Developer: Kihon Games
Price: $2.99
Version: 1.0.6
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

I doubt there are many people out there who haven’t played Telephone in some capacity. It’s kind of a tradition among kids. Lots of people also like to doodle. What happens when both of these ideas are tossed into a mixer together? SketchPhrase.

SketchPhrase is basically Telephone played with drawings. Each game consists of nine turns and nine different players, alternating between writing and drawing. It begins with the first player typing out whatever phrase they want, and then a second player is selected to draw the phrase. After that a third player is brought in to try and figure out what the drawing is of and type out their own description. Player Four attempts to sketch Player Three’s phrase and the cycle continues until a ninth player brings it all home with a final verbal description. Much like other illustration games on iOS, taking a turn earns coins that can be used to purchase better brushes and larger color palettes. A process that can be sped up by either paying real cash for more coins or by doing really well and getting lots of votes and/or stars from other players.

The core idea behind SketchPhrase is so silly it’s difficult not to have fun with it. Some of the phrases and drawings can be rather bland, sure, but that varies from game to game based on the players involved. Plenty of them can be fantastic. I was rather fond of “Barack Obama dancing Gangnam Style,” as well as having to draw “A snowflake and a hotdog playing checkers.” And I was incredibly proud to see that my snowflake/hotdog illustration was accurately deciphered by the next player in the queue.

Of course, as I’ve already stated, the enjoyment derived from SketchPhrase can change from game to game. That’s just the nature of playing randomly with strangers. Sometimes it’s great; sometimes it’s incredibly lame. And sometimes it’s just vulgar. But aside from the objective stuff, I was also pretty disappointed to find that setting up a game with friends is almost discouraged. Yes, I can earn extra coins by “inviting” a friend to take the next turn in a game, but that’s the only way I can intentionally play with friends, and I can only invite that particular friend into one game at a time. What the heck?

SketchPhrase is a tough game to pin down simply because so much of it is dependent on the randomness of player selection and participation. When it goes well it can be incredibly goofy and fun. When it doesn’t, it can be fairly boring. Still, it’s definitely worth a look from anyone who enjoys sketching games. So long as they don’t mind being forced to play with strangers most of the time. [EDIT: It's also worth noting that there is a free version of SketchPhrase available for any who might think the $2.99 price tag seems a bit high. The only difference between the two is that the paid version is ad-free and includes a 400 coin bonus]


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