Electronic Hand-Held Yahtzee game

Pros: Sound button; easy to stop any time; simple once you know the interface
Cons: Kind of mindless; some of the sounds
Rating: 4 out of 5

First posted 5/10/2001

Yesterday I went to see The Mummy Returns with my husband and a friend of ours. According to Boston.com there was a 2 PM showing. When we got there, it turned out that there wasn’t one until 2:50 PM. Luckily for us, there was a big Toys R Us store nearby, and it had been a long time since we’d been in a toy store.

Most of the store was not particularly interesting to us – 8 rows of Barbies, Pokemon toys, one-inch plastic dinosaurs. So we ended up in the row with all the electronic games, and that’s when I got nostalgic. Both for the old, simple, hand-held electronic fascination (I had a few when I was a kid), and for some of my favorite games. That’s when I found the electronic Yahtzee game. Mom and I used to play Yahtzee all the time, the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper and dice. So I got it, and because the plastic packaging was so darn impressive, I didn’t end up playing it till we got home and could find the scissors.

General Yahtzee Knowledge

The general idea behind Yahtzee is this – it’s sort of like a cross between dice and poker. You roll five dice. You’re trying to get various combinations: three of a kind, four of a kind, full house, small straight, large straight, or a Yahtzee – all five dice the same number. You get to roll up to three times in a turn, and after each roll you can choose to hold some of the rolled dice aside, keeping their results. This lets you use a little strategy – should you hold the two fours and the two sixes in hope that you’ll get a Full House? Or should you just hold the sixes in hope that you’ll get four or five of them?

You can only score once in each category. You can also score in ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, and sixes, once each (it’ll total up the dice in the relevant category, so if you score in twos and have three twos, you get six points).

The Electronic Version

Anyway, the little categories are marked in the upper left of the screen. After you’ve rolled the dice up to three times, you pick a category to score in. In the upper right of the screen it’ll tell you the potential score total in each category as you switch from category to category. This is the only part of the game that requires any real learning, and after reading through the instructions once and playing once or twice it gets very easy.

You can easily “hold” and un-hold the dice with little buttons underneath them. There’s a button for rolling the dice, one for selecting the category, and one you press (“Enter”) to choose the category. There’s a high score button so you can at any time check what your high score is. And a new game button that you press and hold for a moment.

The sounds are pretty amusing, I think, except when it’s adding your latest roll to your total score, counting up one number at a time, bleeping for each number. When you get a 40-point large straight or a 50-point Yahtzee, this gets awfully boring and annoying. Luckily there’s a button for toggling the sound off. You don’t have to reset it for each time you play the game either – once it’s off it stays off until you toggle the switch again.

There’s an on button but no off button. If you leave the game alone for 30 seconds it’ll turn off. It’ll keep your place, though, so it’s easy to stop in the middle of a game.

This is a great game to eat up a few minutes here and there. Since it lacks the player v. player interaction it doesn’t stay interesting as long as the original game. I can’t play it for more than about a half hour maximum without getting colossally bored. On the other hand, because it stores the information so well, and it’s so clear from the category markers where you left off, it’s very easy to play for a couple of rolls and then stop. So it’s perfect when you’re doing something that has lots of small boring interludes that you need to take up.

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