App of the day: Uno & Friends review (Android, iPhone)
Uno has always been a firm favourite here at Pocket-lint, evoking memories of family camping holidays. Playing cards in an app, of course, lacks some of the community spirit of physically playing cards.
Although Uno HD has been available as an app for some time, there's now a new version that looks to make it more social. Today, we're looking at Uno & Friends.
Uno & Friends
Uno & Friends, as the name suggests, is about playing Uno with other people. That's something you can already do in the existing Uno HD game app, but Uno & Friends is online, whereas Uno is simply multiplayer by passing from one to another.
You'll also notice that Uno HD is £2.99, while this new version in Uno & Friends free. BUT you shouldn't consider this to be a free game, because some of the in-app advertising is so intrusive, you'll want to pay the £1.99 in-app price to remove the ads. You finish playing a game and you're served an ad, with no obvious way to avoid it, except by pressing the back button.
Uno & Friends pitches you against the community of players using the app, so in each game you'll be matched with strangers to get playing. You can make friends with people, if you wish, but as this is live online play, games take a little while to start as the players are lined up.
Playing against real people means they do things like tactically cheat, get distracted or just don't play very well. That adds variety, but we're not sure that's the point of Uno & Friends. The real point is to get you playing Uno against people you actually know.
As such, there's Facebook login, after which you can invite people to play. You can host games and invite friends, so you can all arrange to sit and play Uno & Friends together. There's some fun to be had in that and using Facebook is a convenient way of feeding you people, as well as letting you sync games across devices.
The gameplay is pretty good and there's a richness to the graphics that makes it look fantastic on a high-resolution display: we played it on the HTC One and Nexus 10 and it looked great on both.
We're slightly less impressed with the load it seems to put on the device, as we noticed that the HTC One soon got warm, presumably because it was working hard to support the app. That suggests it will also be a battery burner, so take care if you're far from a power source.
But aside from the concept, the gameplay and the visuals, there are a lot of additional extras in Uno & Friends that we're less keen on. There are tokens and coins, scratch cards, themes and so on, which all cost you some of this virtual currency.
Then, like many freemium games, there's the option to buy with real money via in-app purchases - more of these coins or tokens to buy more of this stuff that seems unnecessary.
For example, you can exchange coins for boosts that will let you see another player's cards, let you switch your hand and so on, which is basically bending the normal gameplay rules of Uno, seemingly only to find a route to getting cash out of your pocket and into that of Gameloft.
Ultimately, we like Uno & Friends and have enjoyed playing it, but the additional elements, as well as the intrusive advertising, mean that it needs to be approached with sensible caution.