Posted by Bryan Griffin
Basic and boring or fantastic and fun?
If classic board, card and table top games that have been brought to the DSiWare service were pop stars, solitaire would be Lady Gaga and Rummikub would be Kelly Rowland (formerly of Destiny's Child). While one stands alone and captures the attention of millions, the other struggles with popularity unless they are paired with more star power in a compilation. Many people know of the game in their non-Nintendo lives, but it's probably not anyone's top favourite to gather some friends together and play on a Saturday night. It hit the peak of its popularity in 1977 and is still fairly popular today in the right circles, such as nursing home social gatherings. However, if you've never heard of the game, you likely aren't the only one. So, what is Rummikub? If you threw dominoes, rummy and mahjong in a blender you would get Rummikub, and the flavour would be an acquired taste.
This is only as hard as it is for you to learn the rules. If you're familiar with them already, the difficulty depends on who you are playing against. The AI in the game is a worthy opponent and offers four levels of difficulty; good luck on expert mode, because the AI is a beast that doesn't care about your name or face. It will stomp you to the ground and laugh at your pain. As with all similar games on the service, this is probably best played with a friend, so be thankful it includes a local wireless multiplayer option for up to four people. Hold back the enthusiasm kids! Everyone can get a turn!
The point of the game is to clear your rack of all the tiles, while forcing your opponent to pick up more. There are 106 tiles consisting of 104 that are numbered in suits and two jokers that act as wild cards. By clicking and dragging with the stylus on the touchscreen, you'll form groups and runs on the playing table. A group is defined as a set of three or four tiles with the same numbers but a different colour (blue 5, red 5, black 5, yellow 5); a run is a consecutive set of numbers of the same colour (blue 5, blue 6, blue 7, blue 8).
The fun of Rummikub comes from manipulating the table by rearranging or adding to existing sets. It's dry, it's old school and it is what it is, but there’s a ton of strategy involved so the replay value is infinite. The first few rounds may seem slow, but as the game moves along it becomes a brain crunch. You can set a timer for each round if you wish, but beginning players should probably opt for no time limit. Once you’re familiar with the rules and flow of the game, you can have a pretty good time. If you enjoy games such as chess, Rummikub might be worth a look. You’ll be thinking several moves ahead, anticipating your opponent’s choices, and taking advantage of their mistakes.
This version of Rummikub isn't going to win over any new fans, especially because the presentation isn't spectacular or even mediocre. A stock photo of a happy family playing the game and a few animations of a tile being crushed by hundreds of other tiles is the bulk of what you’ll be seeing. You can change the background of the playing table to such exciting themes as party (pink balloons) or movie (a classic film camera), but the excitement doesn't stop there! No, you can set the volume of the single music track that loops constantly. But wait, there's more! You can adjust the volume of the beeping noises that pass as sound effects too! Isn't that great?
This is just a basic version of the same game people have been playing since the 1930s. If you enjoy getting together with friends and playing the classics that were popular before all this video game nonsense, it might be for you. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, you’ll probably play for a total of three minutes after you download it, and then promptly banish it to your SD card. Rummikub for DSiWare will likely drift silently into obscurity like a former member of a top-selling girl group.