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Trivial Pursuit Unhinged

(Atari; US: Jul 2007)

Unhinged? Perhaps. Trivial? Of Course!

Everything we do in life is trivial. Well, that may be a somewhat cynical view, but if we were to boil everything down into a philosophical goo, we can only question our existence on this earthbound plane and everything that we do inside it. But we’ll leave that kind of postulating to those better suited to it. For the rest of us, our trivialities make up who we are and what we’re all about. And back at the dawn of the ‘80s, the folks at Horn Abbot realized this and decided to cash in, creating the ever popular Trivial Pursuit franchise that carved out a permanently enjoyable niche in our popular culture.


Hell, our work here at PopMatters flagrantly shows off each writer’s uncanny trivial knowledge every week. The music contributors dish out arcane knowledge when discussing the latest musical works and holding them up against the past; the movie critics put on display their vast knowledge of the cinema; the books and comic book folks have a large grasp of things I’ll probably never understand, and of course there’s us game lovers who can sit around all day and discuss the glory days of machines that existed ages ago that we weren’t even originally around to enjoy. This is what Trivial Pursuit is all about. This is life in a nutshell, laid out in random, seemingly meaningless questions. All for the glory of six colored wedges and a chance to be king or queen for a game.


I can’t think of another game that has spawned so many consecutive upgrades and/or versions, other than Monopoly. Trivial Pursuit started out with its classic Genus game, then spawned a few add-on card sets, such as the Baby Boomer Edition and the Sports Edition before eschewing the whole add-on idea and just releasing full version game after full version game, complete with question upgrades. There have been so many. I own Genus III, Genus IV, the Millennium Edition, and the 20th Anniversary set. There have been tons of others, not to mention complete spin-offs created by other gaming companies. Everything from Friends to the Holy Bible has been trivialized for your gaming pleasure.


And so Trivial Pursuit has now found its way onto the home video game consoles. This isn’t the first time the game has made the video rounds; back in the ‘90s the game debuted on the PC and was one of the first CD-ROM games I ever owned. It was a lot of fun and still retains a certain charm to it that echoes the computer gaming world of years past that has all but been forgotten with each new console with bigger and better power. In addition to that version, Sony’s The Station site even had an online version of the game, before they decided to drop their free game community in favor of focusing solely on things like EverQuest.


But this is a new era, and Trivial Pursuit Unhinged is an all-new game. Well, more or less. Basically the main differences here between it and the classic version of the game (which is also included) is that there are new special spaces on the board that let you do everything from “stomping” a player (landing on the same space) and causing him to lose a turn, hitting a random category spot (self-explanatory), landing on a teleportation spot that allows you to pick any spot on the board you like (undoubtedly the coolest of the new spaces), multiplier spots (more on this below), recycle a question spots, and a weird board rotation spot, that is exactly what it sounds like: all pieces are levitated and the board then rotates a few spaces.


In addition to these new shenanigans, you can also bet on how other players are going to fare with their questions. Bet up to two points for or against their outcome and then use collected points to recycle questions if you don’t like one that you get, or even steal another player’s wedge. Pretty sneaky, sis. Also, these points are multiplied if you land on a special multiplier spot. All players get up to three points for answering a question correctly.


The game features a host of celebrity personalities who ask you the questions, including Terry Bradshaw (who seems hell bent on mispronouncing words and screaming all the questions), Whoopi Goldberg (is it just me, or does she get more annoying as time goes by), John Ratzenberger (always good to have Cliff on a game), Brooke Burke, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and John Cleese. They’ll read the questions, accompanied at times with video clips or still photos and then offer you multiple choice answers and either berate or praise you for your performance. Kinda like Hollywood Squares meets Trivial Pursuit.


All in all, Trivial Pursuit Unhinged is one of those titles you can’t go wrong with. It’s still a fun game, no matter which version you choose to play, and is of course a lot of fun for a party or get-together atmosphere. It features broadband-exclusive play that of course allows you to hook up with trivia nuts around the world and show off your stuff.


So with that in mind, I think I may just head down to my local Buffalo Wild Wings bar and grill and hook up to the always excellent NTN Game Network, which also allows me to pursue trivia against the entire restaurant and the nation at large over a few beers and some chicken wings. Hell, you can’t beat that on a lovely day. And this is all thanks to the original Trivial Pursuit and life itself. Where would we be without all those silly questions that everyone has the answers to?

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