The Xbox 360 Trivial Pursuit is a fun experience for you and up to three more players on your couch-- the questions range from simple to challenging, but are mostly challenging. The game also appears to have found a smart in-game way to promote downloadable content (DLC), plus this title incorporates your avatars.
Rather than have you say the answer out loud, this game features multiple choice answers. This may infuriate purists, but it does allow the game to be played without having to quickly think about, type in, and spell correctly your answer. I thank the developers for this.
It's so simple even your idiot friends can play it. Move the cursor and use the buttons as directed on the screen-- the developers made sure that this game would be accessible to people who may not be experts on controller button placement. This is particularly great if, to have a four-player game, you need to use cheap controllers for the extra players. Well done! You also have the options of selecting the language in which the game appears, or picking if each gamer gets a controller or if you all share.
Graphics & Sound
The colorful board could be out of 1987 or 2009-- it just looks sharp and very plastic-y. The menus are all very simple, and the development house made sure to not be too showy. It looks like you're playing with digital chunks of plastic, and the dark screen with brightly colored pieces makes it easy to see what you're supposed to do.
A particularly clever element is a "news ticker" on the bottom of the screen. Not only does it give you statistics on how everybody is doing, but it occasionally pops up a reminder of which downloadable expansion packs are available for download-- free or paid. It's a great use of the screen's real estate, plus it's pretty unobtrusive as these things go.
Like numerous other board game/game show games of this era, there's an announcer which hurls taunts and compliments your way as you play. The sound mix places him in a position so that if you're having a conversation in the room with other players, it's easy to completely tune him out. He's not particularly annoying, but I can say that his presence was generally not noticed when we were playing.
Online Play and Multiplayer
There's no online play. This is a real shame, because the reshaped experience seems to lend itself well to online trivia battles-- although we suppose it might be possible to exploit Google and cheat if nobody's watching you play. There are online leaderboards, but I honestly have to say that I don't feel that online leaderboards on a trivia game (because you may be able to cheat) are a particularly noteworthy feature.
The single player mode-- yes, there is one-- relies on time, scoring multipliers and yes, points. As such you aren't competing against the computer, which was a really smart decision for this game. You can earn a high score, and there's an actual strategy involved in which questions you opt to answer in order to maximize your score. Depending on if you want to play for a huge score or just for fun for a few minutes, you can finish the one-player mode in under 10 minutes quite easily, or stretch it out to about 30 minutes. Kudos for the decision to let you compete with what you know, rather than a computer player who'd likely be either a genius or, shall we say, "special."
Of all the Hasbro/EA board game conversions we've played so far, this one we liked the best. Unlike Hasbro Family Game Night, there are no little surprises which may prevent you from playing the game you paid for.
One final detail: it does make use of your avatar, but it clips your name at 6 characters. Expect butchering of names.
Is It Worth It?
There are some things you simply cannot do when you translate a board game to a video game. This game tries hard to get around these obstacles, but part of Trivial Pursuit's charm was that you actually have to be able to speak an answer aloud rather than guess a correct answer out of four. Questions involve picking one of four correct trivia answers, highlighting the right location on an unlabeled, border-free map, and other challenges. If you don't know geography, this game will punish you severely.
If you are a single gamer who only plays with other people via Xbox Live, you probably won't want to buy this unless you can get it cheap. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves video games, but has a significant other that's a board game fiend. This will allow you to satisfy your desire to earn more achievement points-- some of which are damned fiendish-- while they get to pretend they're playing a game involving dice and a board. If you enjoyed the Scene It! games, this is a better game overall-- plus it's expandable. Here's hoping EA continues to provide additional DLC question packs, particularly if they're free like the movies one, which you ought to grab as soon as you buy this game.
Trivial Pursuit is available on numerous other platforms including Wii, Playstation 3, and PS2. The PS2 version can be had cheaply on sale or even on clearance at certain retailers. (The big red dot does not waste time.)
June 1, 2009