App Review: Sketch Party TV

Earlier this month I wrote about the ways "The Future of Television" may be returning us to a more communal tech-space. My family has had a few more weeks with our Apple TV 4 and so far that theory is proving true.

We've been spending more time together. Not hours more, but more. From movie night to a quick game of Beat Sports between supper and drum lessons. Rather than reading news feeds on my laptop, I've been sitting next to my wife watching the news together. My son and I were sharpening our knife skills together this week with a free cooking course from the Craftsy app.

Our favourite group activities are still family games and now we have some exciting new options. Options that take a lot less time and effort to set up than their boxed up counterparts.

One of our favourite family games so far is Sketch Party TV.

Sketch Party TV is basically a TV port of Pictionary, one of our all-time favourite family games. You split into teams (up to 16 people on 2 teams of 8 can play) and each team takes turns guessing what their teammate is drawing, for points.

Just look how much fun these folks are having.

Being a digital variation, there's a lot of tech involved in Sketch Party TV. For instance, you need an iOS device like an iPad or iPhone to play this game on Apple TV. You use it as your drawing pad. Thankfully, once set up, the tech essentially fades into the background leaving only the very simple mechanics of 'guess what I'm drawing'.

It’s worth noting that you don’t even need the newest Apple TV to play this game. You can play on older Apple TVs (version 2 onwards) through ‘Airplay Mirroring’.

Sketch Party TV improves on the 'guess what I'm drawing' formula in a few key ways.

First, we can all see what is being drawn, while it takes shape.

It's right there on the TV. The 'drawer' sees their word pop up on the iPad or iPhone, then they use that device as their 'paper'. They draw the word with a finger or a stylus and we all get to watch it form on the screen. It's a little magical. The best part is the drawing doesn't get obscured by the artist's hand, and there's no need to peer across the table from weird angles.

A second advantage is the automatic timing and scoring.

A timer ticks while you try and get through five drawings in 2 minutes. There's no cheating it (at least, not a way we've found yet). Scores are tallied for the teams you set up (you choose your colours and crazy names, which brings the best part of bowling into the game). There's no flipping an hourglass. No moving pieces on a board. No putting cards back into the wrong side of the box.

Finally, players can choose different colours and sizes of line.

This adds an extra dimension to the game because oranges can be orange, which immediately means that circle on the screen is not an apple or a baseball. Colour doesn't always matter, but sometimes it can make all the difference when you're drawings are fast and messy.

There are some downsides to this digital approach to the 'draw-and-guess' game.

The tactile joys of rolling dice, drawing cards, choosing categories and moving markers around the board are all gone. Plus, unlike Pictionary, there is no frantic 'all-play' mode. I miss that.

Before I head off to play one more round with the family, I should tell you I've been playing the FREE version of Sketch Party TV. The paid version is just a few bucks, and adds many more categories of things to draw, plus the ability to add your own words. Adding my own words could be a blast in a room full of people that would get my inside jokes. I can imagine including 'dad's ugly shirt', 'our car', 'the dance our dog goes' or 'mom's morning hair' to give the kids some extra fun.

Visit the SketchPartyTV site at http://sketchparty.tv

Dave Von Bieker

Dave Von Bieker, 11243 85 St NW, Edmonton, AB, T5B 3C6, Canada

Dave Von Bieker lives at the intersection of art, faith, hope and love. He has 2 great kids, a fantastic wife, and a mostly good dog. He plays red guitars and drives red cars.