Welcome to this week’s iPhone + iPad Gems! Today we take a quick look at a series of games for both the iPad and iPhone platforms based on popular TV game shows.
Jeopardy! Platinum ($2) by Sony Pictures Television is a refreshed version of last year’s Jeopardy (iLounge rating: B+) adding multiplayer support, Facebook and Game Center integration and even the ability to receive show updates and announcements for the TV game show.
A separate iPad version, Jeopardy! HD ($5) is sold separately and includes most of the same features subject to the limitations of having been developed for iOS 3.2; features such as Game Center integration are naturally missing here.
Interestingly, Jeopardy! HD takes a slightly graphical design approach for character avatars, presenting more “cartoony” characters versus the more realistic avatars of the iPhone/iPod touch version. Both editions provide the classic Jeopardy theme song and background soundtrack that were found in the earlier version.
Both versions remain true to their TV namesake, bringing players through two rounds where they are presented with answers and required to come up with the matching questions. As with the previous version, the questions are presented in a multiple-choice format, removing some of the challenge of the TV show. The game progresses in much the same way as the TV show, with players working through six categories of five answers each with increasing dollar values. Players choose questions from the board and can respond or pass on any given answer, gaining money for correct answers and losing money for incorrect answers. Daily Doubles are also present and if the player ends the first two rounds with the most money they will move on the Final Jeopardy.
Jeopardy! Platinum and Jeopardy HD both now provide multiplayer support as well via either pass-and-play on the same device, local Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or online play. A new “Party Game” feature is also included that promises to allow players with an iPad and multiple iPhone or iPod touch devices to display the game on a common iPad, with each player using their own iPhone or iPod touch to play. While this feature sounds interesting, we were sadly not able to get it working even after testing it on several different iOS devices—the iPad application would simply crash to the home screen when starting the game.
Jeopardy! Platinum now supports Game Center for leaderboards, achievements and multiplayer gaming support even adds push notifications that can be used to notify hardcore players when they change positions on the leader board. Facebook Connect integration is also available in both the Platinum and HD versions for posting trophies and achievements to your Facebook profile.
Both versions have also added in-app purchasing options so you can buy new content from within the game in the form of Avatar Packs and Game Packs. Avatar Packs sell for $1 each and include new wardrobe and style options to customize your character in the game. Game Packs sell for $1 as well and each include 700 additional clues and dozens of new categories; useful once you’ve exhausted all of the clues and categories that come with the game. Unfortunately, since in-app purchases are tied to specific apps, content must be purchased separately for the iPhone and iPad versions.
Jeopardy! Platinum also provides another slightly offbeat feature: users can automatically add the Jeopardy! TV show schedule to their calendars and a scheduling button allows users to create new calendar entries from directly within the app. This one left us scratching our heads a bit, but serious Jeopardy fans might find it to be a useful feature.
Jeopardy! Platinum is a nice update to the original iPhone game, and although we question the decision to release it as an entirely new game rather than a free update to the previous version, the lower $2 asking price for the new Platinum edition makes it less of an issue. On the other hand, we’re not usually fans of separate ‘HD’ apps where the only distinction is iPad support with no other value added. In the case of Jeopardy! Platinum and HD the combined $7 price tag for both apps wouldn’t make this too hard to swallow except for the fact that in-app purchases are separate for each version, requiring users to pay twice as much for Game Packs if they want to be able to use that content on both devices. This makes it impractical for multiple-device users to even bother purchasing the iPad version but for the Party Game support—a feature that sadly doesn’t even work properly at this point. Further, due to limitations in iOS 3.2 the iPad version currently lacks the Game Center and Calendar integration features of its iPhone counterpart, a deficiency that may or may not be remedied with a free update when iOS 4.2 is released this month. iLounge rating: Jeopardy! Platinum: B+ / Jeopardy! HD: B-
Sony Pictures Television has taken a similar approach to its Jeopardy titles with Wheel of Fortune Platinum ($2) and Wheel of Fortune HD ($5), both updated and expanded versions of last year’s Wheel of Fortune (iLounge rating: B+).
Wheel of Fortune Platinum builds upon the earlier title by adding multiplayer support, a refreshed graphical design, and achievement and leaderboard support complete with Facebook Connect integration. The same features are found in the iPad version, Wheel of Fortune HD, which sports a similar graphic redesign, although like Jeopardy presents a different avatar style from the iPhone and iPod touch version. Both games feature video, graphics, studio sound effects and music straight from the TV game show.
