Review: Smarty Pants

SmartyPants.jpgPlatform: Wii
Publisher: EA Casual Entertainment
Developer: EA LA & Planet Moon Studios
Release Date: 11/15/07
Genre: Trivia/Party
Players: 1-4

Apparently, trivia games have become the latest craze in casual video gaming. The PS2 (and backwards compatible PS3s) have the Buzz! brand of games, the 360 just got Scene It?, and now the Wii has Smarty Pants, thanks to EA Casual and Planet Moon Studios. It’s not the flashiest of games in terms of presentation (the graphics and sound are colorful, but somewhat bland overall), or the deepest, but for quiz show nuts Smarty Pants is good, wholesome fun for the entire family.

Smarty Pants is built around the party game mentality, and as such doesn’t have much to offer for the soloist. A solo mode is provided, but you can’t use your Mii to track progress and stats, so it’s really quite pointless. But in the main Family and Friends multiplayer modes, this game shines brightly.

Family mode is all about creating a harmonious, cooperative environment, as you and up to three other family members or friends work together to wager on how many questions you think you can answer as a team within a certain time limit, using one Wii Remote in a pass-around-the-room style or up to four remotes so every player has their own buzzer and Mii profile. Having four remotes also adds to the party game environment when prompts come up to perform certain controller gestures, such as waving, shaking, dancing and jumping, and bonus rounds kick in with activities like Team Tug-of-War, which slows down the timer and adds more time to the clock, respectively. With just one remote, it can be pretty distracting having to do the gestures while reading and answering questions at the same time, so having multiple remotes is a must to get the most out of the experience.

On the competitive side comes the Friends mode, a far more compelling style of trivia gaming in the vein of a true quiz show in which up to four players go brain-to-brain in an all out trivia battle using their Wii Remote to crank a wheel to determine the category and buzz in to answer questions like a game show by holding down the A button and raising their hand. Challenge cards only add to the drama too, enabling anyone who collects them to steal questions from other players or make a question tougher on another player, among other contest-altering effects. Unlike Family mode, Friends mode requires you to have multiple remotes in order to play, so keep that in mind when considering a purchase.

Across all modes, Smarty Pants offers 20,000 different questions in eight categories, including Science, Places & People, Books, Art, Fashion, Entertainment, Sports and Games. When you setup a profile, the game asks for your age, and throughout play all questions are tailored to your age bracket. How well you do in specific categories is also tracked and adapts to fit your skill. Say you start missing a number of Fashion questions. Questions in that category will then become a little easier to help you along. And the same difficulty adjustment happens in categories you do well in too, only the questions get harder. What’s really impressive about this system is how the game can track everyone’s profile at the same time and adapt to each player’s age and skill level within the same contest. It’s a commendable accomplishment that ensures the game remains fresh and interesting over the long haul.

Honestly, my only real problem with Smarty Pants is its $50 price tag. For a casual style game, that seems like a hefty price to pay, especially considering there’s no worthwhile solo content and you’ll need four Wii Remotes in order to get the most out of the experience (Buzz! and Scene It? come with the needed buzzers in one package for the same price, if not cheaper). As a standalone game, $20 or $30 sounds like a more fitting price point, and one I wish EA would’ve adopted. But as it stands, don’t let the questionably high price deter you from giving it a look. As a family-friendly trivia/party game, Smarty Pants is an excellent title and one I absolutely recommend for any casual Wii gamer.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!