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UNO & Friends Review: The first online multiplayer card game on Xbox Windows Phone 8

Having reviewed Gameloft’s Order & Chaos Online last week, today we look at the publisher’s latest release UNO & Friends for Windows Phone 8. That’s the title, not “UNOFriends” as it’s inexplicably listed in the Windows Phone Store. It’s free and runs on all Windows Phone 8 devices (even low end ones), so it’s definitely worth a look.

One simple card game

UNO is a very simple Crazy Eights-style card game that anyone can learn in a couple of minutes. Four players compete to be the first to play all of their cards into the discard pile. Each turn you can either play a single card or draw a card. Cards come in four colors, and you can only play cards of the same color or face (number of symbol) as the card played before you. If you can’t play a card, you draw one, slowing your progression towards an empty hand.

The general interface in UNO & Friends works decently well, with players able to drag or double-tap a card in order to play it. But actually selecting the right card can take a few tries because they’re so tiny on-screen. And strangely, this game doesn’t sort cards in your hand or allow you to sort them. They just appear in a random jumble, making them harder to look through than necessary.

Every time you play your second-to-last card, you must exclaim UNO. Fail to do so and another player can issue a challenge, forcing you to draw two cards. Calling an UNO is easy enough thanks to the button at the bottom of the screen, but people still forget to do it sometimes.

One mode, lots of play time

UNO & Friends requires an internet connection to play and does not provide a single-player experience. It offers twogame types: private or public games.

In private games, you can invite 2-3 friends. They will receive a toast notification. But everyone has to be present in the lobby in real-time, so you basically need to set up the game through other means before inviting if you expect people to actually come while the lobby is open. I suppose the real-time requirement is necessary since UNO games go on for way too many turns to be fun asynchronously.

Thus the main way to play is public games, in which you get matched up against three other players. UNO & Friends doesn’t provide any rule customizations or the like, so it basically consists of an endless succession of multiplayer matches using the standard rules. It works well, other than games frequently failing to start (thus returning everyone to the title screen).

Gameloft wisely added a progression system to keep people coming back for more than a few games. After a game ends, every player receives points depending on which places they came in, their current level, and whether they completed a bonus objective. Points contribute towards leveling up. With 100 levels to attain, UNO fans will be busy for a long time.

One bonus objective per game

The addition of bonus objectives adds a little pizazz to the tried and true core game of UNO. These include tasks like playing a card on its identical match, challenging a missed UNO, and more. Complete the objective and receive 10 extra experience points after the game ends. Little nuisances: you don’t get a notification during the game itself, nor can you view the objective after the match begins.

Unfortunately, the bonus objective implementation is fairly buggy. Some objectives like “Play cards 1-4 during a game” won’t ever count as completed, even if you did exactly like what they said. Others actually seem to cause the disconnection issues I mentioned earlier. The “Add a friend” objective would be so fun and easy if it worked. Instead, it either causes a disconnection or the game will start but only allow one person to play cards while everyone else looks on helplessly as pictured above.

More than one currency

UNO & Friends has a two-currency system that free-to-play critics will hate but everyone else probably won’t mind. You can buy either currency with real money but you’re never required to do so. The first currency, gold tokens are required to play matches. Run out of tokens and you can’t go on for a while.

Every 45 minutes you get to scratch a card that will reward 2-6 free tokens. But stockpile more than 10 or so tokens and the free scratches stop coming till your supply depletes, so you can’t just save up a ton of tokens either. Basically the scratch system encourages players to check in throughout the day and actually do some playing.

The second currency, silver coins can be spent on six different boosts before each game. The only one worth buying will increase the number of points earned by fifty percent, helping players level up faster. The rest get too expensive to warrant a purchase.

