Yet another mini from Indian developers GameShastra, and this time they’ve drawn on their own roots and traditions with a version of the board game Pachisi, which is the national game of India with origins dating back to 4 A.D. You might be more familiar with the Western game Ludo, which is based on the Indian game.
The menu screen eases you into the game gently, with soothing percussion and tweeting birds. There’s a handy tutorial option which is well worth checking out as it walks you through the gameplay basics and explains the game terminology.
When you choose to start playing you’ll be presented with three available gameplay modes. The funny thing is that although two of them appear to be multiplayer, they’re actually all single-player!
I vs I is, as you might expect, where you play against a single computer opponent; Team Match is a four-player co-operative game, where you and your AI buddy play against two AI opponents. In Free for All, it’s you playing against three AI opponents. Pity they couldn’t fit a ‘hot seat’ multiplayer in there to switch things up a bit.
Basically, the game plays very much like a standard board game, with the objective being to move all four of your pieces or ‘gotis’ all the way around the board and then back to the middle (charkoni).
To determine how far to move your gotis, you must throw the two passas by pressing the analog stick upwards. Press X to move the selected goti the number of squares thrown, and press the directional buttons up or down to switch between all of your gotis on the board.
If you roll 1, 6, or 25, you must place a goti on the board, and you also get a “grace roll”, meaning a second throw. The “passa outcomes” of the grace rolls are shown on the right-hand side of the screen, and you can use the analog stick to toggle between them. If you throw two blanks you get 25, or Parchisi.
One of your main aims should be landing on an opponent’s goti as you can then ‘kill’ it and send it back to its home base. You need to make this a priority as your gotis can only enter the home straight, and therefore make it back to the charkoni, if you’ve killed at least one of your opponent’s gotis.
Although the gameplay is pretty basic and very much depends on a lucky throw of the passas, there is a little bit of strategy involved because you have to think about where your gotis are in relation to your opponent’s gotis before you make your move, with killing or being killed always uppermost in your mind.
Overall, the presentation of the game is very basic. There’s just a standard wooden board and standard pieces, without any options for customization such as different boards or different themed pieces. What you see really is what you get.
That said, the execution of the gameplay is actually very polished. The automatic camera works well, zooming in for close-ups of the board when necessary. In terms of knowing what move to make next, you’re always shown what to do every step of the way, so you’re never left floundering.
On the minus side, the design really is a bit dull. I understand that GameShastra probably wanted to go for the hard-core pure gameplay, but they could have done something to spice it up a little bit, and make it more attractive, kind of like G5 did with the excellent Mahjongg Artefacts 2.
Another serious omission is the lack of a mid-game save facility. Each game takes a long time to play, so if you want to break off in the middle you’re forced to abandon your current game. Not good.
To sum up, if you happen to be a fanatical Pachisi fan then this could be a way of getting your fix when you don’t have any mates around to play the board game with, but there’s really so little depth to the gameplay that I can’t see it holding anyone else’s attention for more than 30 minutes or so.