Inside Pulse 12

Review: Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action (Microsoft Xbox 360)

scenetiScene It? Lights, Camera, Action
Genre: Trivia Based Game Show
Developer: Screenlife Games / WXP
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: 11/06/07

Ever hear of the DVD brand board game Scene It? If not, it’s understandable. It’s pretty obscure. Since it released in 2001, only a mere 10 million board games were sold. A few dozen special editions were released after that collaborating with a couple of “no-name” intellectual properties like Warner Bros., Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and Disney. Of the over 190 countries on planet earth, “Scene It?” is only sold in like 26 of those in a measly 9 languages. It’s not very popular. I was just talking to my friend who’s been living in cardboard box in a cave for the past 10 years and he hasn’t even heard of it.

In all seriousness, the Scene It? brand of games is one of my favorite to play. If you truthfully do not know, it’s a board game with trivia questions about movies and or pop culture. It combines questions read off of trivia cards with puzzles and games viewed off a television from an included DVD. It’s gimmicky but the gimmick works and I love it.

When you look at Scene It?’s television based gameplay you’d think adapting the series to a videogame would be a perfect fit right? Microsoft Game Studios felt so and now we have Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action for the Xbox 360.

Isn’t it strange? Not that many trivia based videogames have been massively successful. There was “You Don’t Know Jack”, Sony’s “Buzz!” series, and a couple others but not too much else. That didn’t bode well. So did “Scene It?” have what it takes to join the ranks of the gaming great and the few?

To help find out I recruited my wife, Bella, and our closest and most annoying of friends Reggie and Maria. After stuffing our faces with baked ziti, shrimp cocktail, and more ziti we all settled down into the game room, put our feet up, and gave it a test drive.

Let us review.

1. Modes

Alright, so game modes. There’s… umm, two? Only two modes. That’s it. I remember thinking, “Nah. That can’t be all,” and spending a good amount of time navigating the menu screen trying to find more modes even searching through the Options menu. I even looked in the instruction manual. Nope. Just two modes. The sad thing is the selection is even more bare bones than that sounds.

First, we’ll look at the “Party play” game mode. It’s annoying and useless. Wow. Was that harsh? No. I’m not trying to bash but rather be as subjective and informative as possible. Having said that I must inform this part of the game is asinine. I’d rather take a nice hot shower….. right before someone flushed the toilet than to go through this monotony again. Party play throws random game types and puzzles at you that will go on and on and on forever. No structure here whatsoever and no real goal, so it feels like there is no real reason to play it. Some bad gameplay choices further muck things up. Example being unlike the other play mode, once a person buzzes in with their answer the rest of the players can see what they chose. So if 3 of your friends are sitting there all with the same answer snickering about how easy that was you’ll no doubt decipher the correct choice, making the whole thing feel like its cheating. Why in the world it’s called Party play is beyond me. The friends I invited over? We tried this style of play once and it was pretty much unanimous, “This is stupid.” We never touched it again.

The other mode is “Play Now” and this is the way to go. You are given actual structure here. The game is split up into three rounds, but you can choose “short play” where there are three puzzle game types per round or “long play” which increases it up to five. Having a set goal and finish line in sight helps the game to flow much better.

I am disappointed. We have two modes available with only one of them, “Play Now”, being worth the time to play. Head to head online play may have been problematic to implement due to combating question frequency, but the lack of everything else is just inexcusable. Online leader boards or additional players or customizable game options, or… or… SOMETHING could have been added to make this feel like more of a diverse experience. A missed opportunity here.

Modes Rating: BAD

2. Graphics

Scene It 01The game takes place on a movie lot and many of the characters in the game are moviegoers and other miscellaneous lot staff. The characters, backgrounds, and environments are all pretty mediocre. They’re not ugly but certainly not brilliantly designed or remotely impressive either. Remember the quality of most Dreamcast polygonal characters? That’s what we have here only in high def. Some of the character animations repeat a little too often for my taste (If I have to see that guy make a shadow puppet on the theater screen one more time I’m going to walk on a crowed elevator holding a cooler that says “human head” on the side and see what happens). The game does gets style points however because it tries to give off a cartoony, light hearted feel and in that respect it is an accomplishment.

