Overview: It’s time to embark on that great journey known as Real Life. Will you go to college or straight into a career? Want to have lots of kids or even more schooling? Hasbro’s new “Zapped” edition of The Game of Life introduces a new twist: it uses an iPad as the spinner and for various game effects, but at its heart it’s still mostly the same game you know and (maybe) love.
Ages: 8 and up (although younger players could certainly play, with help doing the math)
Playing Time: 1 hour
Rating: New, but not necessarily improved. Your kids may love it for the funny video clips and combination of app and board game, but it’s still the same largely luck-based game it used to be, just with more bells and whistles.
Who Will Like It? Kids who are new to the game, anyone who likes watching America’s Funniest Videos, and players who aren’t looking for depth of strategy in a board game.
If you’ve played the old Game of Life, this is basically the same thing, with some updates. Prices and salaries have been scaled up, and the careers are modernized, but otherwise you’re still making similar decisions. I actually had a conversation with my kids about whether or not they felt this game was like real life, and they said, “sort of.” The idea of going to college, getting a job, getting married and having kids … that’s like real life, according to my kids. But the idea of winning the game by having the most money, using gambling as a major strategy for earning income, and having kids count for money at the end … not so much. (You can read a few more of my thoughts about board games and real life here.)
Oddly enough, the box and instructions don’t actually say anything regarding what the game’s actually about. I suppose at this point they just assume (probably accurately) that most people picking up this box will already know what the Game of Life is. However, if somehow you were completely new to the game and picked up this edition, you wouldn’t really know much from the box other than that it uses your iPad and you get to watch America’s Funniest Videos.
- Game board
- 4 car pieces
- 52 pegs (in blue and pink)
- fake paper money
- rubber pads (for iPad)
The game board has a large empty space in the middle, where you’ll stick on the rubber pads to support the iPad. Depending on the case you have, you may have to remove it from your iPad so that it doesn’t obscure some of the spaces around the board. You’ll also need to download the free Game of Life Zapped app to your iPad. [Note: this is not to be confused with the Game of Life iPad app, which is the full game but is not free.]
The cars and pegs are pretty similar to what they’ve always been: little open-air vehicles with spots for six pegs, although the pegs here are a little more substantial (larger head, with a sort of torso) than the teeny pegs I remember from my sister’s copy of the game growing up. The paper money is still paper money. However, because everything is done with the iPad app, there aren’t any cards or dice or physical spinners. I also kind of miss the big plastic buildings and ramps, but maybe those have been gone for a while now, I don’t know.
Before you start the game, each player gets to customize their peg avatar, adding hair or hats and an accessory. As you play, your avatar will appear on the screen and there are little animated bits as it acts out various parts of your life; the avatar will also gain additional accessories or outfits depending on things like your occupation.
Once everyone has picked a car and a peg, everyone gets $10k to start (nice, right?) and puts their cars on the starting line. There’s a spin-off to see who goes first, and then the game begins. After you spin and move your car the appropriate number of spaces, you’ll tap the type of space you landed on. For spaces that actually just have instructions on them (gain money/lose money) you just follow the instructions, and then tap on your car to end your turn.
A lot of spaces have a little “app” logo on them, and those correspond to the icons to the right of the spinner. The “Stop” icons are where you stop to make some sort of decision: college or career, more college or family, risky path or easy path, and so on. The little color bar is for “Life tokens,” little life experiences (often accompanied by a video clip) which you can trade in at the end of the game for cash. The dollar sign is if you land exactly on a payday, and lets you play a mini game to get a salary bonus. The purple “family” space means you had a new baby. The spinner lets everyone gamble (or opt out), and the blue “scales” space is a lawsuit, which lets you sue another player for $100k.
The game ends after everyone has made it to the end. (When you’re at the end, you can still be sued, and if you chose Millionaire’s Estates you can still gamble when other players land on those spaces.) The app gives you a screen that helps you calculate your cash — you enter in the number of each type of bill you have, and it adds them up. Then it gives you a random amount of money for each Life token you’ve collected, plus $10k for each child you have. Highest total wins.
And then each player is treated to a little photo of their happy family:
It had been a really long time since I’d actually played the Game of Life and my kids had actually never played before this edition. They were very excited about the use of the iPad, and loved watching the little animations and funny videos — but neither of them really wanted to gamble when the opportunities arose, either. They loved trying to have as many kids as possible, and discovered that if you have more than four kids (so they don’t fit in the car anymore) then you get a Life token instead. It’s kind of like trading in extra kids for cash, really.
This is the first in Hasbro’s “Zapped” series of board games which will integrate the iPad into the board, and was revealed at the Toy Fair in NYC earlier this month. There’s a Monopoly version coming soon, and I’m sure they have others in the works. The app works well enough — there’s a very handy “rotate” button that flips the screen, so that players on either side of the board can use the app without having to shift around. The app keeps track of which “Stop” you’re at, so each time you hit the stop button it gives you the appropriate choice. It also tracks your kids and life tokens collected, and what your salary is, but you’ll have to remember to collect your salary yourself when you pass a payday.
It’s a weird sort of mix: clearly the app could very easily track exactly where everyone is based on what they spin, how much money they had, and all of that. But then you wouldn’t actually need the board — just the app itself. In that sense, this is an integrated app-cessory because you can’t play the board game without the app, and you can’t use the app without the board. But unless you feel that what your Game of Life is really missing is the ability to watch America’s Funniest Videos while you play … this edition doesn’t actually add much. In fact, it’s one that I’m not sure I’ll have my kids play a lot, because then it ties up my iPad for an hour.
Overall, it’s a cute idea and one that kids will probably enjoy. On the other hand, it doesn’t really add much to the actual gameplay, and I would probably even prefer just the dedicated Game of Life app which contains the full game, and is more portable to boot.
The Game of Life Zapped Edition is available from Amazon.
Wired: App works smoothly and you won’t have to worry about a broken plastic spinner. Easy calculation of totals at the end of the game. Funny peg avatars.
Tired: Doesn’t really add a whole lot to the basic game, and I’m not a big fan of America’s Funniest Videos.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.