Family Feud's been on the air since 1976, and it's especially unique from other trivia shows as it challenges contestants not to give the correct answer but what they believe others would guess is the correct answer, ranking the choices by how many out of a surveyed group picked them. Both this and its longevity make it uniquely geared for what Ludia and Ubisoft try with Family Feud Decades – instead of simply making this a generic video game adaptation, they've drawn from each era during which the show has aired, letting you choose which to try.
This variation makes things especially interesting as instead of guessing what a surveyed group believed to be correct, players must predict the way a generation would have thought. Even when this doesn't have an especially discernable effect on the outcome, it's still fun to bend your brain in this unique way. Unfortunately, those hoping for an eight-track player with every 80's era question or a Limp Bizkit for every 90's match will find themselves disappointed as the effect of the temporality rarely makes such an obvious difference.
Beyond splitting survey questions up into '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s categories, the set will change as well, adding a bit more nostalgia to the mix – just as it reminds you of how lacunal this flashback is. The most glaring omission is the host, usually one of the most compelling reasons to watch the show itself. Even GameTek's NES release of Family Feud included an 8-bit Richard Dawson kissing the cheek of each female contestant and winking at the audience, but Decades contains no such charm, even though a cavalcade of hosts has accompanied the series throughout the years. A little of Louie Anderson's flamboyant joviality, John O'Hurley's faux-suavity or Steve Harvey's daytime sitcom likeability would have gone a long way, but they are all sadly absent from this game.
Besides the lack of a host, Decades just feels way too polished to elicit much nostalgia. Just looking at one of Ubisoft's teaser promotions will give you a sense of what this game lacks: the tile that turns just a little bit too slowly, the retro feel of the lighting... any such touch would have helped create a bit of that retro ambience that's missing from this game. Another missed opportunity is in the contestants themselves, all of which maintain the same wardrobe and style throughout the years and utilise the same mannequin-shiny models.
You can play the game alone or with a friend, each controlling your own competing family. In solo mode there are three difficulty variations, though easy feels a bit too easy and hard a bit too hard, opponents of the former rarely guessing correctly and of the latter rarely relinquishing the board once they've gained it. Medium feels about right, however, and it's not a challenging game to pick up and play. Another positive factor is the ever-present announcer, who will explain every step for those unfamiliar with the set-up and allow you to skip his fairly pleasantly voiced instructions if you wish.
After you're asked a question, you have 15 or 20 seconds to input your answer on an on-screen keyboard that you can set up in QWERTY or ABCDEF fashion, pointing your Remote at the desired letters. After inputting two characters, four predicted answers pop up on-screen, which is both a blessing and a curse. While it allows you to type in answers that you never would otherwise be able to within the limit of the ticking clock, you'll know if you've guessed correctly by whether your answer appears as a choice. This can really hamper the challenge, and there's no way to alter the clock time or turn the text predictor off, a combination that would have greatly helped.
While the time-specific sets are a nice touch, the graphics fail to impress otherwise. Everything looks a bit too shiny for that retro feel. The character models are the worst offenders – they just look artificial and generic, as brightly coloured and little-detailed as action figures or first-generation Sims. There are also small details that don't get in the way too much but remind you of the game's lack of polish – the repetitive animations of the contestants that never change in any situation, the cardboard cut-out audience, the call to head to the podiums once you're already there. Sound-wise there's not much of note; the announcer never really gets in the way, which works just fine for this game.
Besides this, there's a very basic character editor and achievement system, and the computer keeps track of your winnings, so there's some extra incentive to return for another round. Additionally, to the game's credit, for all of the opportunities it misses it ends up with an all-around streamlined approach. Anyone who's played such versions of the game as Hasbro's needlessly customisable, forever pausing to load, omnipresent Louie Anderson-infused PC edition will find the simplicity of Decades welcome – though we definitely miss the big finale.
While it benefits from the temporal twist on its already interesting survey-based formula and decade-specific sets, this iteration of the Feud will leave nostalgic fans disappointed as it fails to feel retro in any other way, not even including its charismatic line-up of hosts. Resultantly, little has changed since Ubisoft's previous release, Family Feud 2010 Edition. Players looking for some good, quick two-player fun will still enjoy Family Feud Decades, but overall it's a glaringly missed opportunity with its share of shortcomings.