- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

A classic board game again moves to home entertainment consoles to challenge players’ knowledge levels in Trivial Pursuit (Electronic Arts for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, $39.99).

The virtual version of the 27-year-old game features an avalanche of primarily multiple-choice questions from six categories — geography, history, entertainment, arts and literature, science and nature, and sports and leisure. Up to four players can compete with three ways to enjoy the game.

First, a peek at the video game’s classic version — just like this 1980s guy remembers.

Move around the board’s spoked wheel using a virtual die roll, answering questions to keep moving. Answer questions on specific “headquarters” spaces to collect six colorful wedge-shaped pieces to fill a round token. Answer a final question in the middle of the board — from a category picked by another player — to win.

That’s the short of it. The road could be long and frustrating, however, if a player correctly answers dozens of questions in a row, but never lands on coveted headquarters spaces. I felt like a genius when it happened to me, but the other players were ready to doze off.

Next, a Clear the Board version offers a single player a compact, 15-minute session. The goal is still to get a question right on every category’s headquarters space. In a twist, category question spaces all disappear with a right answer on an HQ answer. Ultimately, the player wants to rack up a high point total by also using multipliers for each correct question. Let’s call it speed Trivial Pursuit.

Finally, and the most complex, is Facts and Friends. I’ll label it the Las Vegas version of Trivial Pursuit. Players share one token and battle for the six wedges, earning points by getting questions right or betting for or against others’ answers.

In this version, the board includes Bonus Event spaces to offer variables such as receiving double points or teleporting to the space of a player’s choice. Queries also are varied to include a rigorous true/false battery tied to a sudden-death “wedge off.”

This is a shorter and definitely a more satisfying version of Trivial Pursuit that keeps everyone involved.

Other features to the title include animations to quickly tell a player his movement options after a die roll, a repetitive, annoying narrator as quick to praise as criticize, and the inclusion of images and map location choices in the questions.

Best of all is a statistics bar at the bottom of the screen that tracks minutia such as most questions answered by each player and his best categories. Along with the Custom Profile information, it’s a great way for a parent to monitor his kid’s success in education-related topics.

Unfortunately, the absence of an online multiplayer option takes the steam out of having a party with friends around the world.

Learning time: What a great way to get a bite-size, fact-filled education on authors, landmarks, events, discoveries, presidents and nearly any topic touched on in a condensed encyclopedia.

The most challenging questions are those tied to unlabeled maps. A player must select from one of four pinpoint icons on a section of terrain to answer. I guarantee anyone who plays this game for a week will raise his country identification and geography skills tenfold.

Better yet, downloadable question packs are in the queue from Electronic Arts. Currently, a plentiful movie question set is free. How wonderful it would be to add questions and play games specific to topics such as Shakespeare, the American Revolution or politics. I hope EA does at least as solid a job as Buzz! Quiz TV on the educational trivia uploads.

Age range: Due to the difficulty of most of the questions, early teens and older will most appreciate Trivial Pursuit. Hopefully, EA will offer question packs for younger players in the future.

Final advice: This is the best virtual version of Trivial Pursuit to date, and its mix of knowledge enlightenment and social interaction will be irresistible for the family or a group of friends.

Joseph Szadkowski’s ROMper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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