The movies are well done. It’s the same as watching TV. No, sorry that is an injustice as they look much better than that. More like watching a high definition DVD. Notice I say “like”. The picture clarity and detail isn’t as impressive as when I watch a Blu Ray disc or even a movie for the HD DVD player add-on for the Xbox360 with all things being equal hooked up to the same 1080i television. On the other hand the quality is definitely above standard DVDs. It’s weird because they are in fact high def. But the movies are good for what they are supposed to be, and you’re not really paying attention to that sort of thing unless you’re a nitpicky jaded reviewer writing for Diehard Gamefan.

This was not a game intended to push the 360’s graphics to the limit. Mind-blowing visuals matter little in a game such as this and I don’t believe that was their intention here. This game isn’t for those that strictly measure a game’s total worth by how pretty it is. In others words don’t buy this game if you’re shallow and stupid.

Graphics Rating: DECENT

3. Sound

The movies obviously feature crisp DVD quality sound as you’d expect and it’s all good. No surprise here.

As for the in-game music, it has this whimsical, fun feel to it. That goes along with the theme of the game being cheery and friendly to all ages. It’s not to immerse yourself in as much as it is to fill the air with something cute and enjoyable while figuring out the puzzles and moving between rounds.

The voice of the game’s host, “The Producer” is at the very least bearable. I do find it annoying when phrases are repeated a little too frequently. Some will find his quips and silly phrases to be slightly tiresome. Many will find it funny. When my group was playing there were some chuckles, a few laughs out louds, and also a few rolling of the eyes and shaking of the heads when something particularly corny was said. I find it absolutely wonderful when he pokes fun at someone for doing badly because it usually incites the rest of us to do the same. And it’s great fun when he lauds heaps of praise on a player for destroying everyone else. It results in fun exchanges like this…

Reggie: “This isn’t fair. This game is for people who know movies.”

Bella: “That’s right. And I beat you ALL!”

I’m happy to say overall the music and voiceover bring an unexpected charm to the game that I really enjoyed. Combine that with good sound quality in all other aspects and it turned out rather well.


4. Control & Gameplay

Your objective is simple. Win the most points. If your score is the highest at the end of all rounds then you is a weeena. It’s not rocket science and that’s why it’s appealing.

To score points you’ll compete in a variety of motion picture based trivia puzzles; twenty-one different types to be exact. An example being “Quotables”, a game where your task is to finish a famous line from a featured film. Another is called “Credit Roll”, and here you’ll guess the film based on the list of characters, actors, directors, and even artist soundtrack contributors that will scroll along the screen. Of course the big one is “Movie Clip”, where you’ll watch… well, a movie clip and afterwards you’ll answer straightforward and sometimes unconventional trivia about the film. One of my favorite games is where you’re shown a picture from a movie but with something missing from the scene such as a person, a hat, a huge landmark or what have you. Instead of choosing the film you must choose what the missing item is and if you know that, then of course you in turn know the film.

The large majority of these game types are great fun. Only a small few are less uninspired. “Take 3” is a game where stagehands wheel out random set backdrops with phrases plastered on them that you must use to decipher the film. The backdrops are unattractive and more importantly have absolutely nothing to do with the any of the clues or the actual movie, so you may as well be seeing the phrases on flash cards. It’s distracting and confusing more than anything. During our play sessions this game type came up frequently and so did our groans every time it appeared. Again though, these missteps are few and they only stand out because the rest of the game is so enjoyable.

The large majority of Scene It’s film catalogue is from the past but I do like how even some of the most recently releases films make an appearance like “The Simpsons Movie” amongst others.

ControllersThe coolest thing about Scene It and what draws everyone in young and old is the Xbox 360 Big Button Pad. You have all of the tools at your disposal of regular 360 pads but now as a one handed Trivia controller. Anyone who has seen the Playstation 2’s Buzz series will recognize the setup. There is a huge button on the top that works as expected, as a huge button, but is also useable as a directional pad. Below the Big Button are the color coated A, B, X, and Y buttons. During gameplay the Big Button is used to buzz in when appropriate and the color buttons below are used to choose your answer. The controller is very comfortable regardless if you’re a lefty or a righty. The pad works perfectly in gameplay because it’s so intuitive. Never once did anyone need to read the instructions or take the time to figure out how to play the game. We all just started playing as if it was second nature and obvious.

