Bang! Adds First True Cross-Platform Multiplayer

Bang! breaks new ground with cross platform multi-player, but it’s the quality of the game-play that has got my family hooked (again) on this great parlor game.

Parlor games have had something of a resurgence in the gaming community the last few years — after-dinner games played in a group where each person is assigned a role and mission. The aim is to work out the other people’s role to stop them completing the mission.

In Mafia, for example, players are either “Mafia” who know who each other are; or “townspeople” who only know how many Mafia are out to murder them. Then during the day turn the players debate who the Mafia are and decide to eliminate someone. During the night turn the Mafia secretly choose a town person to murder. It all gets political very fast as players make claims and counter-claims about who they think are the Mafia and should be taken out.

Bang! iPhone

Most recently I’ve been enjoying an electronic version of a parlor game on my iPhone called Bang! It’s based on the Bang! card game. This takes the political element of pure parlor games and combines it with a strategy card game. It has meant that although my kids find a full-on parlor game too confusing to play (and a little bit frustrating when they get eliminated), they got on fine with Bang!

Bang! (iPhone/iPad) has been out for a while, but this month they are adding a unique cross platform multi-player mode. Before I get to that though, I should outline how it is played…

Bang! has a spaghetti western theme and each player is randomly assigned a character that determines their objective for each round. This creates a web of competing interests – the Outlaws hunt the Sheriff; the Sheriff hunts the Outlaws; the Deputy protects the Sheriff and the Renegade aims to be the last one standing.

The novelty here though is that nobody knows what each player’s role is – except that of the Sheriff. As play proceeds, by drawing and playing cards to attack or defend against other players, everyone tries to identify who is playing each role from each others behavior.

Once you have set things up and been allocated characters and role, Bang! proceeds in clockwise order starting with the Sheriff. Each player’s turn is divided into three phases, drawing two cards, playing cards to attack other players and defend themselves and finally discarding excess cards at the end of their go.

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Bang! Card

To shoot at another player during the second phase a “Bang!” card is required. Players can only shoot those next to them unless a weapon upgrade is in play that increases their range. Defending players can avoid being shot by playing a “Missed” card.

Other cards include “Beer” that restores a one block of life, a “Whiskey” card that restores two blocks of life and a “Jail” card that puts another player behind bars. Most of the cards are pretty easy to understand and have symbols that describe the card’s effect.

The iPhone, iPad and PC versions of Bang! really helped my whole family get into the game. It helped that the electronic version has some great visuals and sound effects, but the real difference was that it handled the rules for us.

This meant that the kids could play by themselves on the iPad, which they really enjoyed doing — especially when they had friends over. We could also play the game between the iPads over our local network which again they took great delight in doing in secret after they had been put to bed — playing between the two bedrooms. They would have got away with it if they hadn’t been giggling so hard.

Hearing about new cross-platform multi-player feature seemed to get them excited about the game again. From Saturday (November 12) you will not only be able to play against others on the same gaming device, but between iPhone/iPad/Atom Netbook and PC in any combination.

It seems kind of fitting that this cross platform multi-player gets one of its first airings for a card game that was all about lowering the barrier to entry and getting everyone playing together.

Having blogged about the game quite a lot, the developers asked us to jump on and give it a try. It works really well. You simply select either Quick or Custom game and then pick the game you want to join from the list. We setup a Custom game with a password so our kids (on our iPad) could play with their grandparents (on their PC) and me (on my iPhone). We each added the password to our custom game search to find the right game.

Bang! iPhone

Although this took a bit of coordination via Skype, and could have been a little easier in the game itself, once we had worked out how to do it (helped by their Bang! FAQ) we were soon happily playing.

It was strange to be playing against someone on different technology. I’m so used playing against people on either PSN or Xbox Live that I actually forgot that my kids and parents were seeing the game through a different device.

That evening I followed up with some quick matches against random opponents. These were quicker and easier to setup because the game handles all the matchmaking for you. Although not being in the same place meant that you had to read more into the moves players were making rather than expressions and body language.

Throughout it all Bang! remained a very enjoyable game. In fact, having been reminded how good it was, I ended up inviting some friends around to play the card game again next week. There are not many videogames that do that.

As Daniele Azara, Production Director of Palzoun said: “We wanted to recreate the experience of playing a card game around a table and developing the game for Apple iPhone, iPad, Netbook and PC.” On the basis of our experience with the game I think they, along with partners SpinVector, have done just this.

Andy Robertson has three children (6, 8 and 10) and enjoys racing R/C cars, playing board games and video games with his family. He has been writing about technology and the family for six years. Recently he has covered the Skylanders games in depth. He speaks and writes as a Family Video-game Expert for the BBC and runs the Family Gamer TV show.