You don't see too many backgammon games for consoles, but then that's part of what makes the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade service so interesting. Since there's no packaging to deal with, and no retail space to haggle over, the service allows smaller developers and publishers to get their games out on the consoles, rather than limiting them to the oft-overlooked world of PC shareware games. That world is where Silver Creek Entertainment typically finds itself, but with the rise of the Xbox Live Arcade, the company has begun to develop its brand of card and board games for Microsoft's new console, as well. Hardwood Backgammon is among the first of Silver Creek Entertainment's games on the Xbox 360, and it's a competent, yet visually drab, take on the classic board game.
Got backgammon buddies on the other side of the country? Xbox Live is here to help.
Hardwood Backgammon sticks to the rules of the board game. The only real game options are to disallow use of the doubling cube, set the number of match points for your game-winning goal, and, if playing alone, select three different skill levels for the opponent living inside your Xbox 360. If you want to play against another person, you can do so over Xbox Live or locally. Annoyingly, you'll need a second profile on your 360 before playing a local multiplayer game. If you aren't familiar with the rules of backgammon, the game has two tutorials that do a good job of explaining the rules, but they don't delve too deeply into strategy. Like other Xbox Live Arcade games, there are 200 achievement points up for grabs in Hardwood Backgammon, including points earned for winning with a gammon, winning consecutive games, or using the doubling cube.
The game controls well. You push a button to roll the dice, and then cycle through only the valid moves. There are dots to indicate where your pieces can land. This is handy and keeps things moving. On the presentation side, though, Hardwood Backgammon is seriously underwhelming. The static background, generic sound, and dull-looking board and pieces give away the developer's shareware roots. The game has a download section that claims to allow for new dice and checker graphics, but as of this writing, nothing is available.
If you're into backgammon (or if you haven't played it, but tend to enjoy board games), this no-frills take on the classic game is playable and addictive. Plus, it comes in at the lower price point (400 points) for Xbox Live Arcade games, which helps make Hardwood Backgammon's bland look a little easier to swallow.