Uno Rush [Xbox Live Arcade]
Game: Uno Rush
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
For casual, accessible fun, few games hold a candle to Uno on the Xbox Live Arcade. It's slow, the rules are easy to learn, and it has a traditional feeling that replicates the classic card game as closely as possible. Uno Rush might be the polar opposite of that experience. While still incredibly fun, it's fast, hectic, a little bit complicated, and would be extremely hard to replicate with paper.
Early on it's established that not knowing or enjoying classic Uno is of no consequence. Sure, Uno Rush uses the same basic rule structure, but it's so scrambled up and changed around that it's easier to think of it as an entirely different game. Red cards still go on other red cards, numbers can still match with numbers, and forgetting to declare "Uno" is a mistake. But besides that, the similarities are mostly cosmetic. After all four players are dealt seven cards, face up, the game chooses a color and a starting player while everyone tries to quickly arrange their hand. See, the name of the game is order in Uno Rush, and the order in which cards are held is crucial.
Once chosen, the player only has a few seconds to move an appropriate card to the front of the hand. If they don't do it in time, the game gives them another card and moves onto the next person, repeating the process. If there is an acceptable card in place, however, it will automatically be moved to the pile. This is where it branches off dramatically from Uno. Instead of dropping a card down and moving on, players play every card then can, as long as it's in the right order. If there's a red four and the player has a green four it will be played, but as long as the next two cards are green they will also be placed down, one at a time. The other players quickly adjust their hands, moving the green cards to the front, anticipating the eventual change, and watching their opponents' hands for clues.
It's also important to pay close attention to everyone's cards during every turn, since there's always a chance that a player might need to call "Uno!", just as with the traditional card game. It's a bit easier to track when this will happen since someone could go from ten cards to one in a single turn, but it adds to the importants of peripheral vision and planning. Players getting "Uno" can call it at any time during their turn, but if they forget their opponents can challange them on it, forcing them to draw more cards, keeping the game going.
Needless to say, Uno Rush can become hectic, and isn't the slow paced social experience of the classic card game. It does feel like the controls could use a bit of tightening, though, and it's easy to grow angry when the game doesn't seem to be as responsive as it should. Being able to group cards and move them together would make organization much easier, and doesn't seem like it would be a massive blow to the design. That said, it might be a conscious choice instead of a flaw, and there's likely a reason the controls are the way they are.
Uno Rush isn't an expansion or remake of the classic game; it's a re-imagining, an evolution, or a sequel to Uno, if that's even possible. It takes the basic framework and turns it upside down, ripping out the casual appeal and replacing it with fast-paced competitive gameplay. Though not for anyone who gets flustered under pressure, Uno Rush is a great addition to the Xbox Live Marketplace, and a must buy for fans of competitive action.