The effectiveness of a so-called “party game” tends to be a terribly subjective thing, making qualitative discussion of such a thing difficult. SingStar, Mario Party, heck, even Twister, all of them are intended for a certain type of person. SingStar is marketed toward those not afraid to make fools of themselves. Mario Party is marketed toward either the crowd who wants to get the kids involved, or the crowd who can make drinking games out of the most innocent things. Twister? The fact that the mere mention of Twister sends college students into fits of giggles should tell you all you need to know about Twister.
Sony, ever willing to dip its fingers into a trend (and party games are as popular as ever thanks to the Wii), has been pushing the SingStar brand of karaoke games harder than ever of late, with no less than three iterations of the series making their way to retail outlets this holiday season. Knowing that the audience for such a product is limited, however, Sony has another card up its sleeve for this year’s late-teens-to-early-20s party gaming set: Buzz! The Mega Quiz.
True to its name, Buzz! comes with four buzzers, which, in the first of a few missteps that Buzz! makes, are absolutely required to play the game. The buzzer is the only controller you’ll use. The big red button is there so that you can “buzz” in, and there are four color-coded buttons with which you’ll answer questions. Mercifully, this does mean that all of the questions are multiple choice. There is none of that spelling out of answers that tends to ruin the flow of the games based on popular game shows, and as Buzz! proves, there are enough ways to spin a multiple choice question that it doesn’t have to feel like you’re in class taking a test.
So there’s the “who’s older?” game, there’s the “put these things in the correct order” game, there’s a game where you toss pies in the face of the other, slower players, and there are straight-up multiple choice questions that are assigned a certain amount of points. There are plenty of games, but it’s a quiz show game, and this is to be expected. So the question remains: What makes Buzz! different?
If you can’t see the appeal of this, you’re dead.
In a word, it’s the personality. Buzz! revels in an utterly garish combination of primary and fluorescent colors, basically putting together whatever combinations of colors it can come up with in order to be as loud as freaking possible. All of the possible avatars that you can choose from are loud caricatures/stereotypes like the cowboy, the giant valkyrie-like figure, the over-the-hill Elvis impersonator, and my favorite, the mime. He’s my favorite because you don’t want to scream “SHUT! UP!” at him after 10 minutes. You know, because he’s a mime. You also get to choose the sound your buzzer makes, and you get to choose from the classic “buzz”, or it could be a squeak, or a belch, or a host of other intentionally annoying sounds. And then there is our illustrious host, borne of the loud-talking-Brit mold, something of a cross between Simon Cowell and Andy Dick, with all of the self-aggrandizement and smarm that combination implies. His name is Buzz, as if it could be anything else.
Of course, I would be remiss were I to forget Buzz’s assistant, the “eye candy” assistant who guides you through each of the games like a patient parent trying to teach a child how to tie shoes.
In a sense, to review Buzz! The Mega Quiz is to review its presentation and attitude, seeing as it does everything else just fine as an entry in a genre that’ll never fool anybody into seeing true innovation. As can be seen from the descriptions above, the attitude could rightly be summed up as over-the-top obnoxiousness, and intentionally so. The entire point of the game is to be loud, in your face, quick to congratulate you when you succeed, but always ever-so-ready to pounce when you fail. If you hear the belch-buzzer of one of your adversaries, it’s doubly annoying seeing as not only did you not buzz first, but you have to listen to that disgusting belch again. It’s almost painful seeing and hearing the entire package, but somehow, it works. It’s a formula that’s worked well enough to keep the Buzz! franchise in business for three years and counting, so apparently there’s a market for this. Intentionally annoying or not, everything fits together in the vision of the developers, thus making it the sort of admirable mess of a product that somehow makes its unoriginality and lack of traditional charm endearing.
Good for you, dancing grandma. Good for you.
As far as the Buzz! games go, if you’re looking for a place to start, The Mega Quiz is probably the perfect one. It holds a Trivial Pursuit-level number of questions, the topics run the gamut from pop culture to history to sports to common knowledge, and there are pie fights involved. Occasionally you will run into the problem of question repeats (particularly in the more specialized types of games like “who’s older?”), but this occurrence is rare enough that you can safely ignore the idea that you might get a repeat over the course of a night of gaming.
Oh, and as if I had to tell you, don’t even bother with the one-player mode. It’s amazing they even allow you to select one player, and there’s very little that a game like this could have done to make the one-player experience any more exciting than this rather pathetic little “beat your high score!”-style timed game.
Here’s the thing about Buzz! The Mega Quiz: I detest nearly everything about it—its presentation, its noisiness, its sense of style—but there is no denying that it is perhaps the best game in the party-game-show genre that the PlayStation 2 has to offer. There’s also no denying that despite the game’s repellent style, it’s almost impossible to not have fun playing it. It moves fast, and if you can get eight people sitting around the television and playing, there’s sure to be trash-talking, furious competition, and lots of laughs. Despite my own reservations, then, I can do naught but deem it a success.