Foul-Mouthed Fun With Friends: An Essay on Use Your Words

Even though they are passé at this point, my family still enjoys a good, adult party game.

After Cards Against Humanity burst onto the scene and took Apples to Apples call-answer-vote shtick and infused it with all the vulgarity and inappropriateness it could possibly think of, game developers were pretty quick to hop on the bandwagon. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then CAH must be flush with faux embarrassment. They’ve gone beyond Amazon to big box stores, with red warning labels letting people know that these are the unseemly and tasteless games they are looking for.

Like I said, I’ve played my fair share of them; from Joking Hazard to Personally Incorrect, we’ve busted out simple but offensive card games for the sake of sharing a giggle with others. They aren’t meant to be played ad nauseum, because even in short bursts the seams begin to crack and the shock value goes down as you realize even though they are subjective they can be gamed by certain people. As a flash in the pan experience though? They’re memorable and fun.

I’m not one to pooh-pooh a good gimmick. They should be enjoyed and taken into account as such just as much as they should for being a fad sometimes. Why forgo a good memory for the sake of snobbishness? Use Your Words came out of nowhere (or, specifically my inbox courtesy of Nintendo Life) and charmed me with its trick of being a game show-ish experience where the goal is to fill in the blank to various things and hope that others vote for your inherent wit and pithiness.

Everything from the 60s era elevator music to the overly emphatic announcer screams long lost game show. The only things missing are the old-fashioned stick mics and a circular design aesthetic. The game is played in rounds where you must either finish the subtitle to a foreign film with little to no context, finishing off a sentence or coming up with a headline to vague and garish photographs. It’s all capped with a quick answer speed round as its grand finale.

What makes the whole thing work is that rather than having to gather up a bunch of controllers, everyone logs into a website and types their answers in with any online enabled device. The asymmetry to it is neat, as you can’t look at anyone else’s answers and voting is also kept hush-hush. The game also adds its own answer to the pool that will take points away if you choose them, but after a while they’re pretty obvious as you start to peg how other people tend to answer. It’s best played in small bursts and with different people, because as I’ve mentioned before people will start to game the system when they see the cracks in the design.

Until that happens though, the cleverness of Use Your Words is delightful. In particular I enjoyed adding subtitles to movie clips, because it’s the type of interactivity that sets it apart from its card-based brethren. But the amount of interpretation is far greater in everything you do because you aren’t restricted by what cards are in your hand. But, that also means that your sense of humor will peg what kind of answers you respond with which, like I said, can be a detriment.

The worst thing I can say about Use Your Words is that I’m worried for the time when the developers shut down the servers to the connective website as it’ll make the game unplayable. It’s not the type of game that you play then summarily shelve for all eternity. You’re gonna want to bust it out every now and again when parties and family get-togethers happen at your house. It’s raucous, it’s rude and it’s a great ice breaker.

It’s true that I don’t know Jack, but I do know Use Your Words is worth your time.


DEVELOPER: Smiling Buddha Games

PUBLISHER: Smiling Buddha Games

RELEASE DATE: August 3rd, 2017

PLAYED ON: Nintendo Switch

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The Special Report | Gradius SP

The Legend of Zelda SP was created with a good idea in mind: take a venerated classic and find a way to make it palpable to the masses. The argument is probably still open as to whether Nintendo succeeded in that mission, but to me its training wheels methodology worked here even if the tire was a tad deflated. Gradius SP, on the other hand, attempts to take that same approach to stacking the deck in favor of the player but falls off the bike not because it doesn’t have the best of intentions, but because it bolted the training wheels on perfectly and you mom is still holding the back of the seat keeping you balanced.

Gradius SP starts you off on level 5 with the Vic Viper being completely maxed out. As someone who’s terrible at shoot ‘em ups, I can get behind being given a leg up like this. The problem is the game starts you out at level 5. Of 7. While The Legend of Zelda SP did a similar thing by doing the overworld exploration for you, you could at the very least still hobble along to the same beats even if they’re truncated. You could theoretically still hike around Hyrule, there’d just be signposts showing you the wonderful sites rather than letting you stumble across them on your own. Gradius SP, on the other hand, just busses you straight to the landmark rather than letting you enjoy the road there.

There is no fiddling with code in these SP games, so the idea of being decked out from the start isn’t an option. Being a beast on the battlefield but only ‘til level 5 means you’ll have missed over half the game. And with something like Gradius, it probably behooves you to start from the beginning because a lot of the experience comes from learning the enemy patterns that the game gradually throws at you. So if you start towards the end, some of that excitement from being a beast on the battlefield is lost on the player because the enemies will be coming at you in waves you aren’t prepared to handle. On the other side of the coin, people that dig shoot ‘em ups probably prefer that buildup of finding the perfect route in order to maximize their score, so being thrown in the middle of it isn’t an exciting proposition for them either.

While I had fun for a few minutes blasting my way through level 5 with a laser and a bevy of sub-weapons, I felt like I’m missing the scope of Gradius because of it. What sounds good on paper doesn’t always translate into something worth trying in actuality. Without the ability to serve either new players of veterans alike, Gradius is probably best experienced the way God intended it – from the start and with the Konami code entered.


DEVELOPER: Konami

PUBLISHER: Konami

RELEASE DATE: September 19th, 2018

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: December 1986