Silver coins can be earned in several ways: playing, gifts from other players, and weekly leaderboard challenges. UNO & Friends has its own in-game friends list that includes Xbox Live friends and people befriended inside the game itself. People can send gifts to five friends per day – the gift will be a random quantity of silver coins or gold tokens. As for the leaderboard challenge, you’ll get a lump sum of coins depending on your overall rank for the week.

It’s easy to miss, but the game also has a shop that sells card decks, backgrounds, and graphical effects in exchange for silver coins. Annoyingly, the shop lacks a buying confirmation. Touch an item in the store and you bought it.

Less than one way to communicate

UNO is a social game by design, and UNO & Friends does well by allowing Windows Phone users to play together. But unlike the iOS version, Gameloft forgot to add a way for players to communicate. You can’t text or voice chat during a game, which totally kills the social aspect. You can send dinky little gifts to each other in-game, but they don’t get saved or do anything.

It’s the exact problem I lamented in an editorial earlier this year. Because Microsoft doesn’t provide a built-in chat interface or require developers to create one of their own, most online Windows Phone games just don’t let players communicate. Of Gameloft’s online games, Order & Chaos Online is the only one with a proper chat system – even though many of their iOS versions support voice chat.

To be fair, the iOS game only received a chat feature last week, so maybe our version will be updated with chat in the future.

20 Achievements

Most of the Achievements are cumulative rewards for actions you’d complete over time anyway. There is one for inviting five friends to private games. Luckily they don’t have to join, so you can just send out some invites without actually playing.

The two hardest/most time-consuming Achievements are for completing 50 bonus objectives and reaching level 100. Bonus objectives would be a cinch if not for the game not crediting some of them and some of them causing games not to start. I’m at level 41 and I’ve completed just over 30 objectives so far.

As for reaching level 100, that will take at least a few weeks of play. It takes 100,000 experience points to hit level 100. Remember to always purchase the point booster before every game in order to cut down on grinding time.

One Overall Impression

Gameloft’s UNO & Friends is a very good game that just needs two things to be great: some bug fixes and a chat system. Even without those fixes, this version is far more enjoyable (and longer lasting) than the previous UNO game.

The core game is great for social settings in that it doesn’t require much attention from players – just see what you can play every hand and maybe watch for missed UNOs. Since this version currently lacks a way to talk to other players, I like to play it while watching TV or listening to an audiobook. If you’re looking for a low attention game to zone out with, give this one a try.

