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Game Review: Buzz! The Mega Quiz (PS2)
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Buzz! The Mega Quiz for Playstation 2Buzz! The Mega Quiz
PlayStation 2
Available now

Party games have become all the rage since the unexpected success of the Nintendo Wii this year. Now the other console makers are scrambling to release family- and party-oriented games to capture a bit of that now lucrative market. Sony recently released their latest attempt in the genre with Buzz! The Mega Quiz. This latest in the popular European Buzz! series is the first to be released in North America. Buzz! is a trivia game that comes packaged with four special controllers. The controllers are designed to be used with one hand, with a big, red “Buzz!” button on top and a row of four smaller, colored buttons below it. The problem with this design is that thumbs (at least American thumbs, I can’t speak to European digits) don’t generally bend backwards, so you end up having to use both hands anyway in order to quickly access the colored buttons. Also, very few of the gametypes use the “Buzz!” button, so it’s a bit perplexing that it is featured so prominently.

There are only two things a trivia game needs to get right: the questions and the presentation. The questions in Buzz! offer a pretty good balance. However, the game definitely shows its European roots at times with questions that very few Americans would get, like identifying photos of celebrities who are little known in the States. But overall it appears that the developers did a good job of editing out the overtly Euro-centric questions.

The gametypes include Fastest Finger, which gives points to the player who correctly answers first; Globetrotter, which tests your knowledge of foreign geography and cultures; The Final Countdown, a time-based game which awards you with more time based on your performance in the previous round; and my favorite, Pie Fight, in which the first player to correctly answer each question gets to choose which other player to hit with a pie, which eliminates that player. Pie Fight is a good example of how Buzz! balances the game so that one player can’t necessarily dominate any given match. If someone is winning by too much, everyone else will presumably choose to “pie” that player to eliminate her.

The gametypes above all involve simply answering trivia questions, but Buzz! does a pretty good job of mixing-up the gameplay. There are other gametypes that task you with putting events in the order they occurred, identifying celebrities in photographs, and sometimes even answering whether the celebrity you just identified is older or younger than another celebrity. This is another way the game tries to prevent your fast-fingered, know-it-all friend from dominating every game, by throwing different tasks at you that she might not be so good at.

Presentation is Buzz!‘s weakest link. The graphics look very dated, because they are — the series has never updated its graphics engine, which is now over three years old. It really shows. Character models and animation run the gamut from bland to boring. Voice acting is also sub-par, even though Buzz himself is voiced by an apparently well-known Australian pop star named Jason Donovan. In spite of his celebrity voice, Buzz is a one-note bore. That one note is snark, as he belittles the players for their poor performances. In that way, Buzz! is a bit like its pond-jumping game show cousin, The Weakest Link, but without the humor that that show’s host, Anne Robinson, could sometimes muster.

Even worse are your choices of playable characters, which include an Elvis impersonator, Napoleon Bonaparte, an old lady, and several others. A couple of your choices are downright racist, like the Chinese girl whose catch phrase is — I kid you not — “Ah-so!” Oy vey is more like it. Each character has about three phrases that they repeat ad infinitum during the game. The only one I could stand was the mime because at least he didn’t say anything stupid every couple of minutes.

The rhythm of the game is seriously compromised by frequent and long load times. The sound effects are very annoying, but even worse they don’t convey information in a timely or intuitive way. You often don’t hear the “you’re wrong” sound until a couple of seconds after you were wrong, and even then it’s buried amongst a flurry of other abrasive sounds, any of which could be interpreted as the “you’re wrong” sound. Between the sound effects, the inane catchphrases, and Buzz’s verbal abuse, you might be better off just turning the sound off for most of the game.

The PR material claims that Buzz! comes with 5,000 questions. If you save to a memory card, the game keeps track of which questions you’ve already been asked in order to prevent questions from being repeated too often. This offers a lot of replayability, which is a great selling point for a party game. The game also retails for only $40, which includes four controllers. This is a great value, and could make Buzz! a decent holiday gift for that trivia buff on your list, assuming she can handle the bland and dated presentation and annoying characters.

Check out the Buzz! Web Game below:


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