The new edition of Wheel of Fortune from Infogrames attempts to convert the popular American TV game show to a computer game format, and it does a decent enough job. Wheel of Fortune 2003 is quite colorful, and the lovely hostess Vanna White does about as good a job as can be expected, but the game has some pretty low production values and a few annoying technical issues. Beyond that, Wheel of Fortune 2003 is a faithful and occasionally challenging adaptation of the game show, though it's doubtful that many players will get excited about winning imaginary money and prizes.
The Wheel of Fortune TV show has been on the air for about 20 years now, and it lets three contestants attempt to solve a word puzzle by revealing an unknown phrase one letter at a time, with the option to spin the wheel to win large amounts of cash for each letter they uncover. It's a simple enough game, though it can prove surprisingly challenging, which is probably why the show is so popular with so many home viewers. The computer-game adaptation follows the rules of the show nearly to the letter, and it can occasionally be equally challenging, but in the long run, it's probably not as intellectually stimulating as Jeopardy! 2003 (also from Infogrames). Surprisingly, Wheel of Fortune 2003 actually benefits from the fact that it's a computer game, rather than a TV show in some ways, since the game displays all available letters openly on the screen, conveniently omitting any letters that have already been revealed, so it's a lot easier to keep track of things.
Unfortunately, Wheel of Fortune 2003 also has a number of drawbacks that make playing it seem less enjoyable and less involving than watching the show. Though the game has plenty of puzzles--more than enough to keep you busy for a while--it seems lifeless, despite the presence of the fabulous Vanna White. However, Vanna is all alone--her co-host, Pat Sajak, is nowhere in sight, and Vanna herself generally doesn't appear on the actual game show floor (but rather, on certain screens and in menus), so many of the camera angles that show the wheel and the game board often look empty, despite all the colorful trappings. You're also a lot less likely to get excited about the game's prize money, dream vacations, luxury cars, and other winnings, because they're all imaginary. Winning a phony ski trip in a game you play sitting at your computer while listening to canned remarks from your opponents and canned applause from a recorded audience just isn't the same as watching some lucky fellow on TV finally win the dream prize he's always wanted.
And unfortunately, despite its appropriately gaudy presentation, Wheel of Fortune 2003's production values aren't too spectacular either. The game offers a few different sets, each more garish than the last (which is appropriate, since the TV show is all about bright colors, glitter, and flashing lights), though they all consist of rather unimpressive-looking and static rendered sets. Even Vanna herself just doesn't look as fabulous as she should, thanks to the game's low-quality full-motion video, which is often cluttered with ugly compression marks and frequently suffers from embarrassing pauses (during which Vanna is frozen helplessly onscreen) as the game loads the rest of the animations from the CD. Thankfully, the game's sound is considerably better--Vanna's voice samples are generally excellent, and they rarely ever drop or clip together. The same can be said of TV announcer Charlie O'Donnell's voice-over in the game, though the dialogue from your generic computer opponents (an unnamed, invisible female player and an unnamed, invisible male player) can sometimes seem a bit forced.
If you're a tremendous fan of the TV show, you may enjoy Wheel of Fortune 2003, since the game does a decent job of reproducing most of the major elements of the TV show. But no matter how you feel about Wheel of Fortune, you'll probably agree that, despite your chatty opponents and the ubiquitous (and again, fabulous) Vanna White, Wheel of Fortune 2003 seems to lack the excitement and character of the TV show it's based on.