Sony has been keeping a secret, and the name of that secret is Buzz. Developer Relentless Software has released 11 Buzz trivia titles in Europe, but somehow this is the first time that North America has gotten to enjoy the wacky humor of this series courtesy of the recently-released Buzz: The Mega Quiz. With up to 8 player support, could this peripheral-based trivia title join my party title short list? Time to take this U.K. staple for a spin!
Understanding the financial investment required to make a game like Resistance: Fall of Man or Haze, you have to know that you won’t see bleeding edge graphics in a trivia title. Buzz: The Mega Quiz has a distinct look that reminds me of a combination of claymation and Saturday morning cartoons. The main character, Buzz, looks like a Canadian out of the Southpark movie with his floppy head. Rose, his instruction-wielding sidekick looks more human but no less plastic. Somehow this look combines with the crazy animations to make the style just work. Similarly, the cadre of characters that you can use as an avatar range from mime to Napoleon look-alike and all sport a similar exaggerated look as Rose does, each with their own animation style and bright colors.
After doing a bit of research on the previous titles, the problem here seems to be stagnation. While we’ve just gotten our first taste of the Buzz series, it looks like the game presentation hasn’t really progressed any in the last few titles, which explains the lack of 480p or widescreen support. The jagged edges are pretty rough in some spots as well. Since the game is mostly pleasing to look at and doesn’t have framerate problems it is hard to fault a gameshow title for the lack of flashy graphics – that just isn’t what this title is all about. As Buzz would say, “Moving on…”
The main character and voice of the Buzz series of games is Jason Donovan. Throughout the game he’ll explain the game type you are about to play (Rose, as voiced by Sharon Holm, gives all of the instructions and rules) as well as heckle you quite a bit. A little too slow on the buzzer? Buzz has your number. Missed 4 questions in a row? Buzz is keeping count. While it isn’t nearly as detailed, of course, it is not unlike the commentary that runs during a Next-Gen sports title, keeping a running dialog about the game and how the players are stacking up against each other. I found myself strangely compelled to try harder so I wasn’t the one getting poked with the sharp wit stick, and if that was the intention then they succeeded admirably.
The roster of characters in the game have a few lines in the game, but are for the most part (or completely in the case of the mime) somewhat mute. The lines that they do get are often bizarre enough to make you laugh but none of them are stealing the show. There is one consistent laugh out loud moment that comes up frequently – skipping Rose and her instructions. After playing the game types a few times you won’t need any further explanation, so you’ll end up tapping the button to skip her dialog. Buzz usually makes some genuinely funny comment about you being in a hurry or the quality of Rose’s commentary. Some of them are quite rude and had my whole family laughing out loud at the corrosive humor.
There is one area where Buzz: The Mega quiz really suffers. There are rounds where you’ll have to name a song before the other players can buzz in and indentify it. Unfortunately the song is rendered via what sounds like a 1990s-era keyboard instead of the actual track. Again, I’m sure the cost to license the track would have been a bit too high, but is MIDI really the best we can do here?
I mentioned earlier that Buzz: The Mega Quiz is a peripheral-based title. To that end the game ships with 4 wired controllers that you’ll use exclusively throughout the game. The controller is shaped like a the number 7 with a big red buzzer on top and four colored buttons running along the back edge. The buzzers are used to buzz in with the color-coded answer to the questions and makes the game so simple that literally anyone can play it unless they are color blind. While the big shiny red button on top doesn’t get some of the love it probably should in the game, but the controls work pretty well. The only hitch I can really see here is that I’ve been unable to locate a second set of controllers to bump my game to 8 players – none of the geek shops I’ve hit have anything but the full game to re-purchase.
When you play Buzz for a while you’ll likely want to turn off any and all of the explanations and introductions to the various sections. Sadly, this option was omitted from the game so you are left hammering buttons to bypass the instructions after every round once you’ve got the hang of the game. I suspect that the game is loading in the background, but I think I’d rather look at a loading screen than hear the instructions to Winner Stays On mode again.
