In recent years, the Buzz! series of quiz games has established itself as a great party option for PlayStation 2 users of all ages. With its emphasis on TV game show styled fun and funky buzzers to play with Buzz! many iterations and kid-flavoured spin-off titles have successfully invaded the living rooms of people the world over, but with so many editions of the game for sale, is the Buzz! concept starting to get a little stale?
With the PlayStation 2 gathering dust on the shelf and the PlayStation 3 squarely in the mix for your gaming dollar, Sony has brought back the fun, family-friendly franchise to try and bring the party game atmosphere to Sony's current generation black box. For those that haven't experienced the fun of Buzz!, the game revolves around the concept of players furiously clicking away at actual buzzers in order to answer a series of questions relating to a multitude of topics, with the ultimate goal of correctly answering as many questions as possible to be crowned the ultimate Quiz Master* of your social circle (* note: game does not actually contain a crown of any kind).
While there is no crown for the winner, all losers will be provided with a free cream pie for their troubles.
Essentially, if you have played any of the previous titles in the series you'll find that Buzz! Quiz TV is really no different. With the great leap in technology with the addition of wireless controllers - which can be used with all of the titles on the PS2 no less - the opportunity for giving the game a fresh makeover was sadly missed, with the developer choosing to go the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' route. This comes off as somewhat of a disappointment, but most likely the core Buzz! crowd will be instantly tuned into the formula and not have any qualms with the warm familiarity that it brings.
While the core gameplay hasn't gotten a makeover, thankfully the title has been given a graphical face-lift which looks slicker than Burgo's hair. The pre-game menu system uses television channels to represent the genre of questions that leads into the television game-show concept exceptionally well. Starting a game is as simple as choosing a particular quiz (the categories remain unchanged from previous Buzz! games, with the categories ranging from: Lifestyle, Sports and General Knowledge to Movies & TV, and Music). Once you've decided on your quiz, it's time to select your virtual representation from the number of kooky and downright stereotypical choices of bimbo cheerleader, drugged-up rocker, the extremely annoying mime et al. All of these in-game characters have undergone some work and the next-gen engine allows them to move with extremely smooth animations and more facial expression than ever before. The only qualm with the character animations is that there is too few of them and you'll soon tire of your stupid mime repeating his routine for the millionth time.
Although the crux of the title revolves around the standard question and answer format, Buzz! Quiz TV does throw up a few variations of gameplay. For example, when playing 'Pass the Bomb', a lit bomb will rotate its way through all the players. Every time a question is answered correctly, the bomb will pass on to the next player, while if you answer incorrectly you'll be left to hold the explosive until you get a correct answer. Meaning that the bomb is more likely to blow up in your face.
Other game modes do a good job of changing the pace of the game and allowing losing players a good opportunity to close the gap between them and the quiz leader. While all of these modes have been recycled from previous Buzz! titles, Quiz TV does does introduce a new mode of it's own called High Stakes. High Stakes is reminiscent of the final round of the old game show favourite Jeopardy as it gives you the option of betting an amount of points based on how clever you think you are about the question's subject matter. Get the question correct, and you'll be raking in the points, but get it wrong and you may find yourself relegated to the dunce corner.
With a database of five thousand questions, there are numerous hours of quiz show action to be had before the dreaded repeat questions rear their ugly head. Sony has also done an excellent job so far of providing quiz packs over the PlayStation network which were readily available not long after the game's launch. Another way that the game expands its shelf life is through the ability to create and download your very own quiz packs via the MyBuzzQuiz online portal. Gamers are also able to rate quizzes, giving you the opportunity to name and shame anyone that posts a cruddy quiz.
The most highly touted aspect of Quiz TV has to be the online multiplayer mode - Sofa vs. Sofa. This mode enables groups of players to compete against other lounge room quiz masters from all over the world. While this mode was a great add-on for the title, it was ultimately let down by the telling factor of not being able to communicate with your fellow players. Title's like Singstar have flourished with the ability for the online community to tune in to see and hear their fellow players, yet Buzz's lack of communication options ultimately kill off the opportunity for friendly banter or in-your-face gestures - though some players might ultimately find this a good thing. Though for those of us that like to showboat over their quiz prowess, there is hope that Sony may introduce EyeToy or voice chat capabilities to further improve the online life of Quiz TV.
Of course, you can't talk about Buzz! without talking about its uber-annoying host Buzz - who is voiced by 80's soap star Jason Donovan (for those old enough to have watched Neighbours in it's heyday). Like every game show worth its salt, Buzz serves as the title's virtual host. Essentially his schtick boils down to random annoying comments, episodes of narcissism and poking fun at the players who very rarely answer a correct question. While some might find his brand of humour funny, most players will eventually begin to have visions of thumping his little virtual head with the buzzer controller. But let's face it, he's probably here more as a way to keep the kiddies interested when they aren't answering many questions right than anything else.
It may not have reinvented the quiz game genre, but ultimately you'll find that Buzz! Quiz TV is an excellent game for the family or your next social gathering. The addition of four wireless controllers means that there will be no more PS2s being dragged across the lounge room floor or that you won't spend more time untangling the controller's cables than actually playing the game. For those that aren't interested in the new controllers, thankfully Sony's consideration has ensured that their wired PS2 counterparts are still compatible on the new hardware. Whether you're by yourself or playing with a large group, Buzz! Quiz TV will have you ensure that expanding your general knowledge can be a pleasurable experience.