Review: Buzz! Master Quiz

BuzzMasterQuiz.jpgParty quiz games have been a huge market success since Trivial Pursuit launched back in 1982.  Over the past several years there have been thirteen games in the Buzz! and Buzz! Junior lines, including the recently released Buzz! Quiz TV for the PS3, which Matt reviewed here.  Buzz! Master Quiz is the first time the franchise has ventured onto a handheld gaming system, So how does the attempt to capture the fun party game spirit fare on the PSP?

Well, let me answer that question with a question: have you ever played Guitar Hero on a computer keyboard?

That is something I’ve done – I have the Mac/PC version and we also have the Wii version of Guitar Hero III, and have played it on my MacBook Pro using the laptop keyboard as the controller while I was traveling.  Suffice to say it is an entirely changed experience from standing up, rocking out with a pseudo-guitar in your hands … and not in a good way.  Hunched over the keyboard you entirely lose that community feeling, the sense of having an audience, the social aspects that make the game so much fun in the first place.

That is exactly what happened bringing the Buzz! franchise to the PSP.  The core game elements are every bit as solid and polished as Matt noted in recommending the PS3 version as a ‘Buy It’, yet there is something missing that makes me say this is at best a rental and give it a ‘Try It’.  I am reminded of another game – Battleship/Trouble/Sorry/Connect 4 for the DS.  Each of those games is faithfully reproduced, has excellent controls, but utterly fail due to the focus on ‘you against the computer’ play.

It is easy to pinpoint what is wrong with this game: the premise.  It starts with the controls: not that the face buttons don’t work adequately, but that they aren’t the party-centric controller.  Next is the perspective: this is the sort of game that needs to be played ‘in genre’, in other words looking at a TV as it is a quiz show.  I tried it using my PSP component cable and confirmed – seeing it on a big screen is an entirely different experience than being hunched over the PSP.  Finally, there is the context: this is a party game meant to be played with a few friends sitting on a couch together having a load of laughs in front of a big screen TV.  It just fails to translate in a fundamental way to a little screen in isolation – even in multiplayer mode you are not looking at each other, you’re watching the screen.  It just doesn’t work well.

All of those failures overshadow something important: Buzz! Master Quiz is a very well made and polished game with loads of content and an excellent technical realization.  The colors just pop off the screen, the music and announcer feel like a full-scale game show stuffed into your PSP, the scope and range of questions provide loads of challenge and hours of gameplay, and the load times are short enough to never be an issue.

Buzz! Master Quiz does feature some multiplayer modes, but sadly nothing that will make up for the fact that the majority of time you are alone staring at the PSP screen.  There are gamesharing options, ‘hot seat’ multiplayer where each person takes a turn (this isn’t Civilization, why would someone do this?), and other multi-game options, but none of them are as fully-featured as the single-player game.  Multiplayer PSP games already suffer from the fact that unlike their console counterparts you need to know people who own a PSP and will buy additional copies of the game.  By the time everyone has bought their own copy, you could certainly have bought a PS2 and a copy of an older version of the game or be halfway to buying a PS3 and copy of the new game!

During a recent trip I stuck Buzz! Master Quiz into one of my PSP’s for the ride home and gave it to my younger son who is 10.5 years old.  I figured he would eat this game up, and he did – for a while.  Both of my kids huddled around the system for about an hour answering questions and having a chuckle at some of the answers.  Generally the questions were very easy and they immediately knew them or found them to be about subjects they’d never seen before.  But similar to what I found when trying to engage my wife with the game, the single-player experience gets tired-feeling very quickly and without true interpersonal interaction and competition the game falls apart.

My suggestion for Buzz! Master Quiz is to rent it and give it a run for a few days and then happily return it to the rental site.  As Matt said in his review of the PS3 version “You can play by yourself as well and have decent fun, but in no way is this meant to be a solo affair.”  I couldn’t agree more – and unfortunately the focus of the PSP version is the solo affair.

TryIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Excellent technical presentation
+ Fun trivia game experience for all ages

Cons:
– Lack of buzzers kills game
– Game just isn’t meant for solo play
– No add-ons or user-created options

Game Info:
Platform: PSP
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: RELENTLESS Software
Release Date: 9/23/08
Genre: Trivia, Game Show
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-6 (2-16 local players; no online multiplayer)

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!