Jeopardy! doesn't have Alex Trebek in it. I'm not saying that simple fact should condemn this PlayStation Network title to the pits of videogame hell, but it should stand as the first glaring error in a game that gets the simple sound effects and setting of the show down but somehow manages to lose everything else that makes Jeopardy! the phenomenon it is.
If you don't know what Jeopardy! is, I can't imagine where you've been living for the past few decades. A TV game show, Jeopardy! puts a bunch of categories on a game board and lists monetary values beneath them. Players pick a category and a monetary value to play for, get the answer, and have to respond in the form of a question. After a round, the values double, and in the end, there's Final Jeopardy! where contestants get to see what category the last question will be pulled from and then wager how much of their winnings they'd like to play for.
When you boot up Jeopardy! -- a $14.99 PlayStation Network download -- it's easy to think this game is going to get the simple questions-for-answers quiz show right. There's the opening ripped from the show, there's the familiar song, and then you're plopped on a simple menu where you can choose to play the game, mess with your characters, view the in-game awards, or go for help.
You'll have five character creation slots where you can create men and women to enter in the game show. There are eight faces to choose from, five hair styles, nine outfits, and a smattering of glasses and facial hair to toss on. You can punch in a custom name, and choose from one of six signatures to appear on your name placard. Once you get a slot filled in, the game will track that character's total winnings and winning percentage.
When you're ready to play, you can jump into a local game by your lonesome or add two in-room friends. If no one's in your home, you can join a public or private online match or host a public/private one of your own.
If -- like everyone on the face of the planet -- you've seen an episode of the show, things won't feel right as soon as you start the game. The announcer's booming "This isssssssss Jeopardy!" is nowhere to be found; there's a podium but no Alex Trebek; and when you get playing, the whole thing is eerily silent. When you or the computer gets a question right, there's polite applause from the audience (they "awwww" when you're wrong) but it's clearly canned and stops on a dime. The rest of the time, it's like you're playing in a graveyard. When contestants get a question wrong, they react and wave their arms, but no noise comes out of their cake holes.
Beyond that, there are the traditional bleeps and bloops when categories pop up and whatnot, but it doesn't make up for the empty room vibe.
The gameplay doesn't really make up for the lack of detail either. Whereas real Jeopardy! relies on you actually having knowledge on a particular subject, this PSN game is all multiple choice and most of the time the wrong answers are obviously wrong. Take for example the category "Making the Cut." It was all about cuts of meat, and one question asked me what steak gets its name from the bone that divides the meat. I buzzed in, went to select T-bone, but noticed that the other answers were J-bone, L-bone, and the like. Another time the answer was Porterhouse, but the wrong answers were similar to Cooperhouse and Whatever-house. The buzz in first/think later strategy isn't going to help you all the time -- there are plenty of questions about the Middle East and the 1995 Peru presidency that I had no idea how to answer -- but the multiple choice gameplay definitely drags down the challenge (I don't know anything about Clark Gable, but I buzzed in when I got a question about one of his movies, picked the only movie I had ever heard of, and got the points). Plus, the computer either has no idea what the answer is or buzzes in before you can even read the question, although you can choose from one of three difficulty settings (average, smart, genius).
From my experience, the online portion of Jeopardy works fine. I got into games without a hitch, there wasn't any lag between us, and the title supports voice chat, which is something a lot of retail releases still aren't supporting.
However, this game doesn't support Trophies, and it's really odd that it doesn't. From the main menu, there's a place to go view the 16 awards you can unlock by scoring a certain amount of points or playing a certain number of games. Now, even though these have their own award icons, when you unlock an award in the game, it'll pop up in the upper-right corner in a box that looks super-similar to the Trophy window. The "Award Unlocked" screen even has a generic trophy next to it. The whole thing seems like a knock off or a my-first-Trophy system. Why they couldn't tie these awards into the real thing is beyond me.
Visually, Jeopardy's no prize pig. The set looks fine at a distance, but the textures are a bit off behind the contestant when you're in on a close up; the question board and game logos look spot-on, but the award unlock pop-up looks crappy; and it's incredibly difficult not to create an ugly player because all the faces are hideous in this game. When the game's in motion, there are a lot of little seams you'll notice such as when no one knows the answer and everyone has the same disappointment animation.
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