Admit it - you watch Jeopardy! Whether you make a point of tuning in regularly or get stuck watching it as you surf by, everyone tunes into this trivia game show. When I was in college, Jeopardy! was something of a spectator sport in my dorm. It usually involved beer (doesn't everything in college involve beer?) and a lot of shouting. When I graduated and started living on my own, I realized I could watch it and actually hear what the contestants were saying.
Jeopardy! is one of the only game shows that actually forces contestants to use their brains - and I mean really use their brains. In case you've never seen Jeopardy!, it's important to know the game's twist. Instead of contestants being asked a question and providing answers, the board contains 30 answers, and contestants must give their answers in the form of a question. In fact, on TV, if answers aren't given as a question, they're considered incorrect.
The object of the game is to provide questions to as many of the five answers in six different categories as you can. As you progress from the top of the board to the bottom, the answers get tougher, and the prize amount gets higher. The contestant who gave the last correct question controls the board, but once the answer is given, all three contestants have a chance to buzz in.
Jeopardy! actually makes a very robust TV-to-PC translation because it's basically a trivia game. The more you know, the better you do. Hasbro has done a very good job bringing the look and feel of the TV show to your computer. The board looks exactly like the one on TV, and the sound effects and music are identical. Best of all, Alex Trebek is here to host the show. Starting gameplay is a snap. The emcee invites you to choose your options, select the number of players, and you're off. In addition, a sub-options-menu lets you choose buzz-in time, response time, skill level, and so on.
One important option is spelling tolerance. Since the game doesn't contain any sort of voice recognition, you must type your answers in. Loose tolerance (the default) basically means you must get the first four consonants correct. You must be very careful typing in your answers because even on loose tolerance, I didn't get several questions correct because I misspelled them.
If you're playing by yourself, the computer provides two additional players. It's kind of weird playing a trivia game against a computer. Really, you expect the computer to be correct all the time, since it has all the answers right in front of it, so to speak. However, the Hasbro AI is surprisingly lifelike and makes the same kinds of mistakes a human would. Your skill level setting determines how aggressive the computer player will be (as well as the board difficulty). A hard skill level will make the computer players buzz in quickly and answer most questions correctly. An easy skill level will make the computer players buzz in slowly and give a fair number of incorrect responses. In addition, the AI is adaptive. The highest-scoring computer player will challenge the highest-scoring human player by buzzing in more aggressively and answering more questions correctly. I found when playing that, although I preferred the easier board, I had more fun if the computer players were more aggressive.
Although Alex Trebek doesn't have a patch on that goofy guy from the You Don't Know Jack series, it's fun to see him popping up all over the place. The FMV bites of Alex are integrated seamlessly in the game, but because you're really just playing a trivia game against the computer, his presence is little more than window dressing. Still, he has some excellent responses, and - because they are taken out of context of a living, breathing TV show - some are absolutely hysterical. One of my favorites, in response to an incorrect Final Jeopardy! question, is: "Sometimes... you get a tough one." Or, when you're correct: "To be sure!"
The graphics and sound are exactly as you'd expect - exact replications of the TV program. There is a certain childish glee that came over me as I ran my cursor over the board and listened to it beep at me. The only irritating thing was the constantly changing camera angles. At first, you're sure you've hit some button or that the game has changed in some way. Again, this mirrors the TV show, where the camera constantly shifts from contestants to Alex to the board. While it certainly heightened the reality of the port, it was jarring until I got used to it.
Unlike the You Don't Know Jack series, which is designed for the attention-deficit computer player, Jeopardy! games are long. I found I could rarely make it through an entire game (Jeopardy!, Double Jeopardy!, and Final Jeopardy!) without wandering off, checking my e-mail, or answering my phone. It was much more fun when a group of people congregated in my office one afternoon. As with the TV show, shouting out your answers is much more fun with a crowd than all by yourself.
All in all, Jeopardy! is a good computer game. Whether you've always dreamed of being on the hit TV show, love trivia, or just love Alex, it's sure to please.