UNO & Friends – Windows Phone 8 – 51 MB – Free – Store Link

QR: UNOand Friends

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Been playing for a week. Great game!
  • And it's free! :P
  • Sorta
  • Been playing for a while, can't stop. The only problem are the bugs with no cards appearing, so you have to exit and lose your tokens. Another huge problem is the ridiculous pricing. I can see why devs love in-game purchases so much, it's a money making machine.
  • When the cards don't appear, you can sit and wait a few minutes for the game to end. I suppose you still lose your tokens either way though.
  • Honestly, I'm fine with not having chat, at least for public games.  I have been using the bandaid and tissues 'gifts' sometimes for taunting, but I feel like having actual chat might be annoying if people start talking nonsense in there.
  • Gameloft could always give us a way to ignore other players in case they get annoying.
  • I downloaded but haven't played it yet because Rayman eats up my time recently. 
  • I've almost finished that game!
    I just need to collect 2500 & 3600 Lums in one ride and I'm done :P
    Even though the 3600 lums achievement is ridiculously imposible :(
  • Yup same...
  • I gave up on those...and now that I stopped and gathered some rust it's impossible to go 3600 in one ride...
  • Sometimes during a game all of a sudden I can't touch/choose cards but I can touch everywhere else such as the settings button...and one thing I hope they change is the reminders to notifications
  • Are you using l820?
  • Same on Lumia 822.
  • same on the l920
  • Good review. It's a pity when the game resets itself, it takes game tokens even if you have purchased them with real money! Furthermore, it makes my L920 overheat which makes my phone crash, and it takes ages for it to be responsive. Nevertheless, this is a really addictive game -- I wish they would update it asap, so I can get my last achievement for level 100.
  • Yeah, it makes my 920 ridiculously hot!!
  • Drop it!...on a soft surface, like a pillow preferably.
  • The smallest games make the phone the hottest. Same with wordament. It's rediculous because it's just displaying rectangles :D
  • Next 920 or w/e they call it better have a fan or some sort of cooling system. Though it's great during the winter!
  • Pmsl
  • Ok  game but needs some work.  Twice I've been in a game and had no cards to use, only crashed on me once.
  • It's a good, well-designed game, but does make my 928 very hot and has made my wife's 920 hot to the point it shut off.
  • I like the game overall. One thing that needs fixing is the obvious battery drain. Even though this app isn't exactly graphically intense, my phone's processors get quite hot. I figure the app is doing a lot of server polling to keep the game in sync with the other players. Hopefully this will be addressed in a future update.
  • The wife and I have been hooked on this game since it has been released.  Do not disturb the wife when she's playing!  lol
  • Actually, I once saw a 6 under the scratcher, so 2-6. And received 3 tokens from a friend, so that's a higher possibility as well. Never had problems with add a friend or play cards 1-4, but I've had plenty of games drop, early and late, usually losing my tokens but keeping any boost I purchased, and I've also run into the games where I only see one set of cards and not near me. Pro-tip: hammer on the uno button and toy can win these games. The AI will play for you and do a serviceable job, but it won't call uno. Also had the game drain my battery without any warning. Just shut down. Irritating.
  • As mentioned, a very good game, it's only the bugs really that let it down - most have been mentioned, but another one I get somethimes (which I don't think has been mentioned previously), is when I am in a game, then suddenly will stop working, go back to the start, and claims that I was disconnected because I took too long to play, even when it wasn't my go (and of course also means I lose my tokens). I'm assuming that is not only me that is occuring too.
    It's a shame, because it is a good game otherwise.
  • Why the game crashes on all of you so much?
    i'm on level 24 with my Lumia 822... the game doesn't crash at all. Alway run it on WiFi.
    Amazing game....and Xbox integration.
  • Maybe your phones 'special' as my Mrs L820 does the same thing, but not as often -- saying that, it got worse when I reached over level 50.
  • I have been playing this quite a lot since it was released. I haven't experienced a single bug to date. Very addictive game. I like the sound effects and animations, which I think you can personalize, for a slight cost of course.
  • There's no way you haven't experienced the disconnection at the start of a game. That's a super prevalent issue.
  • I call BS too. I play on my 920 and my wife and friend on their 8X and games disconnects, invites not being received, very hot phones, bad battery drain and game latency even on WiFi are common issues.
  • The phone warms and battery drain are just unavoidable. Lag could maybe be reduced, but it's not a bug.
  • Unable to connect friends via Facebook is a big let down of the app most of my friends own android phones so im unable to play with them which takes the fun element out of it would really appreciate the feature
  • I'd play it if I weren't afraid my phone would catch fire.
