Rom Player: Nesticle
Reviewer: Mr. Gaijin
Synopsis: One of the earliest titles in the NES library, Anticipation was called "Nintendo's First Video Board Game" and "party fun for all ages!" Of course I'm just reading what was printed on the cartridge's box, from the mid-1980s where half the time, the boxart looked nothing like the game inside. All the box and cart label showed were a bunch of smiling people with big hair, and although one of them appeared to be holding a controller, there was no way of telling what was inside until I turned it on.
As if a board game needs a story! This is basically a race between the Shoes, Trumpet, Teddy bear and Ice cream cone to collect enough picture cards to rise through the three-or-four boards of Videoland and go to Winner's Heaven or something. If parts of this sound like a real board game you might have played in the eighties, that is understandable.
The four characters are well-drawn, even with only a two-frame hop, but the rest of the game is one of two scenes: either a four-color gameboard on a black background, or a pencil drawing lines on a solid-colored one.
Very hit-and-miss. While the themes that play during the drawing scenes are jazzy enough to keep you awake, the rest of the music is either boring or grating(the setup screen and if everyone guesses a picture wrong, in particular.) Sound effects are actually decent, especially the metallic "clang" whenever you choose a wrong letter.
Each game of Anticipation kicks off with a screen where you choose the number of players (human or computer) and the difficulty level. The actual game kicks off with a "Yellow" picture card being flipped, and a series of dots showing up on the screen. As the "Video Pen" (Ninty's words, not mine) connects the dots(la lala la), a die counts down in the corner of the screen. When you feel that you know the answer, hit the corresponding button on the controller to buzz in. (NOTE: If playing with three or more people, you may have to share a controller; the game was created long before the NES Satellite was.) At this point, the letters of the alphabet will pop up, and your goal is to type in the name of the picture shown. Unfortunately, being the NES in 1985, typing basically equals moving a cursor back and forth between the letters, thus becoming a frantic race against time for pictures with longer names. Also, watch what you type; two mistakes, and you're out of the round. SPELLING COUNTS!
The pencil will keep drawing until either the picture is completed and the number on the die equals zero (in which case another picture immediately takes its place) or someone correctly names the picture, in which case the card is added to their collection and their token moves a number of spaces equal to the number that was on the die when they answered. The goal is to collect a card of each color (Yellow, Green, Blue, and Red) in order to move to the next highest board and start the process anew. Because you need all four colors to advance, a bit of strategy comes into play; you want to buzz in when the die shows a number that ends on a color that you don't have yet.
Upon ascending, you'll notice that the pictures have become a bit tougher. While Level 1 had you guessing things like letters and shapes, Level 2 and beyond will throw in categories like "Tool", "Science" and the dreaded "Whatchamacallit." In addition, you'll receive fewer dots to work with, then none, then finally the category name disappears as well! Fortunately, the category for each color for each level stays the same throughout. Level 3 introduces the Gray space, which can warp your pawn anywhere on the board. And Level 4 is a true test of timely buzzing in, as its board is littered with gaps that will dump you back at Level 3! But don't get discouraged-persevere and you'll reach the top and win the game!
The colored squares, the picture categories, having to identify drawings-Pictionary, right? Well, obviously! The sad (and sort of ironic) thing is, this game is more faithful to the game of Pictionary than the NES version of Pictionary itself (www.seanbaby.com can show you why.)
All in all a worthy effort, considering its age. There are only a limited number of pictures per category, and the categories tend to be in distinct groups, so the novelty does wear off after a while. Still you could do much worse with a Nintendo Entertainment System, so why not see if you can enjoy yourself like the people on the cover?
Best Cheats: If you set the opening parameters correctly, two players will end up sharing a controller. Now you can force your partner/opponent to buzz in!
Game Play: 5
Overall Rating: 5
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