Three game modes are available: TV Show mode for a complete game similar to what would be seen on TV and toss-up and speed-up modes for faster, casual play. Multiplayer support is also included as either pass-and-play, local Bluetooth/Wi-Fi and online. Unlike Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune does not provide any Game Center integration for multiplayer support or even achievements and leaderboards. The new version also provides Themed Game modes such as Hawaiian and World Capitals with questions based on those subjects and slight variations in the game set and wheel wedges to match the theme.
The game play itself is straightforward and anybody who has ever watched the TV show should be able to jump right in without too much difficulty. Players attempt to solve a word puzzle by taking turns spinning the wheel, guessing consonants and buying vowels. Special rounds are also included such as the Jackpot round, Mystery round and Million Dollar wedge, and if you’ve earned the highest score by the end of the normal rounds you advance to the final Bonus round much like on TV.
As with Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune provides in-app purchasing for new Avatar Packs and Puzzle Packs, priced at $1 each. Additional packs must be purchased separately for the Platinum and HD versions since they are separate apps.
One interesting limitation in Wheel of Fortune Platinum is that much like the original Wheel of Fortune, the game can be played only in portrait orientation. Wheel of Fortune HD, on the other hand, is played on the iPad exclusively in landscape orientation. In our opinion portrait mode on the iPhone and iPod touch doesn’t detract from the game play experience any more than it did in the previous version, but it’s worth noting nonetheless. Wheel of Fortune Platinum is a worthy update to the earlier game, and even though it has been released as a separate app, the $2 asking price is reasonable for the new features that it delivers. In terms of Wheel of Fortune HD, the same basic issues exist here as with Jeopardy, notably that the choice to release this as a separate app rather than part of a single universal app limits the usefulness of in-app purchases to users who may own both devices. That said, Wheel of Fortune is the type of game that benefits more noticeably from the larger screen of the iPad and this alone may encourage iPad owners to opt for the HD version rather than the less expensive Platinum edition. iLounge rating: Wheel of Fortune Platinum: B+ / Wheel of Fortune HD: B
Press Your Luck ($5) and Press Your Luck HD ($7) by Ludia are recreations of the classic eighties game show of the same name, sold as separate apps for the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad that essentially provide the exact same features.
For those unfamiliar with the game show, the objective is relatively simple: Players are taken through several question rounds where they accumulate spins. Following each question round, players then use those spins on a changing game board to attempt to win cash and other prizes by stopping the flashing highlight on a prize space rather than a Whammie. Questions are presented with a series of multiple-choice answers, with the first player to buzz in having four choices to select from, and one choice being removed for remaining players. Three spins are awarded for a correct answer by the player who buzzes in first, a one spin for each of the other players who answer the question correctly.
Like the TV game show, the game play is exceedingly simple, with the main highlight being the various amusing Whammie animations that appear when users hit one, showing small Whammie characters prance across the screen getting into various forms of trouble. When players hit a Whammie their accumulated winnings are immediately cleaned out.
Players must either use all of their spins or pass them to another player, resulting in the choice to either press their luck and win more money while avoiding Whammies or give away remaining spins to another player, giving the other player an opportunity to win more money.
The game allows players to customize their avatar and supports both single-player and multiplayer pass-and-play modes. Players are taken through two rounds of questions and spins, and the player with the most money at the end of the game wins.
The problem with Press Your Luck on the iOS platform is that it tries to replicate a game show formula that worked on TV primarily for its entertainment value rather than any kind of actual challenge. Even with the eighties game show, the Whammies and contestants’ reactions to them were the most entertaining part, with the questions and the rest of the game play being easily forgettable. The same applies to the iOS version of the game, and the problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the questions are not only unchallenging but are actually presented sequentially rather than randomly; We played through the first few rounds on five different iOS devices and the exact same questions came up in the exact same order on every device. Further, it didn’t take more than a few dozen rounds before questions began repeating themselves, albeit it in a slightly different order. Fans of the show may find the app interesting as a novelty, and the Whammie interludes are definitely amusing, but don’t expect a lot of challenging gameplay from this one—a particular disappointment for the $5 and $7 asking prices for the two separate apps. iLounge rating: C+.
Ludia’s Family Feud ($5) and Family Feud HD ($7) are another attempt to bring a popular game show franchise to the iOS platform. As with Press Your Luck, both versions are essentially identical in terms of features.
