B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now) Review
I've had a somewhat rocky relationship with the party game genre for over a decade now. The first Mario Party was an excellent example of what a party game should be. It was challenging and unforgiving but completely fair. If you lost, it was because you got careless and either spent your coins foolishly or had your Stars stolen by other players. As the years passed, the series got soft and the underdog rose in popularity. WarioWare: Smooth Moves eventually launched on the Wii, and party games were fun once again. Of course, Nintendo's shiny little console paved the way for countless party games, and the genre became stale and overused.
Danish indie developer Copenhagen Game Collective has taken the basic idea of the party game genre--bringing a group of people together in front of a video game--and remixed it into something much more engaging, much more compelling, and much more outrageous. Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now, or B.U.T.T.O.N, takes the interactivity of the digital party game and makes it a more physical, social game night type of experience. This game, though extremely simple in its premise, actually manages to bring something to the party game genre that's been missing for a long time: fun.
You begin each round by selecting the number of players. Two to eight players can participate in the game using either Xbox 360 controllers or the computer keyboard. Although gamers who use controllers to play will have the benefit of grabbing and pulling the controller toward them, playing with the keyboard is also functional and just as fun.
After players confirm at the main menu, the round begins. An onscreen prompt will tell all the participants to move a set number of steps away from the computer. It then asks players to perform an action such as act like a monkey, sing, think of a color, or move in slow motion. Finally, a timer counts down, and B.U.T.T.O.N. instructs players to head over to their controllers or keyboard and mash on or hold buttons. Instructions vary and require you to press your button a certain number of times, hold another player's button for a few seconds, or wait to press your button after the others have pressed theirs.
If this all sounds confusing to you, then that's probably because that's exactly the game's intent. The confusion among players is part of what makes B.U.T.T.O.N. so much fun. One example is a mini-game that asks players to switch places with someone, and then instructs, "The player to press his or her button after two players have pressed theirs wins." Not only do these random instructions look and sound weird, but they create chaos that leaves players bewildered as to what to do. Of course, once time runs out, players finally get it.
That's all B.U.T.T.O.N. really is. It's a physical game that has players making awkward motions, singing, acting like a robot, and shouting, only to instruct them to press and hold buttons. There is no way for the game to actually track whether you're following its instructions, but you feel compelled to because it's fun. The design of B.U.T.T.O.N. is not unlike that of a board or card game. The only difference is that the game's title encourages you to cheat and use "brutally unfair tactics." You'll feel the urge to shove and grab the other players as they race toward the computer, and if you play like I did, you're bound to end up with some bruises. The game is incredibly hectic if you want it to be, and if you're the type of player who dashes to the computer when the game tells you to walk in slow motion, you will definitely have the most fun. Alternatively, if you actually do run in slow motion, you're bound to have a great time, too.
B.U.T.T.O.N. is a party game in the purest sense of the term. It's the type of game you'll want to play in short bursts with a sibling or return to countless times with a group of friends. Though it is technically a video game, it hardly feels like one, and the computer is used merely as a tool for actually playing the game. The true experience of B.U.T.T.O.N., however, relies on the actions and interactions between the players. Copenhagen Game Collective has managed to bring fun back into the party game genre by stripping away the elements that make it feel like a type of video game. Admittedly, B.U.T.T.O.N. could use a little more variety in its mini-game design, but because of how entertaining it is, getting caught up in the experience is easy. Like a board game, B.U.T.T.O.N. is a compact little gem that you'll want to bring out at parties again and again.