Trivial Pursuit

Reviewed by John S Davison

 

Issue 26

Mar/Apr 87

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THE GAME THAT SHOOK THE WORLD

Trivial Pursuit - Domark
Disk 19.95 Cassette 14.95

I'm not usually a fan of computerised board games, as I prefer playing them as originally intended - on a board, and with real people rather than a computer, but Domark's computerised version of the hugely popular Trivial Pursuit could change all that, as it's not just a straight copy of the original. It actually uses the computer's features to enhance the game.

If you don't know what the game's about, you must have been on the far side of the moon for the last few years! It's the biggest thing to hit the board game scene since Monopoly, and enjoys worldwide popularity. I won't attempt a detailed explanation of it here - let's just say if you can correctly answer a few trivial general knowledge questions, you'll probably enjoy Trivial Pursuit, and could even do well at it.

The program comes in high quality packaging, exactly matching the style of the board game. Two disks are provided, a program disk and a questions disk, the latter containing some 3,000 questions in six categories. An illustrated leaflet explains the principles of Trivial Pursuit as well as how to operate the program. This version corresponds to the original 'Genus' edition, but with different questions. Domark are said to be working on other versions, including the Young Player, Baby Boomer, and Genus II editions. The program runs on any 8-bit Atari with 48K or more, and there's a cassette version available (if you insist).

MEET THE QUESTION MASTER

Two to six players (or teams of players) can take part. Obviously, you can't play against the computer as it already knows all the answers! The first job after booting up is to key in the players' names. From here on, the computer addresses each player by name when asking questions. You can also set various game parameters, like time limit for answering questions, sound effects on or off, and whether TP is awake or not.

Who the heck is TP, did you say? Well, he's the cute little chap who acts as the question master. No, wait .... I groaned too when I saw this feature, as cuteness in computer games tends to turn to irritation very quickly. But in this case I actually like having TP there, and miss him when he's not. (No, JSD is NOT going soft in his dotage!).

You also have to choose the starting point in the set of questions, otherwise you'd get the same questions asked every time you played - OK if you want to cheat, I guess. The program has the facility to skip through the disk sectors until you get to the required place. It's worth keeping a note of which sector you get to in each game, so you can restart there next time you play. The program tells you which sectors it's loading each time it reads in more questions.

The game is played on two main screens - the 'board screen' and the 'question screen'. As you'd expect, the board
screen shows the playing board, plus the tokens and coloured 'wedges' (won by correctly answering certain questions) for each of the players. Instead of throwing dice, TP randomly throws a dart into the board, which has meanwhile magically divided itself into segments numbered 1 to 6. The program then highlights all of the possible moves the player can make from his current position. After the player has chosen one using the joystick, TP trots off the board screen and onto the question screen to ask a question from the corresponding category.

The question screen depicts a sitting room, complete with furnishings. Some of these are cleverly used in the game - for instance, there's a grandfather clock which shows you how long you've been playing. The fingers actually move, and it chimes every 15 minutes.

NEW TYPES OF QUESTIONS

Occasionally, TP walks across to a hi-fi set and turns it on to play music to you, and then asks you a question about it. As the music plays, a row of LEDs flickers and flashes on the front of the hi-fi, a neat detail. TP also jigs about in time to the music. A roller screen is attached to the ceiling of the room. Sometimes TP unrolls it, dims the lights (another neat touch), and projects a picture onto it, about which you get a question, of course. You get neither the musical nor picture questions in the original game, and these are the two major enhancements Domark have put into this version.

Certain other features of the room are entertaining too, such as the alcove shelves and mantleshelf. Each time you go to the question screen there's a different set of objects displayed in different places on them. Spotting what the differences are is almost a game in itself.

CANDLE TIMER

The questions appear in a text window at the top of the screen, with TP emitting strange babbling noises as each is written out. Surprisingly again, I didn't find this irritating, but you CAN switch off the sound effects if you don't like them. The question stays on the screen until the time limit expires, marked by a candle on a shelf burning down to nothing. You have to say your answer out loud before that happens. TP then puts the correct answer on the screen, and your opponents decide whether your answer was near enough, just like in the original game. The program is told of their decision via a simple YES/NO menu using the joystick. While TP is waiting for your answer, he paces back and forth across the screen, pausing and tapping his foot impatiently now and then.

TP's headgear is a source of amusement, too. He wears a different hat for each category of question, and if you get too many questions wrong, he eventually takes to wearing a dunce's cap for your turn! He also makes mild comments about your performance. Once more, Domark seem to have hit just the right level with this, as it has a very low irritation factor.

The program keeps statistics on right and wrong answers in each category for each player, so you (and your opponents) can see which are your best (or worst!) subjects - yet one more nice touch.

UNIVERSAL APPEAL

This game has given enormous enjoyment to everyone I've played it with, from quite young children (who like it because of TP) to senior citizens (no, that doesn't include me!) - It's one of the few computer games I've come across with universal appeal, and as such makes ideal family entertainment. It's great! Well done, Domark! And thanks for bringing out an 8-bit Atari version so promptly.

Trivial Pursuit is available from Software Express in Birmingham, who kindly provided a copy for review, or from your usual retailer.

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