Countdown (Wii) - Review by Chris
Having become a show with one of the highest viewership caches for its time slot, Countdown has become an instantly recognisable show thanks largely to both its format and its presenters. It's the kind of format which people can play in the comfort of their own homes in the company of friends and family and with this being the case, someone clearly saw an opportunity to bring it to the current most popular console, the Nintendo Wii. Mindscape has teamed up with Sanuk Games to do just that and once again we have another attempt at bringing a licensed TV show to a different medium. Does this one come off any better than the competition?
Countdown sees you taking on an opponent in both numerical and linguistic puzzles in the hopes of solving them so as to get a better final score than your opponent after a succession of rounds. The format used in the TV show, a few rounds of linguistic puzzles followed by a number solving puzzle and repeated before a final conundrum puzzle, is applied to the main constituents of the gameplay here and thankfully, the format works in the context of a game due to its sectioned nature. As stated, the format used in the TV show makes up the vast part of the gameplay with you being able to play on your own or against up to 3 others, taking it in turns to choose vowels and consonants and make as large a word as possible from them and similarly picking a collection of large and small numbers which have to be used to reach a set total. It's simple yet involving stuff, with the trademark 30 second countdown keeping you on your toes so as to be as quick as possible in spotting words or the solution to the number problem. There are also 5 difficulty settings to further test yourself, if you're playing as the sole player, with the top difficulties really putting up a good challenge.
While most games of this style would be happy to include the main show as its only gameplay choices, the developers have thankfully included some extra content to flesh out the game, and they're all good modes. For those struggling to get to grips with the gameplay, there is a good tutorial mode that will take your through everything you need to know and soon after, you'll be able to take on the game with ease. A training mode is also included so if you want to continue to improve your skills, you can go there and you'll be able to take on the game's challenges with no time limits. Survival mode has you choosing from the formats 3 main challenges, these being of course the numbers and letter rounds or the countdown conundrum, and playing continuously against the clock to solve as many of them as you can before the timer runs down. This is perhaps the best mode as it tests you puzzle solving abilities as well as your time management skills. Finally, there's a multiplayer mode for up to 4 players to take each other on in either the classic format or a duel one, where players play against each other in duels of two much like a tournament system. There is, therefore, plenty to play, with even an award system giving your awards for scores or for solving certain puzzles within a specific time frame, but there's very little deviation from the format and as a result, if you don't like Countdown, the game won't change your mind.
The Wii-mote is your sole controller of use for the game and for the most part, it works well. It tracks your movement seamlessly with the IR pointer functions with there being no lag. You'll only have to use one button in the game, this being the A button, but this is where the controls run into problems. Navigating the menus are easy enough but during the actual gameplay, suddenly thinking of a longer word or solving the number round brings up problems as the game doesn't always detect you pressing the A button, even if you hold it down. It's a strange quandary for the game to have especially seeing as every round is played against the clock and will result in you failing to get something completely down and losing points to your opponent.
The developers have opted for a more withheld presentation, opting not to try and recreate the studio within which the show takes place. As a result, the game's visuals may be a bit more simplistic but it definitely works in the games favour, focusing solely on the things that matter, such as a simplified letter board and a more complicated number board. It works though and looks decent enough. If you're not a fan of the colour blue, though, then you may be in for a rough time as it's the most prominent colour in use in the game. The introductory cutscene, however, suffers from some severe frame rate issues and running problems as, during my play time with the game, it would stutter the entire way through. Luckily, as it's only an introductory cutscene, you can skip it.
The show's trademark music and countdown sounds are present here in and reproduced in a quality that feels very much in line with the TV show. The voice work, however, doesn't quite hit a similar note feeling a lot like an automated call centre machine. It would have been nice to have some natural voice work but it does its job.
Countdown has slightly bucked the trend of bad licensed games in turning out to be a decent attempt at the format. It follows the show's formula and that has translated well to the game, with a simplistic yet effective visual presentation, but the problem is that it's also Countdown and in the end, not entirely exciting with the matches seeming to drag on a little bit. It's not a bad game by any means but just don't expect it to provide much in the way of long term entertainment or excitement full stop.
Pro: Recreates the Countdown experience faithfully, simplistic yet well done visuals, plenty of content on offer
Con: Not particularly entertaining or exciting, some control issues hamper the gameplay
Final score: 4.5