PSN Review: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Special Editions (plus South Park & Movie Millionaire DLC)



Along with Thanksgiving and millions of moustaches, November was, surprisingly, the month for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Experiencing something of a mini revival through the medium of video games, the game show has seen the US get their own exclusive PlayStation Network downloadable game (following on from a retail Kinect version), while the UK got their own unique and exclusive version for PSN, along with a South Park tie-in version and a chunk of DLC in the same week. It’s odd timing for a show that isn’t exactly in the prime of its life (the UK show now only airs on holidays as a celebrity special), but whatever the reason, Millionaire fans have plenty to choose from for a home version. We checked them all out to see which version best captures the TV show’s tense, quiz-based fun.

Not to be confused with Canadian developer Ludia’s version of the game (reviewed here), which hit the US PSN exclusively the same week, Deep Silver’s downloadable Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Special Editions brings their own spin on the popular game show to European PS3 consoles. If you’re missing the show now that it’s largely disappeared from the airwaves and reruns aren’t cutting it, Special Editions captures the TV version’s tense fun with a slick, stylish and wonderfully presented home version of the game.
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If you’ve seen the show, then the video game’s format won’t be too unfamiliar. You’ll play a ‘Fastest Finger First’ round to kick things off, where you and any other players will have to quickly answer a multi-part question in order (like arranging a list of four historical rulers in order of their death) – the player to answer correctly the fastest plays first.

The main game then sees you climbing a tree of fifteen progressively tougher multiple choice trivia questions, earning a larger amount of money with every correct answer. Every five questions, you’ll hit a ‘safe haven’ checkpoint and the amount you’ve earned will be banked, meaning you’ll leave with that amount, no matter what. You can bow out with your earned cash after viewing any question, but answer one incorrectly before the safe haven and you’ll either go home penniless or lose everything since the last checkpoint. Making your game easier are a trio of single use ‘lifelines’: ‘Ask The Audience’ polls the studio viewers on their guesses, ‘Phone A Friend’ allows you to call a pal for their thoughts on the answer and ’50/50′ removes two wrong answers, leaving you with the correct answer and one decoy.
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UK Millionaire host Chris Tarrant is nowhere to be found, but in his absence the game goes for stylistically oversized, slightly cartoony look, with an animated virtual host who kind of, sort of looks and sounds like Tarrant if you squint hard enough. The Buzz style animated vibe is a stylish one that works well (especially since it avoids resurrecting the rather terrifying digital recreation of Tarrant from past Millionaire video games) and the game captures the Millionaire studio’s look and feel quite perfectly. The digital crowd moves around and applauds boisterously and the host’s comments are varied enough that you won’t be suffering grating repetition (unlike in Ludia’s US version). It won’t blow your socks off, but the production values are slick and it’s a lovely looking approximation of the show, the only problem being the occasionally long load times between rounds, though they’re accompanied by worldwide factoids about the show and its contestants to fill the wait.

The questions are challenging enough that you won’t be breezing through with ease and diverse and numerous enough that you won’t be bumping into repeat questions unless you play it for days on end. There’s no time limit to questions (and since you can pause anywhere, too, it’s easy for people to cheat, though pretty pointless) but the game makes decent strides towards capturing the Millionaire tension; as the game progresses and questions get tougher, the host takes varying dramatic pauses before confirming or rejecting your answer, which is a fun, if obvious touch.
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There are online leaderboards, but no online multiplayer. There’s a local multiplayer option, but the game doesn’t really lend itself to the most riveting party game. Basically, following the ‘Fastest Finger First’ round, players take it in turns to play through a full game of Millionaire each, before all your scores get tallied at the end based on how much you won and how fast you answered. It’s fine, and a welcome addition, but it’s realistically not the most involving game to play with friends and the game is better suited to solo play.

Ensuring that you won’t be ditching the game once you’ve finally played it enough to hit repeat questions, Special Editions has a rather excellent DLC model built in. You’re given the choice of ‘Millionaire’ or ‘Special Editions’ on the main menu, the former being the core game, while the latter opens up a list of all the DLC question packs you’ve bought and installed. Some question packs come with their own custom studio, characters and audience along with a bunch of new questions. You can opt to play your DLC packs individually, or you can choose to ‘Mix & Match’, picking and choosing which packs you want to use and you’ll play a game that pulls questions from all your selected DLC (and you can pick a studio from any of them, too). It’s a simple, but incredibly welcome option that makes for a more varied selection of questions and a more diverse game of Millionaire.
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Currently available DLC packs at time of release are ‘Movie Millionaire’, a fun set of comprehensive questions based around movie trivia, new and old. There’s no custom studio or avatars included with that one, but it does come at a much smaller price to compensate. Much more interesting is the ‘South Park’ pack, which offers a game of Millionaire tailor-suited to fans of the show. The DLC is framed with HD clips from the series and presented as Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny and Butters sitting down to watch you, as an unnamed South Park kid, play a game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on TV, while the gang make comments reflecting your performance. There’s no new South Park voice or clip content (the opening video is borrowed from sixth season episode ‘The Terrence & Philip Movie Trailer’, while the audio clips are culled from a cross-section of episodes), but it’s cleverly put together. The studio audience is filled with animated South Park style characters and there’s a selection of generic South Park kids to choose from as your avatar, too. The questions themselves are impressively varied and challenging, and based around occasionally minute trivia from every season of the show, so there’s plenty to stump all but the most dedicated South Park fans.

All in all, it’s a fun, challenging and impressively well presented game that captures the vibe of the show as perfectly as you could ask for. With stylish visuals, slick presentation, a challenging and varied array of questions and a fantastic DLC structure, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Special Editions is an enjoyable and rather addictive representation of the game show. In essence, it’s a very simple trivia quiz game, and if the show itself doesn’t appeal to you, then this won’t either (especially since there’s no actual money up for grabs). But if you enjoyed the series and are itching for a home version, then this is about as great a video game translation as you could ask for.

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Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Special Editions is available to buy now on the European PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade now.
The core game is priced at £7.99, the South Park add-on pack is £4.49 and the Movie Millionaire DLC is £1.99.
There’s also a bundle with the core game and South Park pack for £10.99 and core + Movie Millionaire for £9.49.