A game for PlayStation 2 has been adapted from a British version.
By LOU KESTEN
What’s the most successful trivia game to appear on a video-game console?
It’s a trick question.
There’s never been a really popular console trivia game. Even popular franchises like “Trivial Pursuit” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” have been unable to make the jump. Computer trivia buffs have it better, thanks to “You Don’t Know Jack,” “Jeopardy!” and dozens of online question-and-answer competitions. But publishers seem to feel that mayhem-loving console gamers won’t slow down for more cerebral activity.
So it’s kind of surprising that we’ve seen three new trivia video games — one each for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and Wii — over the last few months. Could any of them be as satisfying as filling in that last piece of “Trivial Pursuit” pie during your family game night?
U“Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action” (Microsoft, for the Xbox 360, $59.99): “Scene It?” has become the most popular trivia board game since the ’80s, with more than 10 million copies sold of the 2002 original and its 20-plus editions and expansion packs. It has replaced “Trivial Pursuit” at my family get-togethers, because it’s more accessible and faster-paced. And it makes a smooth transition to the Xbox 360.
Since the board game is already a multimedia extravaganza — it uses a DVD to present entertainment questions — it’s a natural fit for the 360. Most of the questions are accompanied by some kind of visual: You may need to name an actor who’s been erased from a scene, or identify a star from a pre-fame picture.
With 21 different kinds of question, the action never gets bogged down. And the 360 keeps track of your games, making repeated questions less likely. The package also comes with four “big button” buzzers, which really add to the game-show atmosphere. I’m rooting for “Scene It?” to do well, because I’d like to see regular updates — and maybe even some Xbox Live trivia tournaments. Three stars out of four.
U“Buzz! The Mega Quiz” (Sony, for the PlayStation 2, $39.99): “Buzz!” comes to us from Britain, where they take their TV quiz shows much more seriously. Five installments have been released there so far, but “The Mega Quiz” is the first stateside edition.
Like “Scene It?” it’s packaged with four buzzers; buy two sets and up to eight people can play. It’s structured like a TV show, with flashing lights, a smarmy host and a leggy model, and divided into rounds. In one round you can steal points from your opponents; in another, the winner can hit another player in the face with a pie.
The quiz seems tailored for an American audience, and I didn’t come across too many questions about U.K. boy bands or the royal family’s peccadilloes. Unfortunately, the content may have been severely dumbed down; questions like “What city is the White House in?” are too simple even for “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” Trivia just isn’t much fun when everyone knows all the answers. Two stars.
U“Smarty Pants” (Electronic Arts, for the Wii, $49.99): Compared with “Scene It?” and “Buzz!” this is a bare-bones affair. It doesn’t come with a set of buzzers, which is fine if, like me, you already have too many remotes. Instead, you use the Wii remote to spin a category wheel, buzz in and point at the answer you think is correct.
There’s not much variety within the game — you spin the wheel and answer the questions, over and over, although you can win cards that let you mess with your opponents. And there’s no visual pizzazz at all, which is a bit disappointing in a $50 game.
The questions, on the other hand, show a good amount of variety, both in subject matter and in difficulty. And questions can be sorted by the players’ ages, so kids can compete against their parents. Two stars.