Family Feud on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad follows a formula very similar to the TV game show, right down to the introductory sequences. Players start by customizing their avatar using an interface similar to that found in Press Your Luck and then jump into the game with a “family” of other avatars to compete against another family. An opening sequence is shown flying into the game show set and introducing the two families that will be competing.
Players then begin with a face-off round where a survey question is presented and they must buzz in to answer. The player who provides the most popular answer gains control and can then choose to either play through the remaining answers with their team or pass to the other team. The playing team then attempts to provide the remaining answers, with each incorrect answer resulting in a strike. After three strikes, the other team is given an opportunity to provide one answer to either win or lose the round.
At the end of three rounds, the player with the most points moves on to the bonus round, where they must provide answers to five different survey questions within the same time limit. Unlike the TV game show, where two separate family members answer the questions in isolation, the iOS game simply takes you through the same questions twice, giving you the opportunity to see which answers were popular the first time around and think about your answers for the second round.
Rather than using a multiple-choice system, which clearly wouldn’t be practical for a game like Family Feud, players answer questions by typing words into a virtual keyboard and then selecting one of the pre-defined answers that appears above based on what they’ve typed.
Family Feud provides some game progression in the form of game stages with different families to play against and the ability to unlock new avatar items by scoring higher in each game. The game play is fun and fans of the TV game show will likely enjoy the game, although certain aspects of the iOS version may hamper its re-playability. Firstly, while the questions presented do seem somewhat random, there aren’t enough of them to avoid the same ones coming up again later on in the game. Further, the behaviour of the opposing teams seems to be predetermined—the teams will always give the same answers to the same questions, even to the point of repeating an answer that you already got wrong. Family Feud is a game with a fair bit of potential in its presentation, but needs a more developed game engine and survey question database to provide any lasting entertainment value. iLounge rating: B-
Capcom’s Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? ($1) is the licensed take on the popular TV quiz show of the same name. Players are presented with a series of up to 11 grade-school questions on a variety of subjects, with each question being worth an increasing monetary value. Players must answer all questions correctly to reach the million-dollar question, or drop out to keep whatever in-game money they’ve already earned.
For each question, players can get assistance from one of five virtual fifth graders who each excel in two of the subjects. You can choose from a list of fifth-graders when starting the game and must pick a new one every two questions.
During a question you can use “peek” or “copy” options to cheat off the fifth-grader by either seeing their answer or simply copying it. The fifth-grader may also “save” you by providing the correct answer in the event that you answer a question incorrectly. Each of these options can only be used once, and after you’ve used them all up, you’re on your own.
Players can purchase additional question packs via in-app purchase, and the game also provides integrated leaderboards to track total money won across all games and provides Facebook Connect support for posting high scores directly to the player’s Facebook page.
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? is little more than a simple quiz game with the same twists as the popular TV quiz show. There’s little more to the game than answering questions and competing for high scores, however for fans of trivia and quiz games in general it’s a fun little $1 game. iLounge rating: B
Capcom’s other entry into games based on popular quiz shows is Who Wants To Be A Millionaire 2010 ($3). Like the iconic TV quiz show, players are presented with 15 multiple-choice questions on a variety of different subjects, with increasing difficulty and increasing values as they attempt to reach and correctly answer the million-dollar question.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire brings all of the same twists from the TV show that inspired it, including the four lifelines allowing players to Ask the Audience, Phone a Friend, Double Dip or Ask the Expert to get help on any questions they’re not quite sure about. One wrong answer and you end the game with nothing, but as in the real game you can walk away at any time with whatever score you’ve achieved.
The game itself is relatively straightforward, and plays just like the TV quiz show. Players are given a time limit for each question that increases with the value of the questions and any leftover time from each question is banked for the million-dollar question. As an officially licensed version, the game includes not only authentic theme music and sounds but an opening video sequence featuring host Meredith Vieira to get you kicked off into the game.
Another interesting feature is the integration of your iPhone contact list with the “Phone a Friend” lifeline. Rather than merely presenting some random, fictitious characters, photos names are pulled from your address book to allow you to make virtual calls to your friends. To be clear, you don’t actually call anybody—the game merely uses your friend’s identity to provide the answer.
The game provides online leaderboards to keep track of overall scores and allows you to share your high scores on your Facebook wall. The game includes over 600 questions divided across seven difficulty levels and players can buy additional question packs for $1 each via in-app purchase.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is a fun and well-designed presentation of the classic TV quiz show, and even though there’s little more to the game than answering questions, the game immerses the player in the game show experience in a very enjoyable way and provides a number of nice design touches. iLounge rating: B+