Wits and WagersESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer - Hidden Path Entertainment
Publisher - Microsoft Game Studios
Xbox LIVE Vision
Xbox LIVE Arcade finally gets a trivia game released amongst the long list of downloadable titles. Microsoft Game Studios chose Wits and Wagers as its first instalment in what is sure to be a decent line of trivia based arcade games to arrive on the Arcade in the next couple of years. Based on the award winning board game, Wits and Wagers is the perfect trivia game for dummies like me as you don’t need to know all the right answers to win. It’s a game with lots of strategy as you have to play the odds, make educated guesses and know what kind of things interests your opponents. But before you go running to download Wits and Wager, you might want to know what you are jumping into before you go spending 800 Microsoft Points. Let’s find out shall we?
Seeing as this is a trivia based game there really isn’t much I can say about the visuals. The presentation of the game is certainly on par with other Xbox Live Arcade games and overall it does the job. It is nothing that will blow you away or that is particularly innovative. The menus are easy to navigate and it does not take long to start up a game.
In Wits and Wagers you start off by selecting a character facial profile such as an aliens head, a Tigers face, a dogs face or you can select from several generic human profiles. The game does allow for use of the Xbox Live Vision Camera for online play however no face mapping is available. It would have been great if you could have super-imposed your facial profile onto one of the characters in the game but unfortunately Wits and Wagers does not allow you to do so. This was a big miss in my opinion as it would have been funny as heck to look at all my friend’s profiles bouncing around like bobble heads during a game.
One concern that I have with the visuals is the size of the text used for the trivia questions. I found that I struggled to read the questions even on my 52 inch DLP TV. Another concern with the visuals besides the text size was with the character profiles when selecting them. It seems you really don’t get a good view of the facial profiles you can choose from. Also I found that there was not enough in the way of variety. You can select from several human facial profiles but there are only a few goofy facial profiles or avatars to choose from. Bottom line, I would have liked to have seen a larger selection of avatars for one’s profile and I think the size of the questions should have been made bigger so it is simply easier to read.
As with the visuals, you should not expect much in the way of the audio in Wits and Wagers. In fact don’t expect Wits and Wagers to give your 5.1 surround sound audio system a workout at all. Clearly, the emphasis in on the trivia style gameplay. Before you start every game you are greeted with a loud and boisterous “Wits and Wagers” broadcast from an anouncer who sounds like he is from any game-show you may have watched over the years. He sounds good but that is about it for any in-game voice work. Even the introduction music has hands clapping in the background almost as if you were in a studio audience. The in-game music is repetitive but very unique to the game so in a sense it is recognizable and somewhat catchy. I think that to further the game show experience that it would have been good if the announcer actually read out the questions, but perhaps this would have been a huge undertaking for a game with 700 questions.
As I mentioned at the top, Wits and Wagers is based on a popular board game and as with most board games the Xbox 360 version is best played in a social setting. I enjoyed the game most when I played with a few friends as it adds a whole level of strategy compared to playing against the AI. The great aspect of the game is that you don’t need to be a trivia whiz to be successful at the game. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘Cliff Clavens’ of the world will have an advantage in Wits and Wagers but IQ score should not have much bearing on the outcome.
Before you start a game you select a character with the ‘A’ button and you are good to go. There is a helpful tutorial for those new to the game and I would recommend it for those Wits and Wagers newbies just so you can become familiar with the layout and controls. Typical games include anywhere from 4-6 players and everyone starts out with 5 chips. If you blow your chips on the first bet, no need to worry as the game dolls out 5 chips every time you go broke. After the initial set of chip’s are distributed the questions begin. There are 7 rounds consisting of one question each round. The questions range in difficulty and for the most part it is incredibly hard to get the exact answer to every question. A couple of examples of some typical Wits and Wagers questions would be: “What is the population in Canada in 2005?” or “What percentage of Maine is forest land?” Anyhow you get the idea. You select your answer from a list on endless possibilities and nine times out of ten you will be just taking your best guess.
Once you have locked down your answer everyone’s answers are then displayed on screen along with a set of odds placed beside each bet indicating the chance that they have the right answer. You can play it safe and bet with the person whose odds are 2:1 or you can take a flier on a 6:1 long shot. Ultimately, the game really gets interesting when the betting begins. You only have about 30 seconds to place your bet which in some instances can seem like an eternity, but in the last round that 30 seconds flies by. When the answers are revealed the player closest without going over wins the chips. Also everyone who bet on the winners answer also wins chips. Your winnings depend on whatever the odds were set at. At the end of the day, it can be a lot of fun but unfortunately the fun wears out pretty quickly.
As I mentioned above, you don’t need to be a trivia buff to do that well and pretty much anyone can play. In some ways Wits and Wagers is almost like a poker game but with far less strategy. I found my first few games were fun but after awhile the rounds seemed to drag on and the repetitive tunes were starting to wear on me. In a couple of games an AI opponent often had the game wrapped up by round 4 and it was next to impossible to catch up. As such the rest of the game seems more like a chore than anything.
Wits and Wagers also offers a multiplayer component. It is pretty fun but some of my opponents were a little to good for my liking. Either they have played the game before and have experienced all 700 questions, or they had a laptop sitting beside them punching in the answers as we played the game. In any event I got my butt handed to me in all the online games I played. On the plus side Wits and Wagers supports the Xbox Live Vision camera so you may be able to see if your opponents are up to any shenanigans. The game also supports the Big Button Pad controller that comes with Scene It. This may be a great feature for some but I had no problems using the standard 360 controller for everything I needed to accomplish in the game.
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