ROMper ROOM: Scene It? adds to party, needs work

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Movie fans get another interactive dose of trivia with Scene It? Box Office Smash (for Xbox 360, from Microsoft Game Studios, rated T for teens and older, $59.99).

Based on the popular DVD home entertainment series, this latest version is a puzzle-rich challenge compiling hundreds of questions on cinematic history and great movie moments to test visual and memory skills.

Unlike the board game version that’s mired down by using a DVD controller and actual die (ugh!) to compete in a party setting, Box Office Smash comes with four wireless big-button pads to give up to four players a game-show-style experience.

Players won’t find the presentation very exciting — there’s just a narrator and a limited selection of avatars. Supposedly Microsoft’s upcoming version of a Mii creator will allow a more robust development of personalities.

However, the payoff is, of course, the hundreds of movie clips and the clever assortment of more than 20 puzzle varieties used to complement the game’s basic multiple-choice format. Each contest consists of four rounds, with the first three rounds mixing in three to five puzzle variations, depending on the length of game chosen.

A timer starts at 2,000 points for each question and works its way down until all of the players lock in answers. The last round, called Final Cut, involves four questions of 2,000 points each, and a multiplier is added to enhance totals for consecutive correct answers. The player with the most points wins.

The puzzles are the best part of the action. Be it watching a gooey face slowly coming into focus to determine its identity or naming films by slogans, musical score, props, pictograms, sound clips or even a poster that slowly reveals itself, the mix is excellent.

The questions accompanying the film clips aren’t simply “name the film” questions; they also require a player listen and observe while being asked such specifics as “How many buttons were on the shirt of Pinocchio?” in a scene from “Shrek the Third.”

However, I do have problems with the game.

First, hard-core players will find questions begin to repeat pretty quickly after about four extended games. It’s a near fatal flaw considering there’s an Xbox Live world out there filled with downloadable content. Microsoft promises to add question packs for purchase, and the sooner the better.

Next, it’s hard for any player to clearly dominate a game. That’s fine when everyone is in the same room in a party atmosphere, but when playing online against random opponents (new to this year’s release), I want blood. I kept ending each round with a huge lead, only to see my opponents get thousands of extra points for silly stuff such as being the slowest to answer or — are you kidding me? — having the most incorrect answers.

Finally, Box Office Smash pales in comparison to Sony’s trivia epic Buzz! Quiz TV. Almost every element, except the puzzle assortment, felt lacking, from the uninspired, unfunny narration and limited avatar choices to the less than stellar choice of films used. (Do I ever really need to analyze a clip from “Superstar” or “Xanadu”?)

Learning time: The potential for studying the finer points of movies as well as honing of memory skills makes the challenge slightly educational.

To make the game an even a better learning experience, Microsoft easily could add, for example, the best of John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock question packs to further immerse the cinema connoisseur or add common movie-making definition questions to some of the rounds.

Clever parents also can supplement classic clips from movies such as “Miracle on 34th Street” or “Spartacus” with actually renting the full feature for an extended movie night curriculum for their teens.

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