Posted by James Newton
They should keep it in the Congo
Ubongo is a board game popular in continental Europe, but its video game counterpart doesn't hit the target.
The mechanics of the game are simple: up to four players play simultaneously, each with their own "plate", which is a shape that must be completely covered with Tetromino-like objects; imagine Tetris Tangrams and you're on the way. Whoever completes their plate first then gets to move their 'pawn' on a board filled with gems, stealing the two gems directly above them. The other players follow suit after completing their plates, and so on until the requisite number of rounds has been filled.
The ultimate aim is to collect as many gems of one colour as possible — it doesn't matter which colour, they all have the same value. There's a small element of tactics involved, as players who complete their puzzle first can move more spaces on the board to grab the gems they want, but it's extremely shaky foundations on which to build a game with any longevity.
The single-player story mode chains increasingly difficult puzzles with bizarre cutscenes, detailing the story of an African tribesman on an epic journey to recover something or other that can only be taken by playing Ubongo, presumably.
As for multiplayer, you can tweak a few options — difficulty, the number of rounds to win to emerge victorious and so on — but there's no tournament option, no incentive to keep playing: win the match and it's back to the start screen. It's very thin stuff, and pales in comparison to other games on WiiWare, a service that's practically jam-packed with great and innovative puzzlers.
It may be termed a board game, but Ubongo is an unhappy mess of Tetris, tangrams and gem-grabbing, with no strategy required to win and subsequently no satisfaction. Die hard fans of the board game original may find this worth seeking out, but anyone else with Nintendo Points should check out any one of the superior WiiWare puzzle games before this one.