Mattel and RealNetworks’ GameHouse Team Up for Live Uno

Many may already be aware of the unspoken competition between Lexulous (formerly Scrabulous) and Hasbro and Mattel’s official Scrabble titles. However, Mattel has also been actively developing new social games on Facebook based on its library as well – most recently with RealNetworks (GameHouse) to develop a new title based on its popular table-top game, Uno.

Logically enough, the app is called “Live Uno” and plays just as the analog version does. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the rules, each player is dealt a set of cards of varying colors and numbers, as well as a few special rule cards (wild cards, draw cards, etc). The remaining cards are placed in a draw pile with one turned face up to signify the discard pile. The objective is to place a card of the same icon or color (so if the face up card is a yellow “2” then any color card with the number “2” can be placed on top of it or a yellow card of any number) into the discard pile, until someone is left with no more cards.

The game itself is presented in a visually appealing and intuitive manner. It is very easy for someone that knows nothing about the game to pick it up in about a minute or two, which says a lot about the game’s design as a whole (in both its digital and original fashions). Players are able to join any game by the simple click of a button and are paired up with three other players at random, so finding a group is never much trouble.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to play with specific people as of yet. The game is stated to be a “beta” version, and says that an invite feature is coming soon. However, it is difficult to say when this will happen or how it will work.

Though the current version says there will be an invite system, such an important social element should have been there from the begining. While the game is still fun, it doesn’t truly feel very social. Yes, there is a chat system, but since you are grouped with random people, it generally tends to be rather bare, and unlike other card games (i.e. Texas Hold’em) there is no real reward to playing. Win or loose, you neither gain, nor lose anything. There isn’t even so much as a leaderboard beyond what you see at the end of the game.

The game also tends to be a nuisance to play at the moment because of any number of rather unfriendly bugs: Connections to the server will sever frequently, the entire game goes down for “maintenance” a lot, the time limit for turns doesn’t always work, and so on. Of course, the game is still in beta so that will change by the time it is finished.

Regardless, the game is pretty fun when it works and looks quite appealing. Of course, as good as it feels, until it becomes more social its popularity on Facebook is going to be stunted at best. When there is no reward for playing, and one cannot play with their friends, then what’s the point? Win a few games against people you may never see again. Big deal. But win against your friends. Now there’s something personal and social about the experience and in turn, something much more gratifying.