Q - What is Trivial Pursuit?
A - It's a very expensive board game for the upwardly mobile and one of the hottest licencing deals ever. Domark has the deal and has produced the computer version of the game.
Q - Ordinarily would this auger well for the product?
A - Possibly not. Domark has produced more than its fair share of dodos. Absolute dodos, in fact.
Q - What might one have expected?
A - Silly bleeps, poor visual representations of the counters and the board, things changing colour due to attribute problems, limited choice of questions, little imagination.
Q - But?
A - Domark has done an absolutely wonderful job. This conversion is superb.
When board games get converted to the computer the odds of the end result being something worth playing are pretty small. Off-hand only Scrabble has really stood out by managing to exceed or at least show different aspects of the original.
Trivial Pursuit the computer game always sounded like a real loser. The essence of the game seemed too fragile to be recreated on a computer. Part of the fun is arguing about whether or not an answer is correct, letting people off and giving (or refusing to give) hints. How do you code that?
The answer is you don't try.
Domark decided not to make the computer in any way check your answer, it just asks the question, you fight about the answer and then press Enter.
The computer then tells you the right answer and you press Yes or No depending on whether you were right or not.
It means you can have all the shouting matches you want...
Q - What's where?
A - First of all there are the main menu screens which you can revert to at any time. Then there is the main screen of the board which alternates with the drawing room 'question asking' scene whilst you are actually playing.
The actual board takes up about two-thirds of the screen and has been changed from the original so that it is now a rectangular shape. To the right are wedge information details. Below is list of the subject titles which you can move around with a joystick, highlighting those which represent possible squares for you to land on.
On the Question Screen the bottom two-thirds display the drawing room in which TP asks the questions. The upper half is where the actual question is printed. When a question features a visual display the projection screen hangs down from the top of the drawing-room screen.
If you choose the analysis option then a series of simple bar graphs appear indicating who is getting most questions right and on what subjects.
ART AND LITERATURE
Q - Has Domark retained the original questions?
A - Some of them. Ardent Trivial Pursuit (board game) players will recognise a few but, to Domark's credit, many new questions have been developed.
Q - Such as?
A - Questions that can use the sound and graphics of the machine. For example, questions on geography use visual ideas like recognising a country from an abstract geometrical representation of it.
Q - Other examples?
A - Music questions where tunes are played using the Beep.
The graphics are not bad at all. I particularly like the way a projection screen comes down in the usual drawing room and the graphic shape is superimposed on that. Again it reflects effort and attention to detail. There are all sorts of little things you notice after playing the game a while. Question time is measured by a candle in the drawing room gradually burning down, the hands move on the grandfather clock showing how long the game has lasted so far. If you have a music question little lights wink on the hi-fi.
The board is a reasonable representation of the real thing and after your dice throw all the squares you could move are shown by flashing squares on the board. Confusing at first but you do get used to it.
Other displays show what wedges you have and how close to completion other players are.
SCIENCE AND NATURE
Q - How is Trivial Pursuit presented?
A - The box contains two cassettes, the game as such including a few hundred questions and an extra cassette containing 3,000 more questions.
Q - What is remarkable about the question tape?
A - It uses some new system called Uniload which means the one data cassette tape is good for several computers. Other data tapes are promised, too.
Q - What input system has been used when playing the game?
A - Lots of menus where options are highlighted using joystick commands, although you may use the keyboard if you wish. Very neat.
In the opening menu you enter the names of the players and select other basic options like sound-on and whether there will be a time limit on answers (a digital clock clicks the seconds away). Here too you may load up new question files (although you may be instructed to do this automatically by the game should a category of questions become depleted). A last option - Analysis - provides a detailed analysis of who is getting most questions right and on what subject. This can be invaluable when it comes to finding a player's weak spot on the final question...
More evidence that Domark has really tried with this one is a character called TP who acts as quiz master and dart thrower. Let me explain ...
Having selected your subject option, the board screen disappears to reveal an elegant drawing room. In strides TP, a large nosed, er thing, that wears a variety of different hats depending on what category of question is being asked. It bleeps and there are clip clop sound effects for footsteps. If you take too long to answer TP strides up and down and taps his foot.
Q - How many people can play Trivial Pursuit?
A - Up to six.
Q - Can one person play alone?
A - Yes, provided you are honest about whether you are cheating or not.
Q - Do you play against the computer?
A - No, it just keeps track of how many you get right and times you.
Q - Can new players join in once the game has started?
A - Yes, there is a special facility to enable this. You can also change the names of players at any time if someone 'takes over' someone else's hand.
Trivial Pursuit, the computer game, is about as sporting as the original. The questions are set at about the same level of difficulty as the original.
As ever there are sometimes clues in the question and much of the time an intelligent guess may be enough to win the point. Remembering old television programs and the top twenty from 1964 will help too.
Domark promises future specialised versions of the game, ie new add-on data tapes. Baby Boomer and so on, just like the board game. These are planned for the new year.
Q - Is Trivial Pursuit (the computer game) entertaining?
A - Yes, incredibly so. It'll be the perfect Christmas present for aunts and uncles not sure exactly what sort of software to buy and it may even get the whole family sitting around the Yuletide monitor screen.
Q - Is it a Classic?
A - It certainly is.
Q - Is this a turn up for the books?
A - You're telling me.