Name: Trivial Pursuit
Genre: Board, Trivia
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
After EA announced their deal with Hasbro, complete exploitation of every board game under their brand was expected. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With a growing trend of connectivity, the idea of bringing classic family-style entertainment to consoles seems like a sure bet, and there’s no reason that the shift towards casual can’t mean great things for gamers of all walks of life. Trivial Pursuit might be the most hardcore of all of the casual experiences, as it demands as much knowledge as Scrabble and as much strategy as Connect-Four. It also has a good deal to gain from taking this jump due to the possibilities of downloadable content; it’s not like Scrabble is going to be getting any "Letter Packs" anytime soon. Is the console port good enough to shelf the board game for good?
To justify putting the game on the current era of consoles, EA has bumped the graphics up to be more fitting of the high-definition generation. The game board is presented well, the menus are incredibly sleek and stylized, and the puck skips, swims, and flies from place to place after the die is rolled. An announcer (who can be turned off) commentates the action, but his voice becomes grating after a few minutes, a fact made worse when he soon starts repeating phrases and jokes. The typical question text is sometimes accompanied by images or a map, but nothing changes the game drastically from classic Trivial Pursuit. It’s still a very familiar game, and focuses on one to four players as they move a small game piece around a board, collecting wedges as a trophy for correctly answering questions broken into six categories: Geography, Entertainment, History, Arts & Literature, Science & Nature, and Sports & Leisure. Fairly standard stuff, especially for anyone who has played Trivial Pursuit before.
Standard stuff, that is, as long as you’re playing classic mode. Facts & Friends mode, however, takes this formula and twists it around a bit. Players share a puck and take turns answering questions while their opposition bets for or against them, wagering their knowledge against that of their friends. After a category is completed the board shrinks, removing any remnants from the finished section. It takes advantage of the technological benefits of consoles, and creates a Trivial Pursuit experience that would be incredibly difficult to emulate with plastic and cardboard. For trivia buffs looking not only to prove their own intellectual worth but to diminish their friends', this mode provides plenty of opportunities, and adds something different to attempt to justify the console price. A singleplayer mode called Clear the Board mode also steps the game from the norm, creating a Trivial Pursuit singleplayer campaign of sorts. It takes aspects of both Classic and Facts & Friends and adds in some objective based gameplay, but it does little more than kill time between playing with actual humans.
While the expanded content is fairly substantial, the biggest fault with the game, and I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here, is the lack of online multiplayer. Beyond checking leaderboards and downloading question packs, Trivial Pursuit is curiously an offline affair. The excuse given is the same song often sung in this sort of engagement, that they were “focusing on face-to-face interaction and creating a couch experience,” but it’s a shoddy defense at best. The entire reason, in my eyes, for bringing a board game to consoles is to allow players to play it in ways they otherwise couldn’t, and while Facts & Friends mode takes a step in that direction the game feels utterly incomplete without an option to play with gamers around the world. Without that option there’s really nothing that can validate picking this up instead of the board game, which retails for ten dollars less.
There are thousands of questions on the disk, and at the time of review two question packs were already made available for download. A Movie pack and Video Game pack add a good deal of content to the already impressive amount of trivia, and future downloadable content definitely helps justify the purchase a bit, but the lack of online support is simply unforgivable, especially with Hasbro’s Family Game night launching on Xbox Live this week with perfect online multiplayer.
The price point is simply too high for what feels like a substandard product, and there are too games out there that are simply more feature-complete to justify spending more than the price of the board game on this version.