As quick and easy party games go, those that ape quiz shows are pretty much slam dunks. Put some quirky presentation and mini-games alongside a healthy bank of questions and there’s fun for any number of people, as you pit your knowledge, wits and reflexes against one another. Knowledge is Power is the latest shot at the genre from Sony, but where the cult classic Buzz relied on having a bespoke game show-esque controller, you’re now encouraged to pick up your phone to play instead.
At the heart of this game is Sony’s PlayLink system, asking all the players to download the Knowledge is Power app for iOS or Android – sorry Windows Mobile users, you’re a dying and unsupported breed. While the PS4 plays through the animations on screen, reads out the questions through the TV and occasionally shows you picture clues, you’ll all be interacting with the game on your phone to pick categories, answer questions as quickly as possible and dodge the incoming Power Plays.
There’s more to this multiple choice quiz than just getting the correct answer, as you’re also awarded points based on how quickly you react. It’s a good thing too, because some of the questions are far too banal or the questions too easy to deduce via simple logical.
As a group you’re asked to pick categories from a selection of four, which tend to be related to the one that preceded it. Pick a question that figures you might have a general knowledge of The Sopranos and you’ll see the Mafia pop up as a topic a round later; correctly pinpoint Kiev as the capital of Ukraine, and the next round could lead to the hilarious shift of trying to figure out what debilitating affliction hampered Dostoyevsky’s life.
Once you head down the path of one particular line of questions, it feels like there’s no way back, potentially disadvantaging someone who’s not so hot on Ancient Greek mythology or pop culture references. You do get a choice, and if there’s no majority on a particular topic you can either force the question with a limited veto or let the game pick randomly between the choices. It can make a 12 question, 20-30 minute quiz a foregone conclusion depending on the disparate knowledge of the audience.
Various things help to try and level the playing field, such as the Power Plays that each player can unleash before a question. Freeze means you have to tap your way through ice to answer, Gloop has to be wiped off the screen to see the answers, Bombles bounce around and can put you in a time out if tapped and Nibblers eat away a few random letters, ever-so-slightly obscuring the text. You always have three to pick from, but if you’re behind, you’re likely to get a Double Play, combining two Power Plays and potentially giving you an advantage.
Every fourth round is also a mini-game, played out in the same order. You first play Linking to connect things like characters with film franchises, Sorting to quickly swipe into the correct category, such as fruit and veg (trickier than it sounds with more obscure things!) and finally the Steps of Destiny.
This is really the great leveller, as a comparatively quick fire series of questions, with all your results up to that point giving those in the lead only a slight headstart up its steps. At this point, it’s all about the speed of your answer, and you can get multiple stabs at it, as you leap up more steps the quicker you get the right one. The step you’re on determines the Power Play you have, and you simply choose who to play it on, meaning that the leader will inevitably get ganged up, but being nullified if there’s just two