The board game Pictionary celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, marking a quarter-century of bringing people together in a test of drawing skills, guessing acumen, and patience. The latest incarnation of this classic game uses the uDraw GameTablet to let players draw their clues using a plastic stylus and pad and see them appear on their television screens. The peripheral works well and offers you many more tools and colors than you are likely to need, though it's advisable to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the tablet before jumping into a game. You can choose the traditional Pictionary mode or the wackier Pictionary Mania, and both offer the kind of wholesome, whimsical merriment that the board game has been inspiring for years, providing you have the required minimum of four players. It doesn't have much to offer solo players, but once you get some tablet-savvy folks together, Pictionary serves up plenty of sketch-fueled fun.
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In fact, just about the only thing a single player can do in Pictionary--aside from staging sad solo games--is mess around in the drawing studios. Free Draw gives you the whole screen as a canvas, while Team Banner mode lets you craft smaller drawings for use during actual games. Spending some time in Free Draw is a great way to get accustomed to the uDraw GameTablet. The actual drawing surface is about the size of three Wii Remotes laid side-by-side, and the position of your pen on the tablet corresponds to the position of your cursor on the screen. You may be initially disoriented by the instinct to treat the cursor like a mouse pointer, but it's not tough to get the hang of the tablet-to-screen relationship. You must also adjust to pressing a little harder to draw than you might normally press because your strokes only register if you depress the tip of the stylus with enough pressure. Again, there is a small but significant initial barrier, but with a little practice, you can be drawing with something close to your actual skill level.
Once you have at least four people on hand (each team needs to have one person to sketch and at least one person to guess), you can jump into a proper Pictionary game. You can play with two, three, or four teams and choose to play a normal (100 percent of the board), short (75 percent), or shortest (50 percent) game. You progress by correctly guessing the clue that your teammate draws within an agreed-upon time limit and then rolling the die to advance your piece. As you pass the tablet around, the sketchers can choose whether they want adult or junior clues. These designations do not refer to the difficulty of the clues, but rather, the kind of category that is given as a hint. Junior clues ("At grandma's house") are often more descriptive than the traditional adult ones ("Object"), and you can always select a new clue if someone sees the first one. Pictionary relies in part on the honor system, requiring guessers to look away from the screen when the sketcher peeks at the clue, as well as relying on the sketcher to hear the correct answer and choose the right menu option. There are other rules included in the manual (the sketcher can't talk or use letters, for example), and it's best to reach a consensus about how the rules will be enforced before playing.