The Game of Life zAPPed Edition Game Review

The  Basics:

  • For ages 4 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • About 60 minutes to complete
  • Requires an Apple iPad to play

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Reading
  • Memorization
  • Visuospatial Skills

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • On the Road of Life, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

This  perennial classic (originally released in the 1960’s)  has had a number of facelifts in an attempt to make it a continued hit at family game tables. This newest version enters the 21st century by giving the game board a new coat of paint and introduces the Apple iPad as the center of focus. Gone is the classic spinner, replaced by a virtual spinner now on the iPad. But it doesn’t stop there. New interactive games and family friendly videos from America’s Funniest Home Videos are included! It’s the same game played by generations before it, but with a very up-to-date twist!

The Game of Life zAPPed Edition is comprised of 1 game board, 4 Cars with peg holes (1 for every player in 4 different colors), a bunch of blue and pink pegs, and paper money. What is not included in the game and absolutely necessary to play, is the Apple iPad.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, place the game board in the middle of the playing area and give each player a Car player pieces in the color of their choice. Each player should also collect 1 blue (boy) or 1 pink (girl) peg to represent them and place it in one of the two front pegs of their Car.

The paper money should be separated into the different values and placed to the side. One player should be given the task of “Banker” who will handle all the money and bank transactions. The Banker should, at this time, give each player $10,000 worth of paper money, as well as themselves if they are playing.

That’s it for the game board, now for the iPad!

Before you can play, you need access to an iPad. Once you have the iPad, you need to download the free application from the iTunes store. Once downloaded, start it and select Start New Game and then Play from the iPad screen. Each player will enter in their name, select their peg and their Car color. The players can customize their pegs with hair cuts, shirts, and glasses if they so choose. Once everyone has entered their names, the game will start with the first player being selected by the application.

The iPad sits in the middle of the board where all the player’s can see and interact with it. Make sure you turn up the volume so everyone can hear the videos.

Example of board set up once completed and ready to play

Playing the Game

The iPad will direct all game play during the game, telling the players when it is there turn and what they need to do. The application is smart enough to know where each player is approximately at on the game board, but not at all times. Specific and special spots on the board, once selected, tell the application where each player is and gives them the appropriate choices to select from.

On a player’s turn, the application will display a virtual spinner. The player, using the touch screen, “flicks” the spinner in to action and a random result is displayed. The player then moves their Car along the board in the appropriate direction and on the track they opted to follow. When the player has moved a number of spaces equal to the value rolled on the spinner, their turn is over unless they land on a special spot. Those special spots are as follows:

  •  Stop: regardless of the number of moves the player has left, they always stop their movement on this space and get to watch a video as well as take any action the space requires
  • Payday: If the player passes or ends their turn on this spot, they will collect money at the end of their turn; however, if the player ends their turn on the Payday spot they get to play a mini game on the iPad for a chance to win more money
  • LIFE: If the player ends their turn on this space, they get to collect an additional item for their virtual peg that also counts as money at the end of the game
  • Family: If the player ends their turn on this space, they get to add another peg of their color choice that represents a little geek
  • Lawsuit: If the player ends their turn on this space, they will get to watch a video and collect money from another player
  • Spin to Win: If the player ends their turn on this space, all players select number positions on the spinner until all are selected, and then a random number is selected using the same spinner – the winner receives a cash prize
  • Pay & Collect: If the player ends their turn on this space, they either pay or receive money

As the player continues through the game, they will come to forks in the road where they must make choices. For example, pursuing a career right away or attending a university. When a player is done with their turn, the application will prompt them to touch their Car on the application and the next player goes. Throughout the game, the iPad will show short video clips taken from the television show, America’s Funniest Home Videos, with transitions from player to player acted out with animated pegs.

Winning the Game of Life

The game ends when all the players reach the final space in the game. At which time, the application will ask each player to enter in how much paper money they have. The application will take that value and add to it any LIFE tokens and little geek pegs the player has collected. The final score is displayed and the winner is the individual who collected the most money. The application gives you a chance to take a snapshot of the each of the player’s “Families” created during the game to be saved and displayed later. A neat little additional piece of functionality.

To learn more about the game, see the official game page.

Prediction

My little geeks can play much more complex games than The Game of Life, which is essentially a light decision based roll-n-move game. This is certainly true for my 7-year-old and my 4-year-old is well on his way, too. Still, every gamer has the time (if not patience) to sit down and enjoy a roll-n-move game, taking pleasure in what it provides which is pretty much borderline automatic pilot playing. Challenge and complexity are greatly reduced to make way for social interaction (which, by and large, has nothing to do with the game).

My little geeks, however, are pretty much burned out at the moment with games. I’ll be the first to admit that I push games on them more than I do leafy vegetables. I am passionate about game playing and naturally gravitate towards them. I continue to challenge my little geeks, building on the skills they learned from previous games and adding new skills whenever possible. While they are more times than not ready to give every game a try, they sometimes hit their limit. I always back off and we do other activities like playing outside, coloring, singing songs, and staging epic robot battles using the couch and pillows as terrain. Since the point is to play and interact with my kids, it really doesn’t matter if that play is over a table or on the ground.

