Review: Trivial Pursuit (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Trivial Pursuit
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Montreal
Genre: Trivia
Release Date: 3/10/2009


I love trivia. I religiously read the straight dope every day in an effort to further my trivia knowledge. I tend to get about 50-60% of the answers before the contestants do when I watch Jeopardy! In fact, the only reason I never made it on the college version of the show was that they had tryouts at 8am on a Saturday. Yeah, I’m not a morning person. Luckily there is the current trend of Pub Trivia to fill my quota. Any of you in the Twin Cities area can find me (nearly) every Monday night at Mentaholic Mondays. My band, or part of it, shows up every week to take 2nd or 3rd. One of these days, we’ll win that $30 bar tab…and not just the free round for retelling the story of my drummer vomiting on my front lawn in a skirt. What was this review about? Oh yeah. Trivial Pursuit has made another attempt at moving the world’s best trivia board game (suck it, Scene It!) to the console market, but, cam they succeed? Can the thrilling highs and terrifying lows of answering questions like, “Whose vault, blasted open by Geraldo before a live national TV audience, yielded two gin bottles?”

Read on to find out…

Modes
The game offers three basic play modes: Clear the Board, which is a single-player timed and ranked play mode, Facts and Friends, which is similar to clear the board, only multiplayer and with status effects instead of roll again, and, of course, Classic, which is pretty much identical to the original board game.

Clear the Board doles out points based on how quickly you can complete the board. Once you win a wedge piece, all of that color is removed from the board and you can only answer the question on a space once. Each correct answer adds a multiplier over the wedge space, so if you get eight questions right, the wedge space is worth eight times the points. Sweet, eh? The end game puts you in the center and ALL the previously earned multipliers stack up for the final question. Get it right the first try, and you can get one hell of a score. This score is then thrown up on a leader board on XBLA. I should note that I had some trouble accessing the Trivial Pursuit scores for some reason. It looked like I actually had one of the higher scores that day, but it didn’t show up. I would often get error messages connecting to these databases in other TP games as well. All of this is just a peripheral add-on to the game, but, still, it would be nice if it worked all the time.

Facts and Friends adds some originality to the old game using an old American favorite: gambling. Before a player guesses the answer, other players will bet if he/she knows the answer by selecting yes, no, or “I know it”. You sort of gain wedges in parts – ½ a wedge for a correct answer and ¼ a wedge for a correct bet. Once someone fills up a particular color wedge, that color disappears from the board, and the board shrinks. There are also game modifiers (Such as next round worth double, answer a question in half the time, etc.,) placed where “Roll Again” would be in the classic game. These modifiers provide an interesting distraction, thought they seem unnecessary. I think that may be because I played this mode with two players. It seems it would be a lot more fun to play this game with a full four people. Once all the colors have been cleared from the board, all players simultaneously compete at questions one by one. Each wedge you’ve earned gives you one life above the one you have to start with and each question you get wrong costs you one life. Last one standing wins. I have no idea what they do for a tie-breaker. This is definitely a fun variance on the original game. There is a lot more strategy than just, “answer the question correctly,” which makes for a fun diversion.

Classic game is, of course, identical to the board game. Roll the dice, answer a question, repeat until you get one wrong. Winner is the first team to collect every pie wedge and answer one final question in the middle space. These three modes have enough variety to keep coming back to the game.

Modes Rating: Good.

Graphics
Ok. To be fair, there really isn’t much that needs to be graphically illustrated in this thing. There is a board, your pucks, and some wedges. The designers did throw in some animation of the pieces moving that keeps it…I dunno, minimally interesting, I suppose. The board and the pucks all look just fine. You really don’t need a lot of graphical detail to get what’s going on. The game does occasionally use pictures and maps in the questions, but, unfortunately, some of the graphics based clues can be a little difficult to follow, especially on the geography questions. Maps are not as crisply drawn as I’d like for trying to distinguish between cities fewer than a few hundred miles apart.

Graphics Rating: Poor

Sound
Sound is also not one of the game’s strong points. There is some incidental music in the background that is neither insipid nor inspiring, just strictly middling. There is also the nice little clack-clack sound when you move your puck on occasion, but not much else. Oh. There is the voice over. The voice over sounds like the Moviefone guy who can’t decide between condescension and annoyance. Random interjections praising or berating performance adds very little to the game, especially when smack-talking is one of TP’s time honored traditions. Frankly, I think there is an inverse relationship between how many things the voice over guy says and what I ended up scoring this section.

Sound Rating: Poor

Control & Gameplay
The controls in this game are limited to using the left analog stick to pick your direction and clicking the action button. Yes, there is only one button used, but, oh man, they use the hell out of that button. It’s a one-button game; it’s not hard or complex, and it works just fine. Of course, in the end-game mode on Facts and Friends, you use all the basic 4 buttons (a,b,x,y), but this is the only time you do it. The gameplay is remarkably simple, and this is exactly what it needs to be.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

Replayability
Trivia games are always meant for replay. This game was clearly designed with the group of friends playing over and over mindset. There appears to be a huge variety of questions loaded in initially (After five or six games, I haven’t seen a repeat), and the option of downloading additional question packs helps out a great deal for replay. Currently, there is a movie question pack, and I imagine more packs are coming in the future. Since I am ALWAYS up for a game of trivia (Also a game of slap ‘n tickle…), this title boasts great replay value.

Replayability Rating: Classic

Balance
This is a trivia game. The questions are supposed to be hard. That said, there is enough variety of obvious and obscure questions in a wide field of source material that everyone will know something and everyone will eventually be stumped. This is the way a good trivia game works – mostly skill, but a little bit of luck as well. Sometimes you land on the easy questions for a wedge, sometimes you’re just plain boned.

Balance Rating: Good

Originality
Uh…well, its Trivial Pursuit, a game that has been around since 1979, so one can’t expect high marks on originality. That said, having the side-betting option on Facts and Friends and the single player time trials in Clear the Board does add some spin on an otherwise 30 year old game.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

Addictiveness
Keep in mind that my rating in this category is filtered through the mind of a trivia junkie, but I found playing absolutely addicting. Although the game offers the option to save in the middle of a game and come back later, I highly doubt it’s a feature I will ever use. Once I start a game, I’m going to finish. Then I’ll play two more.

Addictiveness Rating: Classic

Appeal Factor
I have learned the hard way that not everyone enjoys trivia games. My singer, for example, hates to lose and hates trivia. This does not make for happy fun time. What she DOES like to do, unfortunately, is hit people. So, this game appeals to people who both enjoy trivia and won’t hit me if they lose. Does that make sense? If you think Jeopardy is dumb, don’t buy this game

Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average

Miscellaneous
For a game on a DVD, this game appears to be missing one thing: video clues. I know there are insane costs involved with rights procurement and what not, but if Scene It can do it, I would think TP could get something beyond the crappily drawn maps. I realize that this is a low price-point game, but you would think a little bit of video could have been added without effecting cost too terribly.

Miscellaneous Rating: Bad

The Scores:
Story/Mode: Good
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Poor
Control & Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Good
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Bad
Overall: Above Average Game

Short Attention Span Summary
At a (relatively) low price-point of $40 for the game, this one was a pretty easy purchase for me. Of course, like I said, I’m a trivia junkie. Trivial Pursuit did an excellent job porting the board game to the 360 and, with new download packs available in the future, this looks to be an easily expandable trivia set that may help you win that $30 bar tab. If you see this thing drop below, say, $30, I would highly recommend snagging it. Of course, if you download the free movie trivia pack, I also recommend boning up on Asian cinema.

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