Catch Phrase, Refreshed

Hasbro’s Electronic Catch Phrase is probably one of the best electronic party games ever. A cross between password and hot potato, this exciting, engaging team word game can engage as many people as you want to play with in a good hour of competition and laughter. And now it’s getting a second Major Fun award. The first was presented two-and-a-half years ago. Today, we have an improved Electronic Catch Phrase, just released, with new categories and words, making something like 10,000 in total.

This award goes primarily to Hasbro for having the intelligence and integrity that led to improving an already excellent game. This is all too rare an occurrence in the game industry. A successful game tends to get repackaged, and perhaps even rethemed, but rarely if ever fundamentally improved. The new version is simply easier to use. A back-lit LED screen is much easier to read. The digital score readout (replacing the cumbersome electronic voice), and the button size and placement all make for a friendlier, easier-to-control, more pleasant to play with device.

Most of the people at our Tasting who tried the game weren’t familiar with Catch Phrase in any of its earlier incarnations – even the original mechanical and paper version released in the 90s. The main obstacle to their understanding the joys that awaited them was their other experiences of password-like games. See, that part, the guess-what-word-I’m-trying-to-make-you-say part, is so easy to understand that the other part, the hot potato part, completely escaped most people. Until we finally got to play the game. People kept on thinking that they should get a point when their team guessed the word. But that’s not it at all. When your team guesses your word, you get to pass the device to a player on the other team. And points are kind of negative – awarded to your team when the timer goes off (hot potato-like) in the other team’s hands. Despite the brevity and succinctness of the rules, this was the one real source of confusion that nothing short of a reworking of the rules (perhaps as a comic book) could have avoided.

On the other hand, as it were, once this rather inconsequential hurdle was cleared, delight was immediate and continuous. It really is one of the best electronic party games out there. And Catch Phrase, refreshed, is even better than its predecessor. At less than $25 retail, it’s well-worth the purchase, even if you have the older version.

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