There is very little to complain about. Knowing whether to buzz in or just simply choose your answer may be confusing for some at first but the game does give you some direction and you’ll soon get used to it. One or two of the puzzles are less enjoyable than others and perhaps would be better off left out of the game, although even that is subjective. Other than those? No true major flaws. The concept and execution of Scene It’s debut into the videogame world is user friendly, simple, and fun for almost anybody who has seen even the most minimal amount of movies during their lifetime.

Control & Gameplay Rating: GREAT

5. Replayability

You would think a game with only two play game modes and with one of the two barely worth your time would have very low replay value. Not quite.

That single mode of play will keep you gaming literally for months. Why? You are given over 1,800 questions! That might keep you busy for a little while, right? The game also keeps track of all questions it asked of you so the probability of coming across a repeat is very unlikely for a good stretch of time. The puzzle types themselves are so numerous that I played the game over six times and I was still seeing new puzzle types that I hadn’t played before.

Ok. So you’ve finally made it through all nearly 1,800 puzzles? And you remember all of the answers? Really?? Well, ok you’re still not done. You’ve got Xbox Achievements to go after and to score them all you’ll be thankful you ran into some of those repeat questions.

Is this as infinitely replayable as my Holy Grail of party games, Pac-Man Vs.? Not at all. I’ll be playing that game probably until I’m back in diapers. For Scene It?, the lack of different game types hurt things and so does the fact that once those questions are done you have hit a definitive wall. No foreseeable downloadable content is on the horizon either. Still there is a good volume of existing content, even with just one solid mode of play, to keep you coming back for more.

Replayablity Rating: ABOVE AVERAGE

6. Balance

Reggie: “I’m in second place for the first time in my life!”

Really, Reggie? Really? The sad thing is he sounded really happy about that. But his disproportional overjoyed outburst helps to prove a point. Everyone has a chance to win here.

You’d think a game such as this would be biased toward movie buffs. And no doubt it is. Bella has watched more movies than I’ve played videogames. So there were times when she completely DESTROYED everyone. Then there were other times we gave her competition. This is because you need not know every single movie on the planet to win. There are times you can get correct answers without previously having viewed the film in question. For example, after watching a clip you may be asked the name of the starring actor(s). Or you may be asked how many times a character repeated a certain phrase. You may be asked about words written on a door or in the background of a scene. You may be asked which pocket an actor pulled an object out of their jacket. Different things like this help to offset knowing the name of the film or the movie’s director and it helps to level the playing field a bit giving everyone a chance. You’ll need to be an overall knowledgeable but also a skilled player to succeed. Alas most of the time Bella still won anyway because she knows her movies and she’s hyper-vigilant. What can you do, eh? :)

There are some silly things in there to throw off gameplay balance. At the end of rounds players are awarded additional points for such sensible reasons as answering the fastest or most correct answers in a round but points are also awarded for nonsensical and or embarrassing reasons like most incorrect answers or slowest correct answer. It’s not fair but this is of course deliberate simply to add another layer of fun for players to laugh at and jeer each other over.

As for bang for your buck you definitely get your money’s worth here. Sixty dollars buys you 4 wireless controllers and a game that has a decent amount of content with little to no filler. Although much more expensive, the overall package of the videogame adaptation provides a more robust experience than the board game. With the original game depending on the roll of the dice much of your time could be spent reading trivia cards rather than watching movies and answering question puzzles based on them. I’ve noticed people find the actual video portions of the board game to be far more enjoyable and it almost feels as though the trivia cards are an attempt to pad the game up with filler. Not here. Everything is visual even when you’re not watching actual movie clips thus increasing the pace and increasing the fun. Good package here.

