Review: Trivial Pursuit (Xbox Live)


Nokia continue to release their exclusive Xbox Live titles on Windows Phone, with some big names for the public to recognise. That might seem a bit trivial to regular Xbox Live players, but never put aside the pursuit of the casual consumer suddenly spotting a familiar logo in the marketing material. Which is why Trivial Pursuit is an important title.

Author: Nokia / Electronic Arts

Version Reviewed:

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But let's put aside the marketing and review the game as a game, because it deserves it.

More than arcade titles, puzzlers, or logic puzzles, Trivial Pursuit needs to provide a balanced challenge, and when you are testing people's knowledge of the useless, then it is a relatively tricky balancing act. Trivial Pursuit does have an advantage over other trivia games because it can fall back on years of play testing and user feedback from the questions bundled with the physical game.

There are also three levels of questions that you can choose from. I think it's fair to say that I trust the standard of the questions from Trivial Pursuit, so the difficulty levels on offer are pretty representative.

Trivial Pursuit

The other thing to remember is that Trivial Pursuit is a game where you're not meant to get all the questions correct. A typical game of Trivial Pursuit will have a crazy number of wrong answers, and while you do have a pretty good chance at a guess in this digital version (which has only thee multiple choice answers), the expectation of the player is that there will be much more wrong than right - which means that the luck of the draw in the questions balances out nicely in the head to head games, or when you play solo.

The user interface for the questions is similar over all the variants of the game, with the question at the top of the landscape orientated screen, and your three choices below it (all highlighted with the traditional category colours from Trivial Pursuit). Some questions have a visual element, and they appear to the right of the answers. All very easy to understand, and reminiscent of the many touch screen trivia machines you find in clubs and pubs nowadays.

Trivial Pursuit

Of course, the trivial questions are only half of the game. The pursuit part is just as important. As we've already seen with the Electronic Arts versions of Connect 4 and The Game of Life, the EA developers love to replicate the physical board game. The same is true here when you play the classic game, although the fixed camera means it's less headache inducing than the other titles. Your wedge moves nicely round the board, with a touch of perspective making it feel solid.

Dice rolling is through a tap on the screen to roll, and a subsequent double tap to decide which space to jump on. Straightforward, with little confusion. I like that.

Multiplayer support is of the pass and play variety, handing the smartphone around a table to take your turns. Let's just say it works, and leave it at that. You can also play solo on the classic board to enjoy the experience, or add in a single computer AI to add a competitive element on top of (or in addition to) the timer that runs alongside each question. There's a bundle of statistics that will keep track of your progress so you can challenge yourself to improve these stats as you play.

Trivial Pursuit

And if all the above was everything there was to Trivial Pursuit, it would be a competent piece of code, but not stunning as a game... because most mobile games are played as solo games. Which is where pursuit mode comes in.

Throwing out the paradigm of the classic wheel and spokes board, pursuit mode challenges the single player to race along a maze of question tiles (generally continuing to move from bottom left to top right in an isometric view, and different on each level) to reach an exit tile at the far end and successfully answer one last question.

It's against the clock, with a faster answer rewarding you with a higher number of moves to reach the next tile (represented by a dice counting down from six to one). The questions are the same, but now you have only a limited number of them to get to the end and win a gold medal.

Trivial Pursuit's Pursuit Mode

It's an almost completely different game to the classic mode, it's fast and exciting, it keeps the pressure on the player right until the very last question, it has a huge amount of replay-ability... yet it's hidden away in a software package behind the thirty year old board game, when it could easily stand alone as a separate product.

Even more unforgivable, you have no hint of how this works in the trial version of the game (beyond a 'there is something called pursuit mode in the full version'), it's not described in the app listing's text, and there's not a single screenshot of pursuit mode in the Windows Store.

Total and utter fail right there. And it's such a shame because pursuit mode really does lift Trivial Pursuit out of 'faithful rendition' to 'genuinely challenging and fun to play'.

This is not quite a '90% score' game, trivia is still a niche genre and not to everyone's tastes, but I'm struggling to find a flaw with the actual game. A turn by turn multiplayer through the Xbox Live arena might be a nice option, but it would only be a cherry on top of a damn fine game.

Damn fine game... let's go with that.

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