Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A 20 GB hard drive. Three 3.2 GHz IBM CPU cores. Next-generation HD graphics. The Xbox 360 has been on the market for nearly a year, but its unprecedented computing power has yet to be tested. Until now. For little more than the cost of a deck, the classic family card game Uno is now available in all its retina-searing glory on Live Arcade, teaching a whole new generation of children how to count to "one" in Spanish. Though it misses one of the game's key tactile components—namely, shouting "Uno!" when you're down to one card, or laying the smackdown on someone who forgot—Uno proves surprisingly hypnotic on the console, due to the variety of gameplay options and fierce online competition. In a game that combines 95 percent luck with the thinnest of strategies, it's amazing how rounders with names like "J Killa" will push their miniscule edge.

The basic rules of Uno are simple: Instead of four suits, the cards have four colors, and players must follow the color in play unless they have the same card in a different color, or a wild card that allows them to change to the color of their choice. If they can't follow suit, they must draw a card. And so on. The Xbox version has a default mode, but games can be customized for two-on-two partner play, and rough-and-tumble options like Elimination mode, which bounces players from the game when they can't play a card.


Beyond the gameplay: It may sound like a minor complaint, but the elevator music in the background—an insidious cross between New Age twill and a '70s game-show theme—seems designed to crush your spirit.

Worth playing for: All the mindless time-wasting fun of solitaire, but with that bittersweet sense of nostalgia for lost youth.

Frustration sets in when: The "draw until play" option is Uno in its purest form, but you can also go from "Uno" to holding half the deck in a single turn.

Final judgment: Creating Uno for Xbox probably took 1/1000 the man-hours of the average 360 game, but its replay value is considerably greater.