Balance Rating: ENJOYABLE

7. Originality

It’s refreshing in this day and age of the same ole same ole first person shooters, run-gun-gut-and-kill games, and digital boobies bouncing around to appeal to the lowest common denominator that every so often a breathe of fresh air like Scene It comes along to remind you that originality is still alive in the game industry.

Other than the PS2’s Buzz! series there is nothing else like this on consoles. The big button controllers are blatantly similar to Buzz!’s controller style that is obvious. The quiz show similarities are also unavoidable. However this is far from a Buzz! rip-off. Perhaps it’s the other way around? Buzz! has been around on the Playstation 2 since 2005, but it took them until ONE month before Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action popped up on the Xbox 360 for a Buzz! Hollywood edition to be released. Even then, the North American release of that edition didn’t appear until nearly four months after Scene It.

Debate all you want about who was where or who did what first, the fact there’s only two noteworthy games in the movia trivia genre to speak of in the first place gives you a good idea of how unique this game is. Sure it’s inspired by a board game but the setup and flow of the videogame experience is drastically different from its origins. There is certainly nothing like this elsewhere on the Xbox 360.

I’ll be direct. Have you ever played a console videogame that had you watching snippets of full length motion pictures and then solving trivia puzzles about them? If you say, “Yes”, the most you can claim to have played is maybe, two. The second most is probably one.

Originality Rating: VERY GOOD

8. Addictiveness

Scene It 2Single player? I tried it one time and I was bored to tears. Although the ability to play by yourself is available this should rarely be done because… well, because it’s not as much fun. That makes sense. Would you play the board game version of Scene It by yourself? Would you play Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Hungry Hungry Hippos or Trivial Pursuit by yourself? Well, ok maybe Hungry Hungry Hippos because that game is awesome but would you play any of the others by yourself? Of course not. They’re meant to be multiplayer party games. That’s the case here.

When playing the way it’s meant to be played with a room full of dysfunctional friends I couldn’t get enough. We played through 4 games straight. We even suffered through the idiotic “Party play” mode because we were having a good amount of fun. You just don’t want to put it down because the social gaming aspect of it is so strong. I can almost assuredly say that every time we have a bunch of people running over to freeload off of Bella’s home cookin’ or off the fact that we have a HDTV twice the size of most people’s front doors, at some point and time someone is going to say, “Let’s play Scene It”.

Addictiveness Rating: GREAT

9. Appeal Factor

Maria: “It’s a party game. It’s for everyone.”

Hmm. You really think so Maria? Ok. Let’s test that theory out…

Let me give you a snap shot of the gamers in the room starting with me:

Bebito. My tastes are diverse. I do shy away from extremely violent games, but if we keep that to a minimum then it’s all good. I love platformers and adore most rpgs: traditional, strategy, and otherwise. I’m picky about 3D fighters but Virtua Fighter 5 spins in my Xbox at least twice a week. I like 2D shooters, 2D fighters, tactics games, action adventure games… pretty much everything but first person shooters and most sports games. Basically, I’m a diehard gamefan. Nuff said.

Bella. My beautiful and smokin’ hot wife. The polar opposite of me, she avoids most games like the plague. But she enjoys the occasional platformer here and there when they aren’t too challenging. Example being she was a big fan of the first Oddworld on the original Xbox until all of the characters she tried saving started blowing up. But if people aren’t dying or exploding in a game she’s usually ok. Also, in almost cliché gaming girl fashion, she’s heavily into puzzle games like Luminies and Bejeweled. Bella’s a casual gamer at best.

Maria. If I didn’t know any better I’d say she’s a hardcore gamer on the down-lo. When I bought her and her husband Reggie a Sega Dreamcast she was crazily addicted to playing Rayman 2 like a crack head addicted to cocaine. They borrow my GameCube? She’s up to all sorts of ungodly hours playing Super Mario Sunshine and I swear to you the girl wouldn’t have stopped playing if it wasn’t for needing to eat, take care of personal hygiene, and take occasional bathroom breaks. That’s pretty much the extent of her gaming though. No fighters, rpgs, or anything like that. She has occasional fits of insanity when it comes to platformers but she is a casual gamer overall. I’m pretty sure she can be turned to the dark side though.