Roll-n-move games, like my all time favorite, Candy  Land (please note the sarcasm), lets even the most burned out of gamers sit down and play the game. The same can be said for The Game of Life zAPPed Edition, except for on very important element. The iPad application requires the players interact with it from time to time by playing memory and visuospatial games, as well as showing humorous videos to keep things light. Because my little geeks are burned out on games, I would normally just avoid games for a bit, but this games provides me an opportunity to not only play a new game with them, but also recharge their gamer batteries!

Pitching the game to my little geeks wasn’t very hard. I just told them the iPad was involved and they came running. The game is not complicated (again, roll – move – done) which meant we were up to speed and ready to play the game in no time. In fact, the most time spent on the game set up was my little geeks tailoring their virtual player pegs! So, while they mixed and matched outfits on their virtual characters, I finished setting up the board and asked them their thoughts on it so far.

“Awesome! I like how it is a board game and a video game at the same time!” ~ Liam (age 7)

“I like how you use the iPad to play the game and watch funny movies!” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

The fact that they are enthusiastic about playing this game is really pretty neat when you consider that no less than 1/2 hour ago, they said they didn’t want to play any board games whatsoever. Looks like all it took was a splash of technology and their interest returned! Let’s see if the game keeps their attention or not.

Final World

While my little geeks greatly enjoyed playing the game, and I enjoyed playing the game with them, I was very disappointed in the game as a whole. I do think the game plays well enough and the videos and mini games are a nice touch that makes a very old and fairly bland game a bit more interesting and challenging. Players get to see their choices in the game change their virtual pegs and the mini games challenge the players to think and move fast. Very nice touches indeed!

Where I take issue is how little that “touch” really is. Hasbro had a wonderful opportunity here that I think they failed to really take advantage of. For example, the game requires an iPad to play it, but still makes the players use paper money. Another example is the virtual spinner. While the application does make use of it for a mini game, the fact that the players are still forced to use it is either based on nothing more than traditionalism or lack of imagination. I would rather have seen players given something new and interesting to determine their movement value instead of the same-old-same-old. These “little things” do not detract from the game play and will certainly not reduce a player’s enjoyment, but I am always saddened to see an opportunity for creative innovation not fully realized. Totally subjective, but I believe Hasbro could have done much, much more and made this “interesting game” into an “outstanding game”.

Both Parent and little geeks enjoyed the game a great deal. The fun really isn’t in the game but in the shared experience the game provides. It’s light, easy, and with the iPad application, a bit more challenging and table rousing. Gamer Geeks, however, were not even remotely impressed. The iPad was seen as an unnecessary addition that didn’t provide interesting value, nor did it change the game enough to make it worth their time. None of this is surprising, of course, as The Game of Life zAPPed Edition is just an updated version of the original. While a classic and respected, not a game that is often sought after by seasoned gamers.

While I separate the money and deal it out, my little geeks "practice" with the iPad

Gamer Geeks, this is The Game of Life with an iPad. If you don’t like the original, the iPad isn’t going to do much to change your mind about the updated version. There isn’t much of anything for you here, but do at least give the game a look. It is interesting to see where board games might be  heading in the future, blending mediums in an attempt to create  new and interesting experiences.

Parent Geeks, The Game of Life zAPPed Edition is a great deal of fun to play with the family and friends. It’s the classic game in almost all respects except for the new mini games and videos that are shown. The board game becomes more interactive and interesting thanks to the applications animation, choices, and actions. Of course, you need access to an iPad to play, which might greatly reduced the number of people who can play this worthwhile family game.

Child Geeks, the mini games are a lot of fun and the videos will make you laugh. Unlike other simple roll-n-move games, you will be challenged and need to use your memory and visuospatial skills. But don’t let that scare you off. The mini games are always for extra money and can only help you win, never harm you. Sit back, enjoy a good laugh, and a light challenge with the entire family!

While I will be the first to tell you that this game is excellent for families, it does have some issues. Game play is super and I all but guarantee families will enjoy playing it together. The price point of the game, however, starts at around $500 because the game requires the iPad. That’s a really expensive game, and frankly speaking, you aren’t getting $500 worth out of the experience. Additionally, because the game is being powered by the iPad, I would have expected a great deal more out of it. The amount of effort put into the application is minimal when you compare it to all the other applications available. Lastly, while the blend of mediums to create the game is very interesting, it is not conducive to easy game play. Again, you need the iPad, then you have to go through the game set up, which actually requires to you to select pegs and cars twice. Once in the real world and once in the virtual world. Although, in the virtual world, my peg had a cool haircut and sunglasses.

It is my opinion that the game comes across as interesting but not satisfying. As a result, my copy of the game will be passed to a friend in hopes it finds more love and attention in a new home. I applaud Hasbro for thinking outside of the game box and hope they continue to explore new ways to innovate and invigorate game play. There is no telling where this mix of technology and traditional table top gaming will lead, but I am very excited to see where that road will take us!

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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