Quiz games are something of a pet peeve for me. Being a hot-blooded male I obviously loathe TV quiz shows, and the particularly cynical side of me can see straight through the numerous dial-in competitions that exist purely to generate additional revenue for TV stations. However, the recent emergence of videogame-style quiz titles has me in something of a quandary – because they’re bloody good fun.
The Playstation 2 brought us the wonderfully competitive Buzz! and the 360 has recently been granted the very similar Scene-It. Thanks to the release of Smarty Pants, it’s now the Wii’s turn, but thanks to the fact that the Wiimote doubles as a perfectly acceptable ‘buzzing’ device, there’s no need to bundle the game with four additional controllers – therefore swallowing up more precious space around your already-cramped gaming setup.
Smarty Pants offers 20,000 different trivia questions spread over a wide range of subjects. Some of the questions are actually pretty taxing, and they don’t repeat too often. The best part is that the game decides what questions to ask you based on your age, which it can ascertain from your ‘Mii’ profile. Yes, this game comes with fully functional Mii-integration – something that really should be standard practice in Wii games these days, but is often unforgivably ignored. By using your age as a guide, it means both adults and children alike can play together, because the kiddies will get questions more suited to their knowledge.
As is the case with all quiz titles, Smarty Pants only really comes to life when you’re playing with friends. Up to four players can indulge in this quick-fire test of intelligence, but it’s not just your grey matter that is put on trial – reaction time is a factor. Knowing the answer to a question is one thing but you’ve also got to make sure you ‘buzz in’ faster than your opponents. ‘Buzzing-in’ is achieved by thrusting your Wiimote skywards, although to be honest simply flicking it in a backwards motion works just as well, but naturally isn’t anywhere near as much fun.
At other points in the game you are called in participate in various mini-games, which serve to break up the tension quite nicely. The outcome of these events usually has a bearing on the points value of the subsequent question, so there’s an element of risk involved too. To be honest it would have been nice to see a little more thought and care go into these sections of the game – the dancing event is pretty sloppy and calls for arm-waving more than actual rhythm, but they’re short enough to avoid outstaying their welcome.
Graphically Smarty Pants is unlikely to turn any heads. The presentation is extremely sparse, but then it doesn’t need to dazzle visually. It could be argued that needless detail and special effects would probably distract the player from the task at hand. The sound is also on the light side.
While the use of the Wiimote is inspired – and, as we covered at the beginning of the review, the innovative controller removes any requirement for additional peripherals - the price point of Smarty Pants is decidedly puzzling. EA is expecting gamers to shell out full price for this title, despite the fact that Buzz! on the PS2 can be purchased for the same amount of cash with four dedicated ‘buzzer’ pads. While the wide range of questions will ensure the game has decent longevity, there’s no way it should be the same price as something like Metroid Prime 3 or Super Mario Galaxy. £19.99 would have been a much wiser and attractive retail value.
Putting these financial matters aside for one moment, it’s hard to find fault with Smarty Pants. Ok, it could look prettier and the mini-games could have been better thought out, but it does exactly what the developers set out to do – provide quality entertainment for friends and family. You don’t have to be a gaming veteran to enjoy this – place a Wiimote in the hands of anyone and they’ll be engrossed in seconds.
If the price were a little more reasonable we’d have no trouble recommending Smarty Pants wholeheartedly. If you have regular gaming nights with friends and can therefore justify the outlay, the game undoubtedly represents a worthwhile purchase. However, should you only indulge in odd gaming get-together with family over the Yuletide period, you may discover that Smarty Pants will be relegated to the shelf rather too quickly.