Reggie. Maria’s husband and my good friend. He’s a big gamer like me. The guy loves action-adventure games, tactical rpgs, traditional rpgs, and the like. Unlike me he’s huge into sports games like Madden and Fight Night and the rest of that garbage. Ugh. At least he has the sense to recognize that Madden is still vastly inferior to the NFL2K series. And violent games? He won’t go around blasting people’s heads off with a shotgun but games like Heavenly Sword are certainly in his library. He’s a hardcore gamer through and through with preferences that simply differ from mine.

So you’ve got some pretty diverse tastes in the room ranging from the game devoted to the game apathetic to the in between. And with Scene It every single one of us had a blast. We couldn’t stop laughing at the game, at each other, and ourselves. It brought us all together rather than what usually happens with Bella and Maria in a room watching some girl crap and talking about their feelings while Reggie and I are off in the game room playing. We all collectively had fun.

Just to make sure of the game’s appeal, on separate occasions I played Scene It with a guy that will literally play anything you put in front of him no matter how crazy, violent, or stupid. I played with a guy heavily into retro gaming to the point that he owns a SNES / Genesis combo console. I even played with Bella’s dad, who never plays videogames EVER. They all loved it. Bella’s dad even wanted to buy the thing until I explained you needed a 360 to play it; the fact of which I had to explain several times. Yup. Even old as dirt people like this game.

It’s not the conventional sort of thing you’d normally pop in your 360. Some will shy away from this if they’re looking for a “real” videogame. However if you know what you’re going into there’s a very good chance you’ll enjoy it. Reggie had just as much fun as the rest of us but I remember that as our group game session was winding down he looked over at me and after burping he said…

Reggie: “What are you going to write? This game is stupid.”

Bebito: (surprised) “Really?? What’s wrong?”

Reggie groaned his words getting up going to my bathroom, likely to make it uninhabitable for the next two hours or so…

Reggie: “It’s not for gamers… it’s for having fun.”

It was an unintentional endorsement but you couldn’t have said it better my friend. You couldn’t have said it better.

Appeal Factor Rating: CLASSIC

10. Miscellaneous

I enjoyed this. I wasn’t sure if this could live up to the board game which I absolutely loved but it has surpassed it in my book. I can’t believe it either. It almost felt as though I was being too soft on the game but the harder I looked for something to whine and complain about the more I found to enjoy. Sure there are weak points. I wish there were additional modes. Downloadable content would have been great. The graphics could be bit a less simplistic. The host can be occasionally goofy. Legitimate quibbles but the positive outweighs the negative. It’s easy to get into. It’s universally appealing. It’s fairly original. It’s tons of fun.

More than all of those other positives however, this game has an undeniable charm. It’s obvious that the corny bits are done on purpose. I’ve said it earlier but it bears repeating; the game has this whimsical, fun feel to it. It’s lighthearted and silly and the point here was to make it enjoyable and accessible to all ages. They have succeeded.

Miscellaneous Rating: ENJOYABLE

The Scores:
Modes Rating: BAD
Graphics Rating: DECENT
Control & Gameplay Rating: GREAT
Replayablity Rating: ABOVE AVERAGE
Balance Rating: ENJOYABLE
Originality Rating: VERY GOOD
Addictiveness Rating: GREAT
Appeal Factor Rating: CLASSIC
Miscellaneous Rating: ENJOYABLE

Short Attention Span Summary
bebstopstory.JPGGot friends? Buy Scene It! Got family? Buy Scene It? Got Scene It? Buy Scene It! Nearly everyone you know and don’t know will have a fun time with this. If you own or enjoyed the board game version of Scene It, then you’ll absolutely love this game. It’s not meant for the graphics obsessed or those looking for more conventional gaming. There are plenty of pretty games out there with sparkly guns, explosions, and bombs. This is about social gaming and having clean wholesome fun. The Xbox iteration of the mega hit franchise is one of the best “party” games you can buy especially if your home is all about the 360. The potential was there for them to take this to a whole new level if only they offered a little more variety and content depth, but they dropped the ball. Still, when the worst thing you can say about a game is that you want more of it, well that is a good sign.