Posted by Jon Wahlgren
Nothing funny rhymes with "Ubongo"
Ubongo is a board game that's won its fair share of awards in continental Europe, and came to WiiWare via a not-so-great adaptation. Shrinking the game to the DSiWare platform doesn't do it any favours either, sadly, and comes with a host of new problems.
As opposed to the four-player original board game and WiiWare adaptation, Ubongo on DSiWare is restricted to just two players. The game is divided into rounds where each player, competing simultaneously, is given an empty "plate" and tasked with fitting a number of Tetronimo-esque tiles inside. The first to do so is allowed to remove two coloured gems from the main board before the other, and the goal is to collect the most of any one colour by the end of the game. There's a degree of balancing involved with amassing your own collection while at the same time screwing over your opponent, though a lot of it seems to come down to who can complete their plate first.
Doing so is easier said than done. The plates can pose a bit of a challenge — Tetris veterans will have a bit of a leg up — but the touchscreen controls are your greater enemy. At first it may feel intuitive to slide tiles around the board, yet once more tiles and rotations come into play the controls reveal themselves to be somewhat unresponsive. When speed is the name of the game, it's aggravating to not be able to act as nimbly as you would like.
The single-player story mode is the same as on WiiWare: namely, a series of ever-increasing challenges that will somehow save your village. Multiplayer is limited to two players, via a wireless connection, and includes a couple of customisable options, but nothing too meaty. Competing against friends may be the preferred way to play Ubongo, as the solo modes get dull after a while.
Ubongo drops the ball on presentation, even going so far as to shove the opening sequence video onto both screens; failing to take into account that, held in book-form, there's a distracting divide down the middle. The graphics don't scale well either, looking either extremely basic or somewhat grainy.
There are glimmers of what made the original board game so well received in this DSiWare adaptation, but poor controls, limited multiplayer, and grainy presentation undermine the experience in the realm of video games. You're best off skipping this one and hunting down the physical game for its tile-fitting fun.