Reviewed: March 25, 2004
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: March 26, 2004
Chances are if you donít own a copy of Trivial Pursuit, the board game, somebody you know does. Released in 1982, Trivial Pursuit got a slow start in the US gaming market, but once word spread of the unique concept and addictively fun nature of the game it has since become one of the most popular board games since Monopoly.
Itís no surprise that Trivial Pursuit: Unhinged has finally made its way to the console, especially the Xbox with its excellent potential for four-player gaming out of the box and a growing online community. While it might be difficult to get your family or friends to gather around the table for an hour, you can always lure them to the TV, and when local competition is lacking you can take your game online and test your knowledge against the world.
Artech has done a stunning job of adapting the fundamental concepts of Trivial Pursuit and adding plenty of next-gen multimedia flair to make this game much more accessible to a wider range of gamer. With some new and entertaining game modes, Trivial Pursuit may never be the same.
Without insulting long-term fans of the game, the basic premise of Trivial Pursuit goes something like this. You move around a multi-colored board landing on spaces where you must answer a question determined by the color of the space. You might get History, Sports, Science, Entertainment, or other variations of these or even a wildcard question.
If you answer a question correctly you get to roll again. Certain spaces on the board reward you with a colored wedge that you put into your pie-shaped playing piece. When you have collected one of each color you return to the center of the board to answer a final question and win.
Trivial Pursuit: Unhinged comes with three modes of play. You start with the Classic mode, which plays just like the board game. Flash mode is great for solo players who want to get an early start memorizing answers or for 2-4 gamers looking for something faster than a full classic game. Flash has itís own board structured in a ladder and you can set your own parameters for the game.
The new Unhinged mode is where you will likely spend most of your time, but it is also the only mode that requires multiplayer players (or at least multiple controllers). Unhinged expands upon the Classic game, first by redesigning the board with futuristic visuals, floating holographic symbols, and neon colors, and then with new gameplay.
Unhinged features new specialty spaces. Land on a sticky space and you might get stuck for three turns unless you answer the question correctly. Other spaces allow you to teleport to any space of your choosing, rotate the board, eliminate two answers for a 50/50 chance, randomize the questions, or give you point multipliers just to name a few.
Yes, there are points in Unhinged, but these are more like money or credits and donít have any part of whether you win the game or not. When a question appears you get a countdown from 3 to 1; itís not a 3-second countdown, each number stays up for several seconds. Depending on how fast you answer the question you earn that many points. There are also other factors like bonus multipliers and gambling.
When other players are attempting to answer a question you can use the triggers to bet points on whether they will answer correctly or get the question wrong. This is a great way to make some extra points if you know your opponentsí strong and weak categories. You can gain some insight into their knowledge by pressing the black button and bringing up a graph that shows all players and how many questions theyíve answered right or wrong in each category. This is especially useful for picking the final game question.
The more points you collect the more things you can do with them. When you get 15 you can re-roll the dice, not to be confused with an additional role, but actually re-rolling because you didnít like the number you rolled the first time. 30 points will earn you the privilege of picking a new question if you donít like the one you were given, and 50 points will allow you to steal a colored wedge from an opponent or defend against a theft attempt.
The final feature of Unhinged mode is the multimedia questions with hundreds of pictures, sound bytes, and film clips. This feature alone makes Unhinged infinitely cooler than its board game cousin and truly brings trivia into the 21st century.
To make the game remotely playable on the Xbox Unhinged uses a multiple-choice format for the questions. Trivial Pursuit purists will likely scoff at this system saying it is too easy to guess the right answer. While there is a margin of truth to that, rest assured that there are plenty of tough questions and very few throwaway answers.
If you insist on ultimate realism you can change the multiple-choice format to Shootout (Classic and Flash modes only). In this mode you are asked the question and must verbally speak the answer before hitting the A button to reveal the correct answer. If you got it right you can press A again otherwise press B to log a wrong answer and pass your turn.
Controls are the very definition of simple. You use the A button for just about everything from rolling the die to making your selections. The white button brings up help, the X button gives you a board view, and the black button brings up stats. The only thing that would have made the game better would have been to assign each possible answer to a face button so you could answer with a single button-press. As it is, you have to use the D-pad or stick to move to the correctly answer and press A, and if you have an itchy trigger finger you can accidentally confirm the wrong answer.
The game claims thousands of questions and I have no reason to dispute this. Iíve played 22 games spanning all three modes with most games having two or more players, and Iíve only seen two questions repeat in that time.
A board game doesnít really present the opportunity to test the graphical powers of the Xbox, but the designers do try to make the experience as animated as possible. The board, or rather the camera, is always in motion, spinning, panning, and tilting to get you just the right angle to show you all your potential moves.
Some of the camera angles make it difficult to figure out where you might be moving. The highlighted space will verbally announce the category but it takes a good 2-3 seconds for the audio to trigger. In the Unhinged game there are nice large holographic icons that materialize over the square clearly indicating the topic.
There are some other nice special effects like a transporter beam on the teleport space, and the stomp effect that makes all the spaces do the ďwaveĒ around the board. The video clips are all very nice, and I have to wonder where they got some of this archival footage. The question and answer screens are all very colorful with large easy-to-read text.
There is some pleasant jazz music that blends into the background. The only time I really noticed it was when it stopped for a few seconds while loading up the next track. Music isnít a huge deal with this game, which is why I didnít miss the lack of support for custom soundtracks.
The narrator has a pleasant voice but what really steals the show is the all-star cast assembled to ask the questions. Some of these selections are truly inspired. We have Terry Bradshaw asking the sports questions while Bill Nye (the Science Guy) quizzes you on science. Brook Burke is your travel agent for people and places while Whoopie Goldberg handles entertainment. John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers) is the resident historian and John Cleese covers everything else with the wildcard questions.
Not only do these actors perform admirably for what had to be a painfully boring job, they manage to interject their own witty humor and insight. Theyíll even throw in a few taunts if you start to screw up. One especially nice feature that actually turns this game into a learning experience is the post-answer information where you learn even more about the topic in question.
A typical ďclassicĒ game lasts at least an hour. The Unhinged games go a bit faster with all the specialty squares that can accelerate your movement around the board. Iíve logged nearly 30 hours and still havenít hit the bottom of the question barrel, so there is a substantial library of content stored on this disc. Unless you have a photographic memory chances are you wonít be memorizing this content anytime soon.
The online gaming modes are excellent and you can use your friendsí list and even your headset for voice chatting during the game. Unhinged is still relatively new so it was a bit challenging to find online players, but at only $30 this game is a steal and there should be no shortage of players in a few weeks.
Trivial Pursuit Unhinged delivers incredible new game features that turn a familiar classic into an amazing new experience. If you liked the board game then you are going to love the electronic version with its multimedia content, excellent presentation, and addictive gameplay that entertains while it educates.