Scotland Yard Review

Catch– or be– Mr. X in five different cities from Mentor InterActive’s Scotland Yard.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 08/12/2011 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Tough AI (though not without learning curve); well-implemented multiplayer
Poison Mushroom for...
Lack of comprehensive in-game manual/tutorial

From Brain Age to Trivial Pursuit, rarely has a game ever made me feel as mentally ill-equipped as Sproing Interactive Media and Mentor InterActive Inc.’s¬†Scotland Yard for Nintendo DS– and that’s not such a bad thing in this case. Based on the board game of the same name, Scotland Yard at first makes little sense to players unfamiliar with the original game (read: me). It lacks both a tutorial mode and a comprehensive in-game manual, forcing players to look at the actual instruction manual for the game– and while that doesn’t sound so bad, it gets a little annoying in the first few minutes of gameplay when you have no idea what you’re doing. That said, it becomes very clear as to what you’re supposed to do in Scotland Yard after the first few haphazard turns, even without a tutorial holding your hand, and with that the amusement begins.

Amusement, that is, for a certain breed of gamer. At its core, Scotland Yard requires deduction and foresight, with a smattering of mind games. (Is there a genre for this? Ah, right– board game adaptation.)¬†Running amok on the streets of London, New York, Berlin, Paris or Amsterdam, one player plays as Mr. X, a thief whose location is only revealed periodically throughout the game, while five other players play as the detectives attempting to catch Mr. X. Each player has a designated number and type of movement tickets and as such must learn to use them wisely. Taxis, for instance, can send you one space in any direction; buses take you along a certain line but are less accessible than taxis; subways are even more uncommon than buses but send you quite far away. Meanwhile, Mr. X can evade cops by not only having essentially limitless movement tickets, but also sometimes moving twice in one turn, though cops get three uses of an omnipotent helicopter and limited use of roadblocks. Juxtapose that with Mr. X’s inherent invisibility, his location only visible through the clues that he leaves through his used-up tickets, and you have a game that’s meant for those of us who really enjoy brain-bending games, and not just an occasional game of Monopoly. Mentor InterActive Inc., it seems, really does mean it when it put its thinkSMART label on this game.

Scotland Yard provides a Campaign Mode, a Quick Match mode, and three multiplayer modes (Single Card, Multi Card, and hotseat via Quick Match mode). The Campaign Mode is rather short, though illustrated with an art style not unlike the original board game, and allows the player to either play as all five detectives or Mr. X. While I found catching Mr. X somewhat difficult as the detectives (though doable), I felt playing as Mr. X was even worse– the computer-controlled detectives caught me by the tenth turn (out of twenty-four possible turns) time after time again. After my first few games, I got somewhat more intelligent about my ticket management, and started to finally win some matches; nevertheless, expect the AI to know your every move when you play as the detectives, and to pretty much know your location all the time when you’re Mr. X. At least, until you learn to think two or three moves ahead. Of everybody.

But even when I got better at Scotland Yard, it was still the same old lonely game as the original board game– made worse when I suddenly realized I was essentially playing a board game with myself, despite the rare speech bubble or two from computer players “conversing” with me. So I grabbed some rather uninformed buddies, and though they, too, found Scotland Yard rather confusing at first, they quickly got the hang of the game. Downloading to their systems via Single Card play didn’t take too long at all (though it’s restricted to the London map), and the constant cries of “where are you” and “why are we playing this” eventually gave way to a resounding “okay, just one more try” as my friends and I studied the many ways of deceiving, outsmarting and essentially defriending each other. While we didn’t have five detectives, we had the AI take over the remaining detectives, which was a nice way of making the game equally winnable on all sides. Unfortunately, the AI couldn’t take part in human secret plan-making, facilitated by a nice Professor Layton-style scribble mode, though we mostly planned out loud anyway (to the lip-pursing of our Mr. X).

Like Mentor InterActive’s recent other addition to their thinkSMART series, Scotland Yard is an almost 1:1 adaptation of the Scotland Yard board game, meaning it’s at its best when playing with friends. Wi-Fi play with voice chat would have been even better, but as it stands, LAN play already simulates a tight-knit board gaming experience– and that’s all a board game adaptation needs, short of providing the actual board and pieces. Just be sure to bring extra brains when you play this one.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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