AU REVIEW--Virtual quizmaster Buzz has been hanging around PlayStation consoles for several years now, but Buzz! Master Quiz is the Muppet look-alike's first appearance on Sony's handheld unit. Fans of Buzz's previous console outings may be wondering how a game so well suited for multiplayer shenanigans translates to a format better known for solo gaming, and the bad news is that the transition hasn't been that successful. Although there's some fun to be had for those who desperately need their trivia to go, Buzz! Master Quiz simply feels lacking in both its single- and multiplayer offerings.
Buzz on consoles mimicked the look and feel of a TV trivia game show to good effect, but Master Quiz on the PSP ditches the game show setting for the most part. The series' eponymous host is still there guiding you through the various rounds in both single-player and multiplayer, but the gaudy sets, glamorous cohost, and wacky character models are gone. You'll still have to choose an in-game avatar to represent you in Master Quiz, but the most you'll ever see of them is their heads. In the various Master Quiz modes you're usually presented with a question with four possible answers, each one of them mapped to one of the face buttons on the PSP. Press the correct answer and you'll score points; do it quickly and you'll score even more.
Just like its console counterparts, the single-player component is fairly bare-bones, with most of the title's focus being on multiplayer features. That's to be expected from the home console versions, but it becomes more of a sore point on the PSP, where solo gaming is a more likely occurrence. Master Quiz's single-player mode consists solely of one set of quizzes which will probably only take you two hours to play through. And since you're not playing against computer-controlled opponents, the only replay value is in trying to beat your own high scores, which you probably won't want to do too often.
Buzz has always been a party game at its core , so it's to developer Relentless' credit that two of the three multiplayer modes available in Master Quiz can be played using a single PSP. With the Quiz Host mode, one person keeps hold of the handheld and asks questions for up to six players before inputting their scores onto the PSP. There's some fun to be had here, particularly when the game goes off the trivia path and requires hosts to set minichallenges like seeing which of the players can make the best bird calls, or awarding points to whoever has the biggest feet. Pass Around mode can accommodate up to six people, and requires a group to take turns answering questions using the one PSP. This is the most engaging mode in Master Quiz thanks to some of the clever ways the game lets you play havoc with your opponents' scores, many of which have been lifted from the console versions of Buzz. The Snapshot round, for example, presents a player with an image. That player can then choose which small section of the image to display before passing it onto the next player, who then has to correctly identify what the original image was. With the Weak Spot round, one player is presented with a question that they then have to pass on to the competitor they feel will struggle to answer it correctly.
The third and final multiplayer mode is a game-sharing one which allows you to play the game on multiple PSPs using only one copy of Master Quiz. Up to four players can join in, and the host sets parameters such as the number of questions, game difficulty, and question category. Sadly, none of the multimedia-based rounds in Master Quiz are available in game sharing--it's purely straight-up-and-down multiple choice questions to be had. This severely cramps the variety of the game-sharing mode, and you'll inevitably be left wondering why developer Relentless didn't include an option for a full-fledged match using multiple PSPs and multiple copies of Master Quiz.
There are supposedly 5,000 questions or so included with Master Quiz, although it only took an hour or so of gameplay before we started encountering repeat questions. Questions span a wide variety of topics ranging from celebrity to science and history to sport, and the difficulty seemed pleasantly varied. The game has spiffy production values, with each question asked in full audio and plenty of multimedia clips included in the package. Buzz himself still looks suspiciously like Sesame Street's Guy Smiley, and is once again voiced by Aussie soap star Jason Donovan.
Buzz's first portable appearance is more hit than miss, as Master Quiz does retain a little of that Buzz charm and fun. But the game's lackluster multiplayer modes and uninvolving single-player component means the PlayStation 3 (or 2 if you're sticking with the old console) is still the best place to get your trivia fix.