Buzz: The Mega Quiz is laid out pretty simply. You’ll pick your character and the noise you’d like to signal that you’ve buzzed in, and then it is off to the races. Picking one of the 14 available misanthropes to act as your avatar, you’ll polish off your customization with a pick of clothing and naming your character. Once everyone has finished up with their characters you’ll set the difficulty of your upcoming questions in three difficulty levels. Once you’ve gotten this out of the way, you’ll select whether you want to play a short, regular, or long game. If you could care less about customization you can also select “Quick Start” from the menu and let the game call you “Player 1” and assign you a random character to play. I’m skipping any nonsense about playing this game solo as this is a party game – get some friends. You can also play Buzz in a “Team Play” mode that gives each ‘team’ of players 3 lives with each wrong answer subtracting from that total until a winner is declared. Let’s move on to the game proper and then we’ll come back to the last option – Quizmaster.
The basic premise of the game is that you (and up to 7 of your friends) are on an interactive gameshow with a quite snarky host. The game is broken into six sections, assuming you are playing the long game, as well as a minigame portion that we’ll hack to bits later. The first mode is Point Picker where players are allowed to pick their own category to try to answer a few questions. This allows players to try to earn an early lead by capitalizing on their favorite subjects. Before too long you’ll have already moved on to Winner Stays On. In Winner Stays on you’ll be shown two pictures and asked questions about them ranging from “Who is older?” to “Which is heavier?” If you get a question wrong you are not allowed to participate in the round again until the remaining players are knocked out or five questions pass. Point Stealer is where the game gets very mean/fun – if you buzz in and answer questions correctly you can steal points from any player. Completing Point Stealer gives you an opportunity for revenge as the next mode is Pie Fight. You’ll answer questions for speed with the winning player granted a pie to throw at their opponent. If you are hit with 2 pies you are knocked out of the round. The next mode is called Globetrotter and it asks you to answer questions about the country where your plane lands. If you answer correctly you get to tell the plane where to go next. All of this leads up the The Final Countdown.
When the 80’s hair band Europe proclaimed, “It’s the Final Countdown” I wonder if they had any idea how many gameshows it’d get used on? In Final Countdown mode, all of your points will be converted to time that counts down progressively faster as the round moves on until a winner is declared. Right answers grant you more points/time, and wrong answers cost you points/time. Since the game counts down the time faster and faster as the round progresses, it is only a matter of time before someone wins.
There are over 6000 questions in Buzz: The Mega Quiz ranging from the obscure to common knowledge. If you keep the autosave function on the game will keep track of which questions you’ve seen and try not to ask them again.
As with any gameshow, you’ll have difficult questions and you’ll have ridiculously easy questions. For the most part though, the game is quite balanced and offered a challenge for all ages without making you feel like an idiot for not knowing the latitude and longitude that the wreck of the Hesperus occurred. Think more pop culture and less Encyclopedia Britannica.
I mentioned that I’d be getting back to the minigames, so let’s not ignore the big elephant in the room any longer. In any of the longer games you’ll run into a round called “Buzz Mystery Round”. Sometimes this round can be a set of knowledge-based True/False questions. Sometimes it’ll be something as lame as “Follow the Queen” which is the shell game by another name. The nice part is that you can omit this game by simply creating a custom game from the main menu and deselecting this round type from the list.
There is one last mode that I’ve not talked about that extends Buzz: The Mega Quiz to the length of your imagination, literally. In Quizmaster Mode, one player will use the standard PS2 DualShock controller to take the reins of the show. You’ll ask your OWN trivia questions (or as a suitable substitute, questions out of your nearby “Trivial Pursuit” box) and then use the Triangle or X to give or take points from the players. The game will continue until you declare the champion, so feel free to make your own wacky modes as you see fit.
With over 6000 questions and three difficulty modes, along with several game mode types that can be toggled on or off, Buzz: The Mega Quiz could keep your family busy for quite a while.Sony – why did it take you so long to bring us this great series? Those of us who shout at the morons on TV playing “Who Wants to Be a Millionare” have been waiting for a good trivia game! Give us more Buzz!