Detailed Review: New “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” Xbox 360 / PS3 Video Games Worth Your Time and Money
This week, well-known video game publisher THQ released “second editions,” so to speak, of the two most well-known game show franchises in America, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I say “second editions” because in November 2010, THQ released these games for the Nintendo Wii and these new releases are based on those models. However, if you dismiss these automatically thinking they’re just ports, you’re very mistaken. Updates are present on many different parts of these games, making it worth a second look to purchase even if you own the Wii versions. If you want a review in one word, mine would be “yes.” You should pick these games up. (Keep reading to also find out how you can get a copy of these games just for being a BuzzerBlog reader.)
THQ provided me versions of the games for PlayStation 3, so that’s what I will be describing here, but I cannot imagine the 360 versions being very different. If you’ve played the Wii versions of these games, immediately on start-up you’ll notice a difference. Wii doesn’t offer high-definition graphics so while nice, the graphics there weren’t the best. The graphics, especially the sets for Wheel of Fortune, are very, very beautiful. The menus are completely different from the original games, allowing you to maneuver around the set to choose your options and view your accomplishments, rather than a boring list-by-list menu screen. You’ll want to create your own character first, choosing from the base options provided to you. Pat, Vanna and Alex along with the contestants still suffer from “big head syndrome,” but it’s not as bad as the Miis that were used. They actually resemble their real-life counterparts this time around. Xbox 360 avatar support is apparently included, from other people I’ve spoken to. However, one oddity is that the local and online start game menus are located in the same area, and there is no option that I found to change your player name from your PSN username/GamerTag. So when I played locally with someone else, player one was “chadmosher(0)” and player two was “chadmosher(1).” It’s stranger for Jeopardy! where your name is visible a lot on the podium.
As far as game content and relevance to the actual show, Jeopardy! is Jeopardy! which is not a bad thing, but it has a lot less frills than Wheel of Fortune. When you start a new episode, you’ll be greeted with the intro sequence and graphics from the current season of Jeopardy! and the last season of Wheel, which gets you in the mindset right away. Alex or Pat and Vanna come out, say something quirky and the game is ready to go. Both games have material from the writers of the programs and, in Jeopardy!‘s case, much of the material comes from actual episodes of the program, adding to the authenticity. Wheel‘s material is very well organized. Many of the toss-ups, just like the real show, will correspond to the theme weeks. “Slot Machines” came up as Things on the Las Vegas set and “Playing Pranks” started off a game on the Halloween set. Prize Puzzles are always properly corresponding, so you’ll never be sent on a trip to Alaska for solving “Hanging Out on the Beach.”
Accuracy continues to be very good on Wheel, using most of last season’s wheel layout with this season’s round configuration. Round one is Jackpot, round two is Mystery, round three is the Prize Puzzle and you’ll always be interrupted a few spins into round four with the Speed-Up. One of the interesting quirks that shouldn’t detract from your enjoyment includes that, while landing on the Jackpot adds $500 to the bank, it adds $500 per letter as opposed to the flat fee. All of the audio and voiceovers are accurate in the game but Wheel especially suffers a little bit from the slightly disjointed speech that was present in the Wii game. Instead of recording a thousand different ways to tell you about the R’s in the puzzle, they choose to use fill-in-the-blank audio throughout. You’ll hear him say something like “Yes, there’s…two! Of those in the puzzle.” or “There’s gotta be some… Ts.” It’s goofy to be sure, but I’ll take that over no speech like have been present in some games. Jeopardy! features full clue readings from Alex, along with appearances from the entire Clue Crew, making it a whole feel of the show. If you want to prolong either game, you can enable commercial break minigames to gain “audience support” along the way. These are just creative twists on solving small puzzles or attempting clues.
Jeopardy! has a lot of good things going for it. You can either choose, depending on your difficulty level, to play multiple-choice or use the autofill feature, where after entering a certain number of letters, the game will start giving you suggestions to help speed up the “typing” and guessing processes. They’re not always accurate, though, so don’t try to be cute when you play and make sure you pick the most accurate one. I picked the “Swift” option instead of “Swift, Jonathan” on the list and was ruled incorrect. Another disappointing thing that wasn’t “fixed” from the Wii game is the lack of a Jeopardy!-style lockout system. On the real show, if you try to ring in before the clue is finished being read, you’re locked out for a portion of a second giving the advantage to your opponents. That is not present here. Once the timer goes up, or even before then, players can smash their buttons wildly with no concern for repercussion. My final gripe here is Final Jeopardy! – it’s multiple choice. It’s to allow people to secretly answer at the same time, but it also takes some of the fun away when you can work to reason out an answer from the ones provided. Granted, the multiple choice options are usually good and there’s rarely an “obvious” answer out of the four, but a lucky guess is more impressive when it’s not chosen from options.
A big plus for both of these games I alluded to earlier is online play. I played a couple of Wheel games online and the servers were great, controls were responsive and everything stayed smooth and fluid. This adds tons of replayability to the games, allowing yourself a challenge whenever you’re tired of pummeling the computer players on “easy.” The games advertise themselves as having 2,400 new puzzles and 3,300 new clues, along with the option to buy more in the future via downloadable content. The biggest replayability factor is the ability to purchase unlockables with game winnings. With Jeopardy! you can buy clothes and concept art but Wheel lets you also buy intro videos from a previous season of the show along with brand new sets to play on. The attention to detail on these sets is absolutely outstanding. Some of them come from real weeks, like Las Vegas and Happy Holidays, while others are unique creations based on real weeks, like Cruise Week. They based that as if you were playing on the deck of a ship, including in-ground swimming pool and hot tub on stage. Pat and Vanna will have appropriate things to say for each set, along with being dressed to match the occasion.
Overall, these games are incredibly fun and would make great gifts – or personal purchases – for any game show fan. If I was to hand out letter grades, Wheel of Fortune would get an A-. Very true to the show with a lot of fun and different features to keep players happy. Jeopardy!, while also fun, would have to be a B. The lack of proper lockout and forced multiple choice in the end take away from what would otherwise be another stellar grade. It’s clear that these are not simply ports from the Wii version, like what could have been done. Time and care was taken to make them even better for the different systems. Wheel is a definite buy in my opinion, while Jeopardy! gets a “wait a little bit” from me. The games are available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (Wii U is available next month) and retail for $29.99, available wherever video games are sold or, also a neat addition, the full versions are also available for download on the PSN Store or the Xbox Live Marketplace. Check out the trailers released for each game below.
And, as promised, here’s a tease for our BuzzerBlog faithful. Next week, courtesy of THQ you can have multiple chances to get these games for yourself by using your puzzle-solving skills. More information will be coming very soon, so keep close tabs here on your favorite source for game show news and reviews. Feel free to comment below and let us know what you think about these games! If you have any questions that you’d like addressed, go for it and I will do my best to help out as well.