Please note that Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune are separate titles available for $30 each, but because they share so many of the same features, we have chosen to review them together instead of separately.
- Publisher: THQ
- Developer: Pipeworks Software
- ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
- Genre: Trivia / Game Show
- Pros: Both games look and sound just like the shows; $30 MSRP for each; simple but effective controls; lots of content; fun local multiplayer
- Cons: Jeopardy! games can be long; good luck finding players online in either game
To clarify once again, these new releases of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune are separate, stand alone games that you can buy for $30 each. Because they share so many of the same features, however, we decided to review them both at the same time (What would you do if you had a million dollars ...?).
Both games feature the real music, title graphics, set design, and other presentation elements from their respective TV shows. Hosts Alex Trebek of "Jeopardy!" as well as Pat Sayjack and Vanna White of "Wheel of Fortune" are present and even fully voiced. Both games look and sound just like they do on TV.
The foundation of each game is actually identical. The menus are the same. The prize structure is the same (the more money you win, the better prizes such as new customization options and show sets you can unlock). The player characters are also the exact same across both games. Both games have silly pop trivia about their respective show during load screens. These are essentially the same game, just with different game show skins on top. Of course, the actual gameplay is different for each show, but everything else is the same. Visually, the games aren't going to impress anyone and the big head versions of the hosts, and player characters, are kind of odd, but they get the job done.
Multiplayer is available for both games, and can be a lot of fun. Between rounds (during what would be commercial breaks on TV) you play simple minigames that aren't available when you're playing solo. Local multiplayer is a blast, because who doesn't like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune? But online play via Xbox Live isn't so hot. One problem is that you'll struggle to actually find anyone to play with, but a bigger problem, in Jeopardy! at least, is that people like to cheat by just buzzing in immediately and then quickly Googling the answer since you have a ton of time to answer. No fun.
The gameplay is just like you'd probably expect. You select a category and an answer, and then the contestants can buzz in to give the question. A great touch is that the different difficulty levels offer varying levels of assistance for players. On Easy difficulty, the game is just multiple choice when you buzz in. On harder difficulties, you actually have to spell out your answer, but the game has a great feature where as you spell out your answer, choices based on what word you're spelling show up onscreen, which you can then scroll up to select instead of having to literally spell out every letter. The game figures that if you come out of the gate spelling the first 4-5 letters of the right answer correctly, you obviously know what the answer is, so it sort of autocompletes it for you. This is nice since it speeds up the game tremendously, but it also makes it so people don't have to be a spelling bee champion to get the right answer. Jeopardy! is a spoken word game on TV, after all, and (usually) doesn't rely on proper spelling, so this is a great feature.
Our only complaint with Jeopardy! is that it can take a while to actually play through a game. It is kind of slow and dry but, if you're a Jeopardy! fan, you probably already know that. Other than the pacing, however, it is very fun and satisfying to play. It is pure trivia, unlike the Xbox 360's more dynamic trivia games like Scene It? or You Don't Know Jack, but it is fun.
Wheel of Fortune
Wheel of Fortune is a spelling game at heart, so solving the puzzles actually requires you to spell correctly. Playing the game is as easy as tapping the A button as a meter rises and falls to set your spin power (which doesn't seem to really matter) and then the wheel spins and randomly lands on a wedge. If you land on a cash or prize wedge, you can guess a letter, buy a vowel, and then spin again or try to solve by spelling out the words correctly (no autocorrect here). It is all just like the real thing. The bankrupt and lose a turn wedges seem to come up obnoxiously often - one game against the A.I. we hit one of these bad wedges about 9 times in a row between the three players - but I suppose that can be realistic to the show as well.
All in all, Wheel of Fortune is pretty straightforward and can be pretty fun. We don't have any real complaints about it. Games seem to go by fairly quickly, the A.I. is pretty balanced (they don't magically solve puzzles out of nowhere and actually give you a chance, at least) and multiplayer is fun.