  • Is it just me or do you never get the chance to play your card first? Its always the player to your left
  • Same here. I wonder how that works - somebody's gotta be playing first.
  • Yeah!! I have NEVER been the first to play! What's up with that?
  • Has anyone gone first?  I haven't.
  • I have gone first three times and I have been playing for 2 days now.
  • You probably have to create a game to go first.
  • Nope, tried that...always player to my right goes first.
  • I've always been first. I wondered why I am always selected.
  • You're doing something right. Tell us your secrets!
  • Great game but a shame about all the bugs.
    Any game this week Paul?? I wont hold my breath eh haha gives me a chance to hit lvl 100 on this (on 68 @ the moment)
  • Doesn't look like a new game this week.
  • I seen chaos rings in my marketplace. Never seen it before and its priced at 9.99$ :/ (I have a NL920) I can't purchase it though or even view the App.
  • Is this interoperable between ios and android?  That would be a class of games that had interoperability and interactivity between platforms.  I suppose it exists already?
  • No, this version does not support cross-platform multiplayer due to Xbox Live restrictions.
  • Lol wow Microsoft really ! why cant they add a cross-platform option or rather make Xbox live supreme and add it to other OS's
  • how to add friends in uno game. I am using windows 8 laptop , it is directly connecting to xbox live. my friends are using apple and android devices . they are connecting using facebook. iam not able to connect using face book with them. 
  • The Windows 8 version can play against Windows Phone 8 players, but not other platforms.
  • And Paul are there any new games coming soon which are not puzzle or java type games :D what i mean are there any games in the 1gb ram area :P
  • Six Guns (requires 1 GB RAM) and Kingdoms & Lords (512 MB RAM) are both due out pretty soon, though no specific release dates yet.
  • Restrictions? Wordament doesn't cross platform.
  • Anybody had a problem with, when you add someone to your friend's list, 2 tokens are taken away from you? I had this problem twice.
  • This game is a fail no mobile payment options -_-
  • You know you can edit your comments, right? Anyway, I don't believe any Xbox WP8 game offers carrier billing for In-App Purchases. They just use the payments associated with your Microsoft account - credit cards or PayPal.
  • I have never been able to make purchases in the game regardless of payment option. Only game where it does this.
  • I love playing this game. But when I launch it, a black hole forms inside my 925 battery. And my badass UNO skills make the phone really hot. And, yes, that's the technical explanation.
  • Ha! The heat happens with any online or graphically intensive game. It's a design flaw of the chips used in WP8 handsets.
  • haha UNO def ain't graphically intense so I guess it just overheats our handsets due to the online aspect (HTC 8X)
  • I hope they launch this for Windows 8 too.
    I'm still on WP7.5 but I'd like to play it on my girlfriend's Surface while I continue to wait for the perfect WP8 device, haha.
  • Paul will you, Sam, or Michael be covering Gamescom next week? Heard there are some big announcements coming.
  • I don't think we're attending the show, but we'll pick up any major news that comes out of it.
  • I wish they had a single player option as well... I dont like that I can't play it on the train while underground.... That would be a nice addition
  • Regular uno which is also an Xbox game would cover this?
  • Okay, now I need to check this out, your review piqued my interest. Hoping my phone gets hot enough to fry some eggs since I have a waterproof cover. And I'm hungry.
  • app is nice and its super fun to use,but phone gets so hot while playing this game. I don't know why it gets so hot, its because app is bad or wp8 is not efficient. I have android tablet also and tablet never gets hot. I don't know its the fault of Gameloft or Microsoft but someone must fix this heating issue.
  • Must get game! Its free also! Unbelievably, I had never played uno until I got this game. Its great though!
  • Quite buggy, but very fun. One time I literally played my last card on the pile, and it wouldn't let me win. And then I was disconnected because I "took too long to play" lol. Doesn't keep me from playing though.
  • Game is ok. For an unknown reason my weekly points were wiped out a few days before the weekly tally. Support at Gameloft never contacted me and I have since quit playing. Got everything but the level 100 acheeve anyway. Game is buggy and its no better on iOS or Android. Glad I didn't spend any $ on it.
  • Used it at work during an hour and a half meeting, battery went from 96 to 30%!  Regardless, it's a super fun game.
  • I guess I'm one of the critics who hates the dual currency systems. I also hate that it costs coins to play the game, and that you have to "check in" every hour to get them. Fun game, but I can't stand this system.
  • Another cash grab
  • Have to wait for tokens to play games, freakishly freakish freakin freaky stupidity stupid stupidest thing I have ever seen! Ruins whole game. Its stupid
  • Why not just check in throughout the day to get tokens? It's not hard to do.
  • If I could stop playing Order and Chaos for one day, I would live to try this game.