorly balanced
Either way, gameplay is simple and essentially very similar to the board game, though sans the board of course. Instead, the aim here is to be the first team to collect 24 tokens which you pile up underneath your character and use as a ladder to reach the top of the circus tent that the game takes place in. The motives and story behind all that are left unexplained, but if you were wanting a deep, narrative driven experience then you should have looked else where anyway.
At the start of each turn players spin a wheel that is covered in different activities. When the wheel stops teams then have to complete that activity as fast as possible in order to win tokens before handing the controller on to the next group for their go. Whoever gets 24 tokens first wins, the game ends and the whole thing goes back to the main menu. It’s a simple premise and one which could live or die by the puzzles it poses to players, so I guess we’d better have a look at them…