This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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A Game of Discovery and Naked Turtles
Quick family games can be a challenge to find. Once you have played “Guess Who” or “Jenga” several times, the game fades from fun to the obligatory “Family Game Night” staple. This means that more people are out searching for new games that are fun and that the whole family can play. Enter, Shady Pets by Firestorm Labs, LLC.
This quick card game takes about 15-20 minutes to play (about half an hour while you are learning the rules). It is a game that the whole family can play. There is a little reading on the cards, which can make it tricky for players under 7, but it still is quite easy to pick up. The concept of the game is that you have “shady pets” hiding and you need to identify them.
The game almost has the classic “Clue” feel, if clue had octopuses, naked turtles and gangs of roaming hamsters. As always, we start by looking at the story of the game. The concept is that there are shady pets causing trouble around town and you need to figure out who they are. Since no one wants to blame their precious little pet for being a troublemaker, each player starts with a hand of characters that they know “cannot” be the culprit.
Rating the Game: Story and Artwork
The culprits are housed in the sleeve cards in the middle of the table. This is a simple fun story that really draws the players into the game, which results in a score of 6 out of 10 for story. The artwork of the game is an interesting development. Normally, I do not like when people mix photos and drawings in game art. It just breaks the “reality” of the game.
However, Shady Pets found a unique way to do this while immersing the players in the game. It also added realism to the cards. The “pets” cards are photos of people’s pets (some are entries from contests). These are the animals whom you have to guess.
The event cards are drawn cards with very good cartoon art that adds some humor to the mechanics. Because Firestorm Labs was able to create this synergy of pictures and drawings, they earn a score of 7 out of 10 for the artwork. Game mechanics for guessing games have always been tricky. Sometimes it simply comes down to who is most willing to give up turns to guess.
Rating: Game Mechanics
Shady Pets deals with this through several game mechanics. First, the Events cards allow players to look at other players hands, steal their pets, and various other game functions. These make finding out who has what more challenging. Next, there is a negative effect if you guess wrong on the pet, you lose the points you would have won.
This resulted in a lot of negative scores in what was a raucous first play test. The other nice element that balances the game out where others have failed is the ability to have cards face-up in the middle of the table. While the game plays best with 4, you can play with 2, 3 or 5 players. This means that sometimes there is an odd number of cards and the “shown” pile allows for this to balance out. As a result, Shady Pets earns a 7 out of 10 for a good score in mechanics.
Ratings: Strategy and Novelty
Choosing your strategy in Shady Pets is an interesting feature. There are several avenues to winning. Some of the best ones are playing a stealing game, concentrating on a specific color, or even waiting for the sneak peak cards. All of the strategies lead to the same two elements – you either need the 10 and 15-point card or you need the 20 point card.
Stealing the 5-point card can unbalance another player, but really only helps you achieve a tie. This leads to a lot of strategies in the game, but the end game results on a few elements. The in-game strategy has a strong depth, which results in a strategy score of 5.5 out of 10. Thinking of new strategies is one educational result.
Finally, we come to novelty. I normally am not a fan of animal-based games; however Shady Pets is a very unique spin on the genre. People love their pets, the love guessing games and they love throwing octopuses. To my knowledge, no one has ever put these three elements together on the same game.
The mechanics are unique in this genre. It has a depth that many other games do not have. Plus there are hamsters in dark sunglasses, which is just cool on its own. For these reason, Shady pets scores a very good score of 7.5 for novelty.
Competition in the under $30 game market is quite still. As a result, this is a hard market to break into. We hope that people will take the chance when they see Shady Pets on the shelf and buy this game. It is a strong little game that teaches children deductive reasoning.
Adults learn that anything that they think they know can be taken away from them and veteran players. Even a game with a silly theme can be challenging and versed in thought. For this Shady Pets scores 33 points out of 50 overall. It is a very good little game that can be played under 30 minutes. So, under $30 for under 30 minutes, with unlimited playability. That is a game that anyone should be happy to have on their shelf.
Players note: If you are lucky enough to be able to get the “Plushie Octopus” for your game, it is a blast throwing it at your opponents when you play the “facial” card (which had an octopus clinging to a person’s face).