Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
It doesn't take much to get the general public foaming at the mouth. A futuristic studio set, a TV presenter with the unique talent of making people soil themselves by raising his eyebrow, lights that dim on demand and a million pound prize that no one will ever win because the questions get unreasonably difficult as soon as the money starts to get serious. "You're three questions away from a million pounds Geoff. Now, what colour underpants was Queen Victoria wearing on the 6th August 1869? Remember, you can still ask the audience." The game itself needs little explanation. It's basically a pub quiz where the questions get harder as you progress towards the elusive key that unlocks the door to the millionaires club. So there's already one big problem with a PC conversion: pay your $30 for this and you're just adding to Celador's already well-stocked coffers without being given the opportunity to make a withdrawal.
Still, as a parlour game it does the job very nicely. You can only play with a maximum of four players, which seems a bit odd, but then you can choose to play the traditional way, through the rigmarole of Fastest Finger First (the four choices are randomly shuffled and you have to press your buzzer when the correct combination is flashed), with the winner going up to the hotseat on his own. Or, you can play head-to-head, whereby everyone gets a turn, including your more elderly senile relatives.
All the lifelines are programmed into the game. The audience responses have been taken from various sources, including the combined brainpower of the ZONE office. Don't feel too confident about trusting the answers though, as our main rival was also tapped tor knowledge, despite the fact that it's obviously a limited resource down their way. Phone A Friend is amusing as the developers seem to have rounded up the stupidest (and most regionally cliched) people they could find in a desperate bid to keep you away from the top prize. In one round I got a high-pitched Welsh woman, who proceeded to give me the wrong answer before turning up again a few minutes later to torture Richie.
Money, Money, Money
And that's about all I can say. It's hard to review a game like this because there isn't really much of a game here. It replicates the Millionaire formula, but that's not exactly hard. What hacked me off, and it's likely to do the same to you, is that you can't skip any of the animations, or any of Tarrant's annoying pleasantries. Celador insisted on this in the contract. It also sent out a page of instructions telling us how to spell and style the different elements of the game. Who do they think they are? You'd think they'd just won the race to complete the Human Genome Project, when all they've done is taken a pub quiz, added a pay phone line as an entry fee and splashed it all over our TV screens. Funny how pots of money can make people think they're important.
As a PC quiz, WWTBAM is not as funny as You Don't Know Jack, and to be honest, despite all the multimedia dribblings that come on the CD you're probably better off finding a cheapo copy of the paperback that was a bestseller last Christmas. Even better, phone the number that flashes up at the end of the TV program. Why play it on your PC when you can play it for real cash? Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Celador does. A million times over.
Download Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
I'll admit it--I'm one of those people who tries to tune into "Millionaire" when I can. Granted, it's not often (since I'm usually slaving away in the office doing lovely game reviews for your perusal), but I do usually catch it at least once a week. For the one or two of you who might not know, the show's draw is its drama, not its ingenious game design. We're all pulling for the something mother of two (with twins on the way) to make enough money on the show to put a couple of them through college, but we seethe at the rich attorney who makes another million while sitting in the "Hot Seat." During the process we learn about each person through his/her lifelines, the resident person rooting for them, and Regis' conversational banter. The PlayStation has sucked all of this away, however. The "Phone-A-Friend" lifeline has been destroyed by Regis calling his own equally annoying friends who try too hard to be witty, and the key decision of when to take the money and walk away doesn't matter since it isn't real. Furthermore, the questions repeat way too quickly and the multiplayer option is laughable, since it is restricted to the "Fastest Finger" question that opens the gates to Regis' den. To be fair, this is technically a close enough translation to please most fans, but I recommend games such as Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune to the rest of you--they just translate to a console much better.
I like Regis. I think he's a swell guy, but I'm not convinced he can carry this game on his celebrity alone. On TV the game works because you have the drama of the nervous contestant, the audience and the pressure of the moment. Here you have text on a screen, suspenseful music and Regis reading the question Oust audio). Comparably it only captures about 60 percent of the excitement. The questions repeat too often as well (a major no-no for a trivia game). Play it too much and you'll have it memorized in no time. In short, it can't hold a candle to You Don't Know Jack, but it has some charm. I wouldn't buy it, but it's perfect for a one-night rental.
The TV show is so popular because it's simple and straightforward--and fortunately, so is the game. In fact, it's almost a direct lift of the show so if ever a review score didn't mean much to a game's sales, this is it. This game is a good enough version to feed your jones if you love the show and want to play at home. In a pure entertainment and replay sense, though, it shares the cardinal flaw of most console-based quiz games--a limited database of questions. These games will really come into their own when they go online, but for now, this drawback persists. I might have given it an even higher score if I could turn that devilish pixie Regis off.