Trivial Pursuit Review
If you’re a walking encyclopedia, filled with a variety of trivial factoids, there’s only one game for you: Trivial Pursuit. The challenging, mind-bending game has been an American favorite for many decades now, and with more board games finding their way to the land of video games, it’s no surprise to find Trivial Pursuit for the PS2. Typically, it’s almost always better to play the board game itself but in rare instances, the virtual version offers something fresh that might actually appeal to fans of the original classic. Thankfully, EA does their job by sprucing up what could’ve been a drab and uninteresting presentation; we get a game that features multiple modes for multiple players, and the pacing is excellent. There are a few little hiccups but all in all, the rabid Pursuit fans out there – trust me, they exist – should get a great deal of enjoyment out of this adaptation, as there’s plenty to do, even for the lone player. EA could’ve taken one more step and tossed in a few features to add even more spice and allure to the game, but we won’t deny that Trivial Pursuit is a solid effort.
Do we really need to talk about the graphics? In games like this, the visuals are never a primary focus. But at the very least, EA went out of their way to include a few nice animations for the game; for example, an imaginative animation accompanies the movement of your piece. It will either take flight with little wings, sink under the board and pop up in the desired location, or hop along with a jaunty saunter. There’s really nothing else to talk about, besides the effects that accompany right and wrong answers and other special aspects of the game. We’ll get into those later but for now, let’s just say that the graphics fit the atmosphere for a board game like Trivial Pursuit. There’s sufficient color and everything, although we would’ve liked a larger board that we can see more of, and perhaps even differently designed boards. We got them in Monopoly and it did ramp up the visual appeal. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about a board game depicted on a TV screen and while it can’t possibly look like a big-budget production, it’s not supposed to. In short, it is what it is.
The sound is helped along by a decent palette of special effects that center on the features mentioned in the previous paragraph, and a narrator that is mostly pleasant. He gets a little annoying and repetitive at times but it’s not terrible and in truth, the game would be quite bland without that human association. Then you’ve got the standard effects that accompany the rolling of the die, the switching around of the board (again, wait for an explanation below), the movement of the game piece, and the result of your answers. The only distinctly missing feature is a soundtrack; it’s fairly obvious that you’re always playing without much of anything in the way of music. EA includes tracks when you’re selecting your game mode and creating and editing your profile – i.e., perusing the menus – but during actual gameplay, you really don’t hear much besides the sound effects and the narrator. But again, this is only a minor complaint…who sits there playing Trivial Pursuit with music blaring in the background? We don’t need a whole lot of flash; this is a game based around brainpower and knowledge, neither of which require cutting-edge graphics or professionally-orchestrated soundtracks.
You may think there isn’t much to talk about concerning the gameplay: “if you’ve played Trivial Pursuit, you know what it’s about,” you might say. Well, in some ways you’re correct, but in others, you’re off the mark. First of all, you really don’t have the option to go one-on-one with a computer player, as you do in most every video game on earth. EA must’ve decided that an AI player would prove to be problematic, although we still say that if they gave us difficulty settings, it would’ve worked out just fine. Even so, we can just imagine screaming at the screen, “oh yeah, like any human player would know that!” Secondly, there are several fresh modes you’ve never seen before, designed for both single and multiplayer experiences, which means we aren’t stuck playing around with the same ol’ same ol’. Thirdly and lastly, there are a couple alterations to the gameplay that you may have used in the past when playing with friends; only now, they’re requirements. You have a time limit for every question, and most all questions are multiple choice, which most certainly isn’t the case with the board game. It makes things easier so the Pursuit purists may be annoyed, but hey, the questions can be hard.
Available for experimentation are- Single Player Challenge (Clear the Board), Classic Game (Multiplayer included), and Facts & Friends (Quickfire Multiplayer). The classic game is as standard as it gets, although it does include the previously mentioned time limit and multiple choice questions, and the multiplayer is exactly what it sounds like. But the other two are intriguing. Clear the Board is like an extended, more intricate version of Beat the Clock for the game, as you will attempt to maneuver around the board and eliminate every category one at a time. Basically, if you answer a Wedge question correctly, all the regular spaces from that particular category disappear from the board and you start again at the center. You get points as you go, and you can also score multipliers by stringing together right answers; for instance, if you answer an Arts & Entertainment question correctly, your multiplier rises and the Wedge question for that category turns from x1 to x2. The key is to clear the board with as many points as possible, in as little time as possible. On our first try, we managed to score 13,500 points and clear the board in about 12 minutes. It was fun and fast-paced.
If you want a twist on the classic game and you have a friend or two who wants to play, you definitely need to try Fact & Friends. There’s only one game board piece, and each player moves it around the board when it gets to their turn. You can get points by either answering questions correctly or accurately predicting how your opponent will fare; when a question pops up, the other players get to bet on the result. They can either bet you’ll get it right or wrong, or they can just say “I know!” which means they believe the current player doesn’t know the answer, but they do. The points fill up the individual Wedge spaces in the piece, displayed in the upper left of the screen, and your goal is to fill up the piece in this fashion. Furthermore, the Roll Again spaces boast a bonus of some kind that may or may not work to your advantage. It acts like a slot machine and if it lands on a time bomb, for example, you’ll have to answer a question in half the normally allotted time. If you get it right, the bomb passes to the next player. The bomb explodes on whoever can’t answer the question, thereby causing a reduction in points.
So these are the available modes, and you can also create a profile/avatar for you and your friends. As for the presentation, we’ve already said EA could’ve included differently designed boards or some other form of fresh enhancements, but what we have is, quite simply, Trivial Pursuit. We don’t like the fact that we always have a time limit – we never played the board game with that feature – and the multiple choice questions take a lot of the challenge away, but then again, if you want this kind of pace, you don’t really have any other option. We do get a chance to answer a special Movie Pack of questions for any given game (or simply have them included in the standard pack) but beyond that, there isn’t much else to discuss. The good news is that there’s enough entertainment here for the number of players the game supports; 1-4. The new modes are done well and will keep your attention for an extended period of time, the challenge remains high despite the multiple choice options, and EA does a good job at avoiding the bland and uninteresting board game premise. There’s a decent yet understated amount of tactfully-implemented flash, too.
Trivial Pursuit may still be best experienced with a group of friends around the dining room table, but you won’t be able to deny that the virtual version offers some great fun and several modes that would be cumbersome to recreate in real life. In this way, it’s one of the better board game-to-video game adaptations we’ve seen, which makes the budget price that much more interesting.
4/23/2009 Ben Dutka