Review: GSN Presents Family Gameshow (Nintendo Wii)

GSN Presents Family Gameshow
Genre: Gameshows
Developer: puzzle.tv
Publisher: Storm City Games
Release Date: 05/04/2010

Family Gameshow is a game that is hard to judge at first glance. First of all, the cover looks as generic as you can possibly imagine. However, when you look closely, you realize that the game is backed by the Game Show Network itself, which I guess is a good thing in the world of game shows. After all, if a sports game was to have an ESPN licence, you would think that someone in the network took the time to look at the game so as to not associate their name with a poorly made product.

The problem here however is that the games presented in Family Gameshow are not actual game shows which you can watch on GSN. “What happened here?” becomes a legitimate question: did the Game Show Network just green light the game in order to get their name out there, or did they actually approve the title because it features new games that can proudly represent what the network is all about with their qualities?

Read on to find my answer to this question.

STORY/MODE

As a game shows collection, Family Gameshow does not have a story, so this category will only be judged on the force of its modes. All of the modes listed and talked about below are playable alone or in multiplayer versions, for up to four people.

The first mode is called Control Freak, and consists of a mix of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Weakest Link. There are three rounds played, there are lifelines to save you from a wrong answer, there are jokers to thin out the choice of answers, and you can even pick someone to answer a question instead of you. You must answer trivia questions on different subjects, with the questions becoming harder with each round. If you miss three times, it’s game over.

The second mode is called Puzzle Addict, and is more or less a crosswords puzzle that is interrupted by Sudoku, “shuffleword” or “word search” challenge every five words. It is the least exciting mode when played with friends, so you might want to wait until you are alone to play this one. It is also the least French-Canadian friendly mode, but I will not hold it against the game.

The third mode is Brain Strain, and presents logic challenges, such as math problems, jigsaws, spot the difference, etc. It is the shortest mode in the game, but the structure is good enough for a quick multiplayer game.

…and that’s it. I don’t think it is unfair to expect more than three games from a “collection” of games, especially when one of the games offered lasts less than five minutes. Add that to the fact that none of the games proposed here are stellar, and Family Gameshow falls short in terms of both variety and quality. Not a good start.

Story/Modes Rating: Bad

GRAPHICS

Let’s start with the positives: this is a very colourful game. There are lots and lots of colours. There are neon colours everywhere and so many of them that my contact lenses could have melted from the sheer brightness of it all.

As for the negatives, the biggest one would be the characters design. The weird thing is that the same problem does not apply to all of them. The hosts (a sleazy middle-aged man, a moustacheless Einstein, and a creepy grandpa) are too shiny and look very plastic, almost as if the games were presented by bobbleheads brought to life. Their animations are laughable, as the mouths only have two movements, no matter what syllable is being pronounced: open and close, just like a goldfish or a cheap ventriloquist dummy. In fact, I think that’s another part of the problem: the hosts have these big eyes and facial features, just like dummies, and end up being as creepy as them with their lifeless stare.

On the other hand, the participants are blurry and look cheap, as if someone had decided to just take Miis and add clothes on them. Speaking of which, there are no options to pick your Mii instead of the run-of-the-mill characters as your representative. The Miis might not look like much, even when compared to the participants on display here, but at least you had the fun of designing them yourself.

Other than being colourful, the sets are terribly unimaginative and lack personality. There are reflective effects thrown around as textures in order to make it all look “high-tech”, I guess, but it just feels cold and devoid of imagination.

At least, everything is very, very colourful.

Graphics Rating: Poor

SOUND

The music is appropriately game show-esque, with a lot of fanfares and short themes to represent each game. It’s nothing revolutionary that will stick in your mind for days on end like some game show themes can do, but it is serviceable and completely tolerable.

The hosts’ voices, on the other hand, are terribly annoying. Each of them have their own voice, but they all speak in the same manner, which I could describe as “faked enthusiasm”. You also have to listen to their introduction speech during the intro of each game show, without the possibility of skipping it.

Finally, the voice-overs never fit with the mouth animations, which are already ridiculously bad. It looks like a bad dub from a 70’s Hong Kong kung-fu movie, and it makes the game look cheap.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I was playing with the sound all the way down.

Sound Rating: Poor

CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

The gameplay is what you would expect from a game show. The game offers ten levels of play for each of the game, and while the questions were different from one level to another, I did not really notice any increase in difficulty as the game progresses. Whenever you win a game, you are brought to a leaderboard, where the ten best performances are listed for each game. That’s as close to a reward as you are going to get in Family Gameshow. Despite the change in subject, the structure of each game is almost identical, with each game possessing multiple rounds that follow the question/answer pattern. It’s simple, but efficient design.

The controls are quite simple. Two of the games only ask of you to point at the screen to select your answer and then press “A” to validate. The other game relies on the directional pad to pick an answer. It doesn’t seem very hard to do properly, and most of the time, it works. However, there are times when the cursor gets very sensitive, especially during the crosswords game, when the time comes to spell your answer. The game then displays a QWERTY keyboard on-screen, but the letters are very near to each other, even on a 32” widescreen television. It gets annoying after a mistake costs you the game for a third time. It wouldn’t be so bad if the game let you delete the letter you just entered, but instead, it registers a wrong answer as soon as the expected string of character doesn’t match what you entered. Thankfully, this problem is contained to a single game in the bunch.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Decent

REPLAYABILITY

The game offers three difficulty settings, with ten levels per difficulty. While there is a difference when it comes to the difficulty settings, I have yet to find a perceptible increase of challenge when progressing through the levels. In theory, the game is offering a lot of content, but even if you reach the top status for each game, there is no reward for doing so. Once you get to the top in each category, it’s over. There’s no incentive to keep going after that, but there’s barely an incentive to keep going past the second or third level. Each time, it’s only more of the same, and it gets repetitive pretty fast. By the fifth level of Control Freak, I was feeling as if I was stuck in a boring Groundhog Day situation, if Bill Murray had been forced to answer trivia questions about country music and children literature instead of running around a small town. Even with friends, it never reaches that “so bad it’s good” level of fun. It will be a while before I subject myself to that again.

Replayability Rating: Dreadful

BALANCE

The difficulty setting can be set at a different level for each player. This means that the entire family can play together and make it a fair game for anybody. This is important because the difficulty settings differ greatly from “easy” to “hard”. For example, in Control Freak, an easy question would be “What color are the keys on a piano?” while a hard one would talk about specific Bruce Springsteen albums.

On Puzzle Addict and Brain Strain however, the player is only given less time on hard than he is given on easy. The difficulty stays the same, which doesn’t really make that big of a difference. After all, when doing crosswords, if you can’t spell “wet” or differentiate a snake from three planes in 30 seconds, you won’t be able to do it in a minute either. It’s great for kids, but if you are going to be playing with adults, beware.

Balance Rating: Decent

ORIGINALITY

While these are all “original” games in the fact they all have titles that were never used in a game show before, their inspiration is quite clear. I mentioned Who Wants To Be A Millionaire sooner in this review, but I could also see a lot of Trivial Pursuit in Control Freak, down to the categories’ names. As for the games offered in Brain Strain and Puzzle Addict, they have all been around for a long, long time, and their presentation here do not make them feel fresh at all. Is there any way I can really call a simple game of crosswords or doing math problems “original”?

Originality Rating: Bad

ADDICTIVENESS

I have been reviewing games for a while now, and I think I can safely say that this is the least addictive game I have reviewed for this site. I did not have any problem at all pulling myself from my television, and never once felt that urge to play one more time that a lot of games can provide.

Addictiveness Rating: Dreadful

APPEAL FACTOR

Adults might be attracted by the promises of a Game Show Network licence, but they should stay away from this one as it is nothing more than a measly collection of three game shows, most of them consisting of games already available in many forms for much cheaper. If the price ever drops down, or if it makes its way into bargain bins across America, it could be a good distraction for children that could also have some sort of “educational” value.

Appeal Factor Rating: Poor

MISCELLANEOUS

The participants are nothing more than ugly avatars which you can name. They all represent a different stereotype, such as a dork, a jock, and so on. Simply using Miis instead of avatars could have made the experience a bit more personal and given the game some much needed personality.

A big problem with Family Gameshow is that two out of three games do not feel like game shows at all. If the game was going to rip off existing games, why didn’t it rip off ones that felt like real game shows? There are so many old concepts to choose from that have not been exploited in video games form, and instead, this game offers some concepts that are better exploited on a handheld, or even with good old pen and paper. Game shows have been around since the invention of television, so I cannot believe that after ripping off The Weakest Link and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, crosswords was the best they could come up with.

Miscellaneous Rating: Dreadful

The Scores
Story/Modes: Bad
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Poor
Control/Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Decent
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Dreadful
Appeal: Poor
Miscellaneous: Dreadful

FINAL SCORE: PRETTY POOR GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Family Gameshow is a bland game that features old, tired concepts that are presented as fresh just because they are drowned in neon colours and hosted by annoying characters. As a collection of mini-games, it lacks variety. As a game show, it lacks the feel of the real thing. It might try to coast on its Game Show Network licence, but don’t be fooled. Nothing you see here has ever made its way on television, and if it did, it was in a better format. Stay away from this game and save yourself a few dollars.