PSN Review: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (US)



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 (reviewed here). 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.

Canadian developer Ludia are no strangers to translating competitive game shows to home consoles, having brought everything from The Price is Right and Hollywood Squares to Hell’s Kitchen and The Amazing Race to store shelves. But for a company dedicated entirely to putting interactive versions of popular shows into the hands of gamers, it’s a shame they do it with so little effort and passion. Like Hollywood Squares before it, Ludia’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? delivers a solid and enjoyable facsimile of the show, but one greatly let down by drab presentation and lazy production values.
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The aim of the game, much like the show, is simple: Contestants answer a ladder of multiple-choice questions, increasing in difficulty and value, all the way from $500 to a cool million. After five questions, the contestant reaches a checkpoint where everything earned to that point is banked and they don’t walk away empty handed. They can choose to walk away at any time, taking the amount won with the last question, but if they answer incorrectly before they hit the next marker, they lose and either leave with nothing or lose everything earned since the last checkpoint. Making the game more forgiving are three one-use-only ‘lifelines’ to help with tougher questions: An ‘Ask The Audience’ option, which polls the studio audience on their guesses, a ‘Double Dip’ which gives two guesses at a question instead of one, and ‘Phone a Friend’ allows the contestant to call up a buddy who might know the answer.

The video game presents the TV format pretty much exactly. Getting to the $1 million prize is appropriately challenging thanks to a diverse and progressively tough selection of questions covering all categories of general knowledge. Adding to the difficulty and tension, the game adopts the revised American rule of including a time limit for each question (which gets longer after every big cash checkpoint), though strangely it still allows you to pause the game at any time so cheaters can freely Google the answers. You can break out your lifelines at any time, and the ‘Phone a Friend’ option includes a neat touch that didn’t make it into the UK version – the phone buddy takes a stab at the answer, but also adds a percentage to how sure they are, adding a tiny bit of strategy as you gauge how risky it is to side with them.
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They didn’t get Regis Philbin to return as host, but while the replacement is decent and nails that stereotypical ‘game show announcer’ voice, there’s only a few dialogue samples and they’re repeated ad nauseum. There’s no way to skip each soundbite, so you’re stuck incessantly listening to the robotic repetition of lines like the familiar ‘Is that your final answer?’ catchphrase every few seconds, with no alternate readings to keep things less monotonous. Visually the game looks fine for a budget title, but still exhibits plenty of corner-cutting laziness. The audience is a motionless series of copy-and-pasted silhouettes, the selection of generic avatars are the exact same models used in other Ludia games, with all the same unlockable wardrobe choices, rendering an already light inclusion especially pointless if you played Hollywood Squares or any of their other titles. There are online leaderboards, too, along with local and online multiplayer, but the servers were deserted whenever I attempted to find a game.

Ludia’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? delivers fans a decent, enjoyable version of the quiz game, while the low price point is ideal and makes the budget presentation easier to stomach compared to the full retail Kinect version. Sadly the drab, cut-cost host narration and extras mean it’s not the most stylish representation of the game, and the repetitive, limited voice work tends to become monotonous over time. It’s a perfectly fine game, and delivers the core quiz game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? exactly as you’d expect in a reasonably enjoyable way, it’s just unfortunate that it’s delivered so listlessly.

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Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Special Editions is available to buy now on the US PlayStation Network now priced $9.99.