Review: That Trivia Game

Which trivia game? PlayStation 4’s new trivia game

sac city gamer, that trivia gameWhen I read the news on the PlayStation Blog the other day that That Trivia Game was coming to PS4 with Tuesday’s PSN store update, I was pretty stoked.

My wife and I are huge fans of games like Buzz, Wheel of Fortune (the good one by THQ, not that other abomination), TV Show King and more. It’s not often that we find games we can play together as aside from being a Mario Kart enthusiast and a Candy Crush addict, my wife doesn’t really game much.

Curious as to who made the game, I looked up Happy Dance Games on Google and didn’t find much. I then found their Facebook page and came to realize that this is the first game by the studio for a home console. Happy Dance Games is an offshoot of The Game Room, a company that produces things like arcade machines and pool tables.

“This is our very first PS4 title,” wrote the game’s social media manager in response to my inquiry. “We have developed other products but not for the consumer home entertainment industry. Also the focus of That Trivia Game is purely on the trivia and if you check out our credits, you will see the dev team is quite small compared to everyone else out there. We also wrote the engine and our tools from scratch – there is no middleware.”

I was a little worried when I heard this, but didn’t think much of it considering the game looked good based on screenshots and with it being a $9.99 download game, I figured it was worth the money even if the wife and I only get a few fun plays out of it.

Presentation

ss-002After purchasing the game from the PlayStation Store, I jumped right into the action. The first thing I noticed is that there is no options menu. There’s no way to alter difficulty, adjust screen size, edit sound options, swap controls; nothing at all. There are two options on the main menu, which features the game’s logo and a TV production studio that feels similar to menus from some of the Buzz games. The first option is to play by yourself and the second is to play with others.

Upon clicking either option, players are taken to a character select screen. Multiplayer, by the way, is offline only and can be played with up to three friends. The game features 6 characters ranging from a pirate to a rocker to a nerd, all with male and female variants. Each one has a few costumes, which are just color changes. Players are also asked to choose a buzzer sound (this is the sound you hear when chiming in with an answer) from a list of about 20 that feels like it was plucked right out of the most recent Buzz game.

A controls screen then comes up to show you what buttons to press. Not much to it. The face buttons are the answer keys and that’s about it. The only use of the DualShock 4 is the light bar. The light turns green with right answers and red with wrong answers.

Graphics

The visuals are not much to write home (or to the SCG readers) about. For a PS4 game, the game doesn’t use much of the system’s power. Being an independent game, I’ll give it a pass here, but the game just feels like it would have been better suited for mobile devices in this department.

However, I’ll say this, the game is crisp and clean, runs smoothly, has nice lighting and environment and overall looks pleasing. It just doesn’t feel original, and doesn’t have a next gen feel at all.

For a game that was, as the Facebook post said, focused on the trivia aspects, it’s not a bad looking game. It just leaves a little bit to be desired.

Sound

There’s not much to say about the sound. The game features the right amount of cheesy game show music, a host that reads all the questions and makes silly comments in between rounds, when choosing a category and in other parts of the show in that perfect game show, over-the-top tone of voice.

This is fun at first, but the comments become repetitive and a little annoying. If the host was more enthusiastic and sounded like a real voice actor, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but the host’s voice just sounds odd. He tends to pronounce words phonetically and speaks in chopped up speech patterns, leading me to believe it was not a real voice actor but rather a programmed voice with pieced-together sound bites.

The crowd sounds are repetitive, but the buzzer sounds are fun. Lastly, I found it funny that the sound the game makes when players get an answer right and points are added to their scores sounds like grabbing a coin in Mario.

Gameplay

ss-001The “show” begins with generic, yet as I mentioned before, perfectly cheesy, game show music and the host welcomes everyone to That Trivia Game. The host is quite creepy looking and I couldn’t help but think he was a ripoff of Buzz. His mouth doesn’t sync properly, his eyes are a little scary and the lines are delivered in robotic monotone.

The host introduces the contestants, who don’t appear to be very excited to be on a game show, and round one begins. The first round is just a basic point builder. The host asks a question and the players answer by pressing one of the face buttons.

Before the round begins, the human player is asked to choose a category. In a multiplayer game, out of the three games my wife and I played, it always asked player one as opposed to asking the person in last place to choose the category like other games.

A couple of positives here are, according to its website,  the development team aimed to make the game easy for everyone, so the answers are displayed on the screen in the order the buttons appear on the controller. This is great. One issue I’ve had with other trivia games is that the answers don’t match up to the button layout and it makes it hard for newcomers.

Also, I love that the host actually reads the questions. Too many trivia game force the player to read the question, often not leaving enough time to read and answer the question. That’s not a problem here. One interesting note though is that there is no pause function. I’m sure the developers did this to cut down on cheating for trophy earning, but it’s a bummer if a player needs to use the restroom or receives an emergency phone call.

At the end of the first round, there’s one last question, which can be wagered on. Why this wasn’t a whole round, I’m not sure but players can pick 100, 250, 500 or 750 points to wager. Of course, players earn that amount for a right answer and lose it for a wrong answer.

Round two is the countdown round. This round works the same as the first round except that the wrong answers begin to disappear. The longer players wait to answer, the less points they’ll receive for a correct answer. Round 3 is called the quick draw round where players get more points based on how fast they can correctly buzz in. The time counts down in points instead of seconds in this round.

ss-005The final flash round is similar to one of the rounds in You Don’t Know Jack in that a question is asked and several answers are flashed on the screen, one at a time. Players must press X the fastest when they see the correct answer. If all answers flash and no one gets it right, the answers will cycle again in a different order.

The problem with this round is that it subtracts point for a wrong answer, so making a mistake here can take players from leading the pack to being in last place. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if this wasn’t the final round. Often, I get an answer wrong toward the end of the round and then there aren’t enough questions left to redeem myself. It can be quite frustrating to lead the entire game and then lose because of a mistake in the last round.

One last blunder of this game is that despite having up to four players in multiplayer, in single player, all games only feature two contestants. There is no way to play against two or three CPU players.

At the end of the final round, the game shows the results screen which includes who came in what place and how many correct/incorrect answers each player got. After this, the host wraps up the show and the credits roll while the contestants stand at the podiums with very bored looks on their faces.

Overall

Though the trivia here is a mix of easy, medium and hard questions across categories ranging from animals, to science, to outer space, to movies and TV, to miscellaneous, to sports and more, and is pretty fun to try your hand at seeing how much you know, as a video game, it just isn’t very exciting.

There are no unlockables or customization options. There are no special rounds to make the game stand out as unique. The game isn’t flashy or graphically stunning. The sound isn’t anything special.

In the end, the game takes a lot of elements from other games, presents them in a minimalistic visual style and combines all of that with a solid trivia engine that features 1,000 questions for a game that’s worth a play only if you’re really into trivia games. I can’t recommend it as a video game for traditional reasons or as a way to show off your PS4, but with so few games to play on the PS4 and the fun this game can bring to families, it’s a solid downloadable title for a reasonable price.

Photos courtesy http://www.thatriviagame.com. Review based on PlayStation 4 game downloaded by Daniel Wilson for personal use.

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