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Wheel of Fortune
Review By: Jared Black
 
Developer:  Artech
Publisher:  Atari
# Of Players:  1-3
Genre:  Family
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  12-21-03

Much like Jeopardy!, Artechís Wheel of Fortune attempts to translate the game show experience into a video game as realistically as possible.  Unfortunately, the structure of the game itself results in a less than compelling video game.

Gameplay modes include Quick Play (no career stats saved), Normal Game (saved Career stats), Tournament, Solo, and Contestant Exam.  Tournament mode is only available after the player has won at least five games or earned over $50,000 in career winnings.  Solo game gives one player a number of free spins, and one of these is lost each time the player guesses an incorrect letter.  Contestant Exam allows the player to try a sample exam like those used on the show.  In this mode the player has five minutes to complete as many as 16 different puzzles, and a passing score is completing at least 12 out of 16.

In Wheel of Fortune, three contestants attempt to solve puzzles by guessing letters.  After spinning the wheel and determining the amount of money to be earned, the contestant guesses a letter and receives that amount of money for each instance of that letter in the puzzle.  If the contestant guesses a letter that is not in the puzzle (or lands on a Bankrupt or Lose a Turn space), itís the next contestantís turn.  Once the active contestant believes he/she can solve the puzzle based on the letters currently shown, he attempts it and if correct wins the total amount of money earned in the round.

Up to three of these contestants can be human players, which is smartly handled by having the second and third players alternating use of the second controller instead of requiring a multitap.  Unfortunately, when playing against the computer in Normal mode the A.I. is pathetically stupid.  Itís more competent in Tournament mode, but still makes dumb mistakes from time to time.  Not only that, but in either mode the computer lands on Lose a Turn or Bankrupt at very convenient times for the human player.  Itís like the game tries to make it as easy as possible for the player to win, making victories seem somewhat empty.

Not only does poor A.I. hurt the experience, but also the alternating nature of the game results in some long wait times between turns.  When playing alone the only thing to do while the computer spins is try to figure out the puzzle, but thatís of limited benefit and doesnít help when the player already knows the answer.  No one expects an intense Serious Sam-esque experience out of a game show, but even for this genre itís boring at times.  Multiplayer relieves this problem somewhat since humans are (mostly) more intelligent and itís always fun to taunt opponents, particularly when the spinning player is clueless and everyone else knows the answer.  Seeing a confused player spin when you know the only consonant left is ĎXí is amusing indeed.

Graphically, Artech did just about everything they could with this game.  The game has six different sets to choose from, each of which looks good and has several animated things.  For example, the winter sports set has a snowman with scarf waving in the wind and an animated bear.  The shiny floors also reflect quite nicely, and spinning the wheel comes complete with an excellent blurring effect.  Vanna White appears in several FMVs (no Pat Sajak), but her acting is bad on the ďso bad itís goodĒ scale.  Prizes are represented with excellent video/slideshow presentations, although there arenít enough of them as they repeat often.  On the plus side, Iíve won several trips to San Francisco already.

Like Jeopardy!, the contestants speak all of their dialogue and even throw in a few cheesy lines heard on the show for good measure.  These include phrases like ďShow me the big money!Ē and ďAlright, Iím having some fun now!Ē.  Vanna offers her condolences after a missed guess, and tries to show enthusiasm when a player makes a great guess.  The voice acting is too cheesy to be good in the traditional sense, but cheesy is necessary for anyone that watches this show.

HIGHS:

  • Unlike Jeopardy!, the alternating nature of the game allows three people to play without a multitap.
  • The sets look good, with a nice blurring effect for spinning and even some reflection on the floor.
  • Cheesy dialogue that works in this game.
  • Over 3,200 puzzles, and Iíve yet to encounter the same one twice.

LOWS:

  • Apparently Pat Sajak is too good for this sort of thing, because heís MIA.
  • The nature of Wheel of Fortune results in a lot of boring downtime between turns.
  • The A.I. is stupid in Normal mode, and selectively stupid (usually when the human player benefits) in Tournament mode.
  • Not enough variety in prizes.
  • Like Jeopardy!, online support would help a game like this.  New puzzles to download and online play would be nice.

FINAL VERDICT:

As a single-player game, Wheel of Fortune is barely recommended even to fans of the show.  Hardcore fans of the show will enjoy it, but anyone else will get bored quickly.  As a multiplayer game, Wheel of Fortune is a decent family/party game that doesnít (unlike Jeopardy!) require a multitap for three to enjoy.

Overall Score: 6.0

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