Find the Smarty Pants in You
Smarty Pants comes into our living rooms as a new, laid-back, family-entertainment piece. It’s not made for hardcore gamers,; it’s made for the masses. Video games are becoming more popular, and families are starting to accept them as just another leisure activity; due to that fact, this kind of game is more successful than it used to be. It just seems right to have a trivia game as part of your game library so you can play with your family and friends.
Most families don’t play board games together anymore, but video games are presenting new opportunities we should take advantage of. Thankfully, games like Smarty Pants for the Wii, Scene It? for the Xbox 360, Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree or even Rock Band and Guitar Hero are helping to get families and friends together again, providing some much-needed social entertainment.
Smarty Pants is an interesting title. It’s not very good looking, super-entertaining or addictive. However, it has several good things going for it: It’s user-friendly, easy to pick up and play, and the questions are tailored for each player – allowing players of all ages to compete fairly against each other. If you need a break from Big Brain Academy, this might be your best bet. Instead of testing your visual and reasoning skills, it simply tests your knowledge, just like any trivia game would do. The questions are divided into several categories, and the difficulty level depends on your age and that of your playing partners.
The title is loaded with 20,000+ questions that will make each game unique. Most likely you won’t see the same question show up more than once; oddly enough, I did see one of them come up twice! The eight categories are pretty straight-forward: Science, Art, Entertainment, Sports, Places and People, Books, Games, and Fashion. Adding fashion and games to the equation was a nice addition to the traditional trivia game. The questions in these two categories go all the way from Who makes these popular fragrances? to What game franchise belongs to this publishing group?, etc. It’s a nice break from typical questions like What’s the capital of this country? or Who wrote this classic book?, which you’ll also find in the game. Smarty Pants presents some extra pop-culture content that distinguishes it from other trivia titles, but it’s not really all that casual; it actually has a good mix of questions that make the game more exciting and appealing for everyone.
There are a few game modes one can find within the Solo, Friends, or Family modes. Unfortunately, the Solo mode leaves a lot to be desired. You can only practice but not save your scores, and the character you choose comes from a pool of premade characters with little style or personality of their own. Smarty Pants was made to play with people; that’s why all the fun was packed in the multiplayer modes, including the always-welcomed Mii support. Friends Mode includes the Wager and Countdown modes. Two to four people can compete in these modalities. Wager Mode will have all of you shooting at targets at the beginning of each round, right after selecting a category; the targets have positive and negative numbers and they’ll determine how many points the next batch of questions will be worth. Needless to say, that’s the amount of points you’ll lose if you answer something wrong. It’s always more convenient to aim at lower scores for categories that represent your weak spot. Countdown Mode is simple and traditional: the faster you answer the question, the more points you’ll earn (or lose).
Family Mode is not nearly as fun, although it could be if you have a fun family and everyone is eager to contribute. It’s cooperative trivia action for the whole family. Each player is given questions that are appropriate to their age. They all have to participate and try to get as many questions answered as possible before the timer announces you’re out of time. While one player is answering a question, the others can make gestures the game prompts in order to slow down the timer. This was a bit annoying, especially because the Wii-mote itself, in addition to your TV speakers, often yells at you things like “Dance!,” “Jump!,” etc. I could have done without this, but at least it keeps everyone active and adds a bit more fun and goofiness to the experience.
The controls work with the simple point-and-click system on the most part. When you turn the roulette to choose a category, you’ll have to do a motion while holding A, which feels a bit awkward. However, this doesn’t make the game worse; it’s just something you get used to and you’ll end up not paying much attention to it. Other actions include the dancing around to slow down the timer or up the target score. It’s all silly and probably unnecessary, but it makes the game a bit more active and laid back at the same time. Friends Mode requires two to four Wii-motes, depending on the number of players, and Family Mode can be played with just one of them which people can pass along.
The game doesn’t look as attractive or inspiring as it could. The developers chose to make it easy for themselves and keep it simple, which doesn’t make a whole lot of business sense, I’d say. Making the visuals more appealing to the players could have meant higher sales numbers. We all know there’s not a whole lot to expect from a trivia game, but if the game had entered the “cool” category, more people would remember it after playing at their friends’ house, becoming potential buyers. The graphics are too bland and childish-looking, which automatically makes everyone think it’s a game for kids. After playing it, I know the game is made for all ages; with that being the case, why wouldn’t they make it look more like a “Who wants to be a millionaire” kind of game show? The only saving grace is it supports Miis in most play modes. They look cute when they dance and celebrate their triumphs. The other characters are cheesy; they wear the same clothes and diverse hair styles in different color schemes.
The cheery music, sound effects, and voices are nothing impressive either. There’s no announcer in the game, which might be good, considering the horrible announcers most games of this kind have. However, you’ll still hear a voice once in a while insisting in you dancing, jumping, etc. The voice comes out of the Wii-mote as well as the TV speakers and can get loud in your ears; quite bothersome, indeed. However, it adds a bit of action to the formula, so it’s not all that bad. The sound effects have no mystery, but at least they’re suitable for the gameplay, and don’t feel annoying whatsoever. When you spin the roulette you’ll feel like you teleported to the “Wheel of Fortune” TV set.
Smarty Pants is a decent activity to do with your loved ones once in a while, but it’s not more than a simple pastime. I still love and enjoy board games, and if that’s your case as well, you don’t necessarily have to turn your trivia night into an interactive experience in front of the boob tube. The decision is yours: take it or leave it!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Miis look cute when they dance and celebrate their triumphs. However, the visuals are not really that special. 3.4 Control
Spinning the roulette is not the easiest thing to do, but everything else works fine; the Wii-mote makes a good “buzzer.” 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Simple sound effects and cheery music work for this trivia style game. 3.4
A good trivia game to enjoy with family and friends, as long as it’s just four of you or you start creating teams.
3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.