The Buzz! series of quiz games on the PlayStation 2 is quite popular overseas, but until now none of the games have been released in North America. Thanks to Buzz! The Mega Quiz, we now know what we were missing: a lighthearted trivia game geared toward adults that's fun for anyone who enjoys Trivial Pursuit or You Don't Know Jack.
The first thing you'll notice about Buzz! are its controllers. The game comes with four handheld buzzers that connect to the PS2 via a single USB cable. You can't play with a Dual Shock controller, but you can purchase another set of Buzz! controllers separately so that eight people can play at once. The number of players affects the types of games you'll play, as well as their lengths; it should be noted that when you get above four contestants, the game plays slightly differently. On top of the controller is a large red button that is used to buzz in during certain rounds, and on the front are four different-colored buttons. These four buttons are how you'll input your answers.
The game's primary mode, the mega quiz, is presented like a TV game show. The presentation isn't flashy by any means, but it gets the job done just fine and never gets in the way of the gameplay with unnecessary flair. You can play short, normal, or long matches and even choose from three different difficulties. Once you've chosen the length and difficulty, it's time to choose your avatar. There are a number of wacky characters to choose from: a mime, a Napoleon look-alike, a cowboy, a wrestler, a "fat lady" opera singer, an Elvis look-alike, a superhero, an old lady, a blonde cheerleader, and more. Once you've picked your character and costume, you then get to pick what noise your buzzer makes. There are quite a few options here, including yodel, stadium horn, chicken, laugh, scream, cow, car alarm, belch, frog, cat, "awooga," and more. This process is a bit time-consuming with more than four players, but once you've created a character the game will remember your choices for future play sessions. You can also select the quick play option and have the game decide on characters for you.
Once the game starts you'll be introduced to Buzz, the smart-alecky British host and his buxom, redheaded sidekick, Rose. Buzz will introduce the upcoming round and then Rose will explain the rules. These little cutscenes are short and well done, but you'll grow tired of them quickly. Thankfully, you can skip both the introduction and rule explanation--just be sure to watch them at least once because there are several types of rounds. The first round is called point picker. Here you'll pick from categories like movies, sports, TV, celebrities, music, animals, "bizarre," and a few others. Buzz will ask you a question, then you hit the colored button on the controller that matches the color of the correct answer shown onscreen. Sometimes the game uses video or audio as part of the question. For instance, you might have to identify an actor from a film clip or name a band from an audio snippet.
The next round is fastest finger. This is similar to the point picker round, but the first person to answer correctly gets the most points, and each person after that gets points based on what position they buzzed in at. Pie fight is another traditional trivia round, but if someone has gotten off to a big lead you can team up with other contestants to even the playing field by hitting the leader with pies to eliminate them from the round first. Globetrotter has a plane that flies all over the globe and Buzz asks questions based on where it lands. Everyone gets points for a correct answer, but if you answer first you get to pick where the plane goes next. The second-to-last round is point stealer. This is another round where the pack can catch up with the leader, because if you answer a question correctly you decide who you want to take your points from. It sucks to be the leader here, because everyone can and will gang up on you (especially if you're playing with more than four people, because it's the last round), but there's no denying that it makes for close contests.
The last round is fittingly called the final countdown. Yes, the "Final Countdown" song by Europe actually plays during the intro. This is a timed round where you're given time based on your score coming into the round. As soon as a question is read, your timer begins to tick away. If you answer first and answer correctly, you're awarded more time. If you simply answer correctly, you won't lose any more time other than what ticked off as you answered. Should you answer incorrectly, time will be taken away from you. This round is pretty intense, and you'll quite often find the difference between being the first to answer and being second is as small as a few hundredths of a second.
There's a lot to like about Buzz! The Mega Quiz. There are more than 5,000 different questions, and if you use a memory card the game will track the questions it has asked you, ensuring you won't get repeats very often. There's also a lot of variety among those 5,000 questions. You'll need to know a hundred years' worth of music, sports, movies, and TV; the gestation periods, weights, and life expectancy of animals; and, of course, you'll need to know a lot about history. The cool thing is you'll need to be able to do more than regurgitate a memorized answer. Sometimes you'll have to put events in order, sometimes you'll have to recognize a famous face, and on top of that you might have to recognize a person and then decide if he or she is younger or older than another famous person. Making you apply your knowledge in different ways ensures that everyone can compete--it's not all about who has the fastest finger. In fact, people with a penchant for answering without reading the entire question will often find themselves mocked by the host and on the wrong end of the final score.
As fun as the game is, there's room for improvement. The visual style suggests the game is trying to appeal to a younger crowd, but the questions are generally geared toward adults over 20 years of age. How many teenagers know if Abbot & Costello came before Laurel & Hardy? The music questions are a nice way of mixing things up, but once again, they're clearly focused on an older audience. If you don't know your '60s music, you're going to be in trouble. And some of the game types, like the one where a picture is descrambled or the minigames where you pick a pony in a horse race, are kind of lame. While you can customize the experience by picking only play types you enjoy, it's frustrating that it's so easy for people who are losing to gang up on the winner, especially when you're playing with more than four players. How is one person supposed to fend off seven others who are hell-bent on knocking him or her out? There's no online play, nor are there online leaderboards. But after the game is over, you're shown a breakdown of who answered the most questions correctly, who answered the most incorrectly, as well as who the fastest and slowest were. It's too bad none of those statistics are tracked from game to game.
If you're into trivia games or are looking for a party game that's geared toward adults, you'd do well to pick up a copy of Buzz! The Mega Quiz. It's only $40, it's fun in both small and large groups, and there's enough variety to its questions and game types that trivia and non-trivia buffs alike should have a good time.