What is age ten and over?
Like trivia games? Of course you do; otherwise, you wouldn’t be checking this review. It’s either that or you came here for my sparkling wit, in which case: step two of my evil plan is right on track. Step six will be early September. You’ll be sorry.
[image1]If you’re here for the former, then here is a bit of trivia, gratis from me to you. Did you know that Norman Rockwell once binged on doughnuts and bananas over the course of one night to gain eight pounds? He did this so that he could meet the weight requirement for acceptance into the U.S. Navy and serve his country in WWI. He enlisted but saw no action; they made him a military artist. This was back when a soldier was given duties based on his merits. You know, like back when even the military was able to make smart, rational decisions? That’s why my fourth step is so pivotal. But we don’t need to go into that right now.
Smarty Pants: Trivia Fun for Everyone is a delightfully packaged little gem. Adorable graphics and a large library of trivia questions highlight this offering for the Wii. With three different modes that allow the player to go it alone, head-to-head against an opponent, or cooperating as a family, there is plenty to choose from. Smarty Pants combines trivia with physical movement, making good use of the Wii’s unique capabilities. A player can shoot targets, dance, jump, and shake the remote to improve scores or extend time in answering a question.
Eight categories are represented, ranging from sports to fashion. Even the most trivia- challenged will find a subject they can be comfortable with. Flicking the Wii-mote spins a virtual wheel that selects the category for the questions in a given round, while opponents can nudge the wheel at the end of a spin to change the category. The spinner is so that it is possible to land on both a category and a special feature like a point multiplier, a challenge card that extends your time, or lets you steal a question from a player who buzzes in before you.
[image2]One of the best parts is co-op mode, where up to four players share one remote. Passing the controller from one teammate to the next is frenzied and exciting when everyone is working together to beat the clock. In every mode, correctly answered questions will add time to the clock; conversely, wrong answers take time away.
With all it has to offer, however, Smarty Pants is not without its flaws. It proudly advertises itself as ‘Trivia Fun for Everyone’. Indeed, the very young will be drawn to the cute little mascot – a winking, smiling light bulb hovering above a big pair of pants. They will love the physical challenges like jumping and dancing, both of which are embedded in co-op and vs. modes. Unfortunately, the interface fails as much as the presentation shines. Questions are lobbed at the player in timed rounds. A younger player or just a slow reader going up against an experienced reader will only end up frustrated. For a game that touts accessibility for such a wide age range, it would have been nice if the trivia questions were read aloud, you know, like in every single game show on TV. How did they miss that?
When play begins, a profile is created that saves the player’s age, and the questions will adjust accordingly. There is a limit to how easy the questions get, however, and timeliness is still an issue. A profile created for a six-year old garnered questions about obscure nursery rhymes and old television programs like The Smurfs. It is preposterous to think a six-year old in 2008 would know anything about Gargamel or his cat, characters from a show that was popular 20 years before they were even born.
In actuality, this game will likely be simply traumatic for the very young. The age-inappropriate questions, and the text-only, timed questions, destroy most, if not all, of the attraction af this little title.
[image3]Another issue is the music, or rather, the muzak. It is canned and boring, very much at odds with the frenzied atmosphere the gameplay works so hard to create. It’s kind of like being trapped in an elevator with a rabid Bob Barker. Hope you’ve spayed or neutered your pets, or things could get ugly.
Still, if your young ones are a little older, Smarty Pants can be a nice diversion. If you’ve got the right family structure, it would make a decent addition to your Wii collection. Otherwise, you’ll need a caring and patient older sibling who is willing to dumb themselves down during gameplay for the greater good. How likely is that?
Picture a perfect Norman Rockwell family with a dog by the fireside. Now picture that family standing around the TV set with Smarty Pants in their Wii. Hold that picture… hold it… imprint it in your long-term memory… (step three of my evil plan is almost complete). Don’t you see? Only a painting can be that ideal.