15 May 2007

Game Review: Grand Slam Trivia - Yankees & Red Sox Editions

Grand Slam Trivia: Yankees and Red Sox Editions
Snap TV Games, Inc.
$24.95/each ($19.99 from Amazon)

Snap TV Games would like you to know about their new Yankees and Red Sox Editions of their Grand Slam Trivia games, available on DVD. I was able to review one of each of these editions in my home, and thought my readers might be interested to know about them.

Packaging: Each game is a DVD that comes in a normal-sized DVD case, and that comes within a board-game sized box. It's a bit more packaging than you probably need, but since you're buying it through the mail, it's probably just as well, to make sure the disc doesn't get damaged in transit. The packaging itself does look very nice, though, with slick looking graphics and Yankees or Red Sox insignias emblazoned on the box, the DVD case and the disc itself. There's nothing else in the box at all. No board, no instructions, no small pieces to lose. Just air, which means there's no reason to keep the box and packaging other than the DVD case afterthe first time you open it. Make sure you remember to recycle, kiddies.

Game Setup: Nice and easy. (New Yawk Translation: Fugghedaboudit!) You put the disc in the DVD player, it boots up and you can start playing right away (the "Grand Slam Trivia" option). The game also has an option for practice (the "Batting Cage"), and of course for the Rules, but nowhere are there any printed instructions to read, which means that the other players don't have to sit through listening to you reading the tedious list of rules, and you don't have to get annoyed if they don't listen. This was a particular bonus for me, as I hate it when people don't pay attentio...HEY! WAKE UP!!

Game Play:Anyway, in the "Batting Cage" (practice questions) there are several lines of questions, ranging from the basics of baseball rules and equipment up to specific questions about current and former players, the teams' postseason histories, legendary players (Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, etc.), ballparks and other subjects. When you play the game, of course, you can't select the subject of the question, only the difficulty, but when you do the practice mode, you get 10 questions from each category, with generally increasing difficulty, so that's a good way to prepare for the game. For questions you easily already know, you can select the answer before the voice is finished asking it, which helps to speed the game up. But don't wait too long to answer. If you're having trouble and pondering (or more likely, if your team is debating the correct answer), you only get a few seconds after he finishes asking the question to answer before the game "buzzes" and you're out.

The Boston and New York versions each have a man's voice with a city-appropriate accent to tell you what to do (check the Snap TV Website to hear the obnoxious accents, if you like), ask the questions and recite the answers. It's a nice touch, even if they are each a bit over the top with the accents at times, but it's still better than some generic, nondescript, midwestern accent, anyway. I wonder if they'll come up with a Twins Trivia Game and have someone with a Minnesoooota eaccent, dontyaknow?

Play occurs as a three-inning contest in which two sides take turns trying to answer the trivia questions. Pretty standard, so far. You get up to four "hits" (correctly answered questions) per inning, but you only get one "out" (wrong answer) and your turn is over. It seems kind of backwards, that you can get four hits but only one out, but I think if you did it the other way around, giving three outs per inning and allowing the player to answer questions until they got one wrong, they could make it extremely boring for the othey player(s). As it is, a typical game might take 15-20 minutes or so, and you're usually not sitting there doing nothing for more than a couple of minutes, which is not so bad.

You can try for a single, double, triple or home run, with difficulty increasing as the number of total bases does. The "Single" questions are almost ridiculously easy, but since you only get up to four hits in an inning, taking singles questions only gets you only one run per inning, maximum. I found that for my level of knowledge, I could correctly answer the "Double" level questions about 80% of the time, but that "Triples" and "Home Runs" were quite difficult, even for the Yankee stuff, which I like to think I know pretty well.

If you end up tied at the end of three innings, you go to (surprise!) Extra Innings. In this mode, the computer selects the difficulty level of the question, and you have to get a question right in the same inning in which your opponent answers one wrong in order to win. This goes pretty fast, which is also a good thing. Getting an inning or two of free baseball for the ticket on chich you spend $30 or $40 or $50 or more is one thing. Sitting there waiting for a computer/DVD game to end can be positively boring, so the way they've set this up definitely helps.

The Good: The packaging is compact, and the game play is easily understandable. The game itself frequently incorporates video highlights of players and games, both in the questions and the answers, so if you like watching some of the highlights on ESPN Classic and haven't the atience to wait for them to do a special on Jim Rice or Ron Guidry, then you can get a little fix here. And if you're a know-it-all trivia buff like me, you can show off by telling your friends about the answer to the question before the game has a chance to do it. Then, while the game plays the video and the obnoxiously-accented narrator explains the answer to the question, which is of course different from what you just said, you can feel silly. Or at least I can.

The Bad: They tell you that there are over 500 questions in each game, and there are about 10 or 12 categories in the practice mode, with 10 questions per session, which means that there should be 4 or 5 different sessions for each category, on average. "Five hundred" is a lot when you're talking about home runs or sacks of money, but when it comes to trivia questions, it's really not so much. For comparison, some of the Trivial Pursuit DVD games have 400-500 questions on the DVD alone, plus another 1800-2000 or more on cards, and even those start to repeat after you've played the game 4 or 5 times.

The Ugly: It's a bit nit-picky, but the $24.95 price tag seems kinda steep for a single-disc game that has 80% fewer questions than its competitors from Trivial Pursuit, which have boards and pieces, play up to six players, and are generally just more fun and engaging. However, you can get it for about $20 from Amazon, and it's still better than sitting around on the porch challenging your friends to answer obscure questions about your favorite baseball team, if only marginally better.