The Buzz! series on the PlayStation 2 has easily been one of the most popular party games to grace the console, allowing people of all ages to get their quiz on and try to win the crazy virtual game show. So popular were the Buzz! games, that they inspired a spin-off of sorts aimed at the younger audience, called the Buzz! Junior series. Focusing more on mini-games rather than trivia, there have already been 3 games released in the set including Jungle Party, RoboJam and Monster Rumble - now, the fourth version is here in the form of Buzz! Junior: Dino Den. Yes, you guessed it, this time we're heading into dinosaur territory. But is it territory worth exploring?
This is a mini-game compilation first and foremost, no question about it. You'll battle it out with 3 other players (either friends or the AI) with the end goal being to get the most points you possibly can, ultimately winning the game and being the best Dino there is. The difference with the Buzz! Junior games and other mini-game compilations is that instead of using your standard controller, you use the trademark Buzz! buzzers. This means that the mini-games are a lot less complicated than usual, making the pick up and play factor of the game very important. Most mini-games revolve around the big red button, with some of them requiring you to use the coloured buttons too. It is intuitive and easy for the most part, which is great, since the game is aimed at a younger audience who may not find using the buttons on your average controller quite as simple.
The challenges in Buzz! Junior: Dino Den are quite fun and unique, featuring everything from Turtle-surfing and Caveman-dunking to Steak-eating and more. There are 35 games in total, and they all require some quick coordination as well as logic and thinking fast. Like most compilations of this type, some mini-games aren't quite as strong as others, but for the most part, the games are fun and enjoyable, and despite their simplicity, can get quite competitive if playing with the right people. Also in the game is a 'team mode' which is new in this version of Buzz! Junior, and allows players to compete in a series of 2 vs 2 mini-games to add some extra variety into the mix. There are 10 mini-games of this type, and it certainly extends the replay value of the game for those that buzz their way through the free-for-all mini-games quickly.
In terms of game options, you can jump into the standard free-for-all game mode or the team mode as described above, and quite similarly to the Buzz! quiz titles, you can choose whether you want the game to be a short, medium, long or marathon game. The longer you choose, the longer the games go for and the more mini-games you'll play through before you get to the finish. After each mini-game, a somewhat annoying announcer will update you on the standings, informing you of who is in the lead and who is... well, not in the lead. It's all very simple and effective, and in a custom game, kids will be able to choose exactly which mini-games they want to play, which means they can easily go back and enjoy their favourites without having to go through the process of playing them at random.
The entire game looks like a big fun cartoon, with all the characters and environments full of colour and the dinosaurs featuring big goofy smiles on their faces the whole time. While certainly not pushing any graphical boundaries, the style of the game suits here, and is a simplicity that the whole family can enjoy. The sound is quite similar - an up-beat Dino-themed soundtrack along with the cutesy sound effects combined with the goofy (although kind of annoying) announcer wrap up the package. It's nothing we haven't heard before with this type of game, but it all sounds good and works, given the intended audience.
Buzz Junior: Dino Den continues the Junior series in being simple, fun and entertaining - especially for kids. You could argue that the game does nothing majorly different from the other Junior games, but the same could be said for almost any mini-game compilation on the market. Adding in the new team games adds another layer of longevity to the game and allows for some funny buzzing antics, and Dino Den will actually get the kids thinking a little bit, which is nice to see. It's colourful, it's enjoyable, and it's something that can be played by the whole family with great ease, and is a good excuse to get out those buzzers one more time and push that big red button. Just don't expect anything life-changing and you'll have a blast.