Wheel of Fortune (Wii) - Review by Chris
Gone are the days when our TV channels would be filled with game shows, with only a select few managing to continue on a now forgotten television tradition. As tastes have changed, game shows have been displaced by the likes of celebrity heavy reality programmes but one show has continued to keep hold of its audience since its original conception, at least on US TV anyway, and that is Wheel of Fortune. It's a format that everyone can understand and now, THQ have taken the license to heart to turn it into the perfect party title. Does this fair better than previous attempts to bring TV shows into the industry or is it destined to pulled off air?
The rules and premise of Wheel of Fortune will be known to many but for those young enough not to know, the game centres around the spinning of a wheel by a contestant in the hope of landing on money or a prize. If they manage this, you get the opportunity to guess letters for a word puzzle based on a specific topic, be it food and drink or phrases, and should they feel capable of solving it, they can choose to do so in the hope of winning even more cash for themselves. However, should the spin of the wheel land on a Bankrupt segment or should they incorrectly guess a letter for the puzzle, the opportunity is passed to the next player as they take control of the wheel and attempt to solve the puzzle to win prizes.
It's a very simple format that has continued to work well on TV and has translated extremely well to a game. While there are a few extra flourishes added to the overall formula of the proceedings, such as toss-ups and mini-games during the faux commercial breaks added into the game to simulate the show, the way in which the game is played never changes and it's so simple to learn the rules and get playing, that anybody can jump in and enjoy themselves.
Obviously, this style of game is best suited to being played in multiplayer and with 3 players supported, just as with the real show, playing against or with a group of people makes for a great experience and one which you'll be hard pushed to match with any other game show related game on the console. You can of course play solo against the game's AI, with a selection of settings which will make progression to the Bonus Round more difficult as your opponents show expanded knowledge as you increase the game's difficulty, and while it remains fun, the game is really meant to be played in multiplayer as it is by far the best way to enjoy the game.
Although seemingly low on alternate content outside of the standard format for the show, with the mini-games which take place during the commercial breaks when playing with 2 or more human players being the only real deviations from the template, there are over 8000 puzzles to solve meaning you'll rarely encounter a play through where you experience the same puzzles as your previous endeavours and it helps to keep the experience fresh, especially if you're continually playing it as a multiplayer or party piece experience. Similarly, a host of in game achievements and unlockables, which take the form of postcards for location prizes, concept art and vehicle art depicting the kinds of prizes you'd win on the show, help to extend the life time of the game that bit more but while these artificial additives add something to the longevity of the proceedings, it's the enjoyment you'll get from playing with friends that will truly have you coming back for more for quite some time.
Controlling the game is very simple, as you'll only need to make use of the Wii-mote for some selection of letter or actions or for some light gestures, accompanying a press and hold of the B button, to simulate spinning the wheel. It's a simplistic setup that will allow anyone, regardless of whether they've played a game before, to get involved and it does work extremely well, with all button presses and motions attached to one another with no real issues which inhibit the flow of the game. Should you have it available to use, you can incorporate the oft forgotten Wii Speak peripheral into the game to shout out letters, call out actions or even record sound clips to add a bit of personalisation to your characters. It seems like a nice touch but either due to the Americanization of the vocabulary at use or poor implementation of the ideas, it doesn't work as well as it could have done. It's a thoughtful inclusion nonetheless but one which doesn't really add to the game as it could have done.
With budget titles, you know not to expect the best graphical work on the console and while some of the visual work on display here could be classed as basic, the developers have done a decent job of recreating the locations and set pieces for the show. Everything looks clean and bright and certainly helps to create the visual atmosphere of the show. It's clearly lost some of the gloss that is put on the TV, with cutaways to prizes now being done with a screen popping up with a piece of artwork to get the point across, but it never really detracts from the overall enjoyment of the game.
Presenters Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been recreated for use in the game and bear a resemblance to their real life counterparts, albeit in a slightly more exaggerated way. They represent the best of the character work as the pre-rendered characters account for a shallow pool of 10 available caricatures to select from, none of which really possess any personality. Thankfully, you can incorporate your Miis into the mix, once again giving the game a personal touch. Animations aren't the best, and are again rather basic, but it doesn't matter in the greater scheme of things as it relays the show almost perfectly visually and it's not something you'll take notice of once the game has started.
There is some background music, taken straight from the show to help recreate the atmosphere, but it's not very pronounced and definitely takes a backseat, although this is hardly detrimental to the overall experience. Sound effects take on a more prominent role and manage to create the feel of playing in front of an audience as well as you'd expect from this kind of game. There is some voice work from Pat Sajak which, while being done to a reasonable standard, at times feels a little disjointed from the character.
Bringing a TV show to the game format doesn't always work but Wheel of Fortune is a template that translates almost perfectly to party style gameplay. While it may appear simple in many areas, such as presentation and alternate content, the game makes up for it by creating an enjoyable atmosphere that resembles the show perfectly and one which you'll enjoy coming back to again and again with friends to keep solving the 8000 plus word puzzles included. As a party piece for this holiday season, you could do far worse but at the budget price it boasts, you'll be hard pushed to do much better than this.
Pro: Recreates the atmosphere of the show almost perfectly, great fun in multiplayer, simple yet extremely enjoyable gameplay
Con: Wii Speak doesn't work too well, lacks much in the way of alternate content away from the standard formula
Final score: 7