Rewind Review: I'll take ?The Rapists? for $200!
I have a bit of an embarrassing confession to make. I absolutely love video games based on game shows. I played an old DOS copy of Family Feud for so long, many of the questions stopped relating to ?current? events. The first game I purchased for my first Windows 95 computer was a Jeopardy/Wheel of Fortune boxset (complete with full motion video of Alex Trebek and Vanna White for the first time). So when I spotted Jeopardy for the PS2 in the bargain bin, how could I not bring it home?
Jeopardy for the PS2 is actually little changed from the Windows 95 version I played so long ago. A full motion video version of Trebek still ?hosts? the proceedings by giving the answers and asking for the question. The presentation of the game recreates the television proceedings exactly. Everything looks and feels just like Jeopardy should as all of the same graphical cues are used. Anything dealing with the board is actually indistinguishable from real-life Jeopardy.
Separate audio cues are quickly synced together so Trebek can read off the categories at the start of a round. The answers themselves are even read out loud, but not by Trebek. That job falls to Jeopardy announcer Johnny Gilbert, who does a very nice job. The voice work is put together very well.
The game is broken up into three similar, but distinct, modes. Solo Game is a "Time Trial" version of Jeopardy where a single player attempts to top their best score. Normal Game is the standard three person version of Jeopardy that appears on your television screen daily. And finally, we have the Tournament of Champions, a mode which is not open until a player wins five games or earns over $75,000 in prize winnings.
All three modes play exactly the same and, obviously, aside from Solo Game, all of the modes are available for one to three players. But quick, here's a Jeopardy-style answer for you: It's the only difference between Normal Mode and Tournament of Champions. The Question: What is "harder questions?" At least, that's what the manual says. In practice, they seemed about on par with the ones in the Normal mode to me.
The game boasts over 5200 questions and I have yet to see a repeat. All of the answers seem to be of that high Jeopardy caliber, and unless you're Ken Jennings, there will be plenty of head scratchers, but many of them do seem to skew heavily towards the Hollywood side of the trivia spectrum. At least one category per round seemed to focus on movies, television or actors. Although, I guess this is to be expected from a Jeopardy that needs to appeal to the PlayStation crowd. We love our pop culture.
The game is best played with human opponents (the technical term for ?friends and family?), but the computer can provide a decent challenge in a pinch. The IQ level of these disembodied contestants has three selectable settings and I would suggest leaving it on High all the time. On Low IQ the computer players are still dumber than your average ?1 Vs. 100? contestant, while on Normal they're about even with an above average high schooler. So if you want a real challenge, the High IQ setting is really the only way to fly.
Ringing in and inputting questions with the PS2 controller is a snap. While a keyboard is ideal for a game like this, the controller is more than adequate and the game provides plenty of time to plug in the question. But as always, spelling and answer clarification are not as perfect as they could be. For example I was dinged when I answered "Clinton" to a question that wanted "Chelsea Clinton" and I was asked for clarification when answering "Lee" to a Civil War question. The game wanted "Robert E Lee", no exceptions. Common variations and last name-only questions (which are encouraged on the TV show!) like this should have been caught in testing. It's easily Jeopardy's biggest weakness.
The Auto Answer Complete option can make this worse yet. Auto Answer Complete can help with inputting a question or it can get you when you're not paying attention. For example, the first answer to come up when attempting to answer a question with "Football" is "Foot Ball" (notice the space). Answering with the two word version is considered wrong even though the game gives players that spelling. The option can also be abused by a dishonest player that uses it to rule out a question that doesn't come up in the big Jeopardy database of questions or they can ring in with part of the correct answer in their head and have the game fill in the rest.
When entering Final Jeopardy bids and questions, the game asks the other players to look away while each player takes their turn. A moment like that just screams for the wireless connectivity of a DS or PSP. Maybe in Jeopardy Next-Gen. As it is, the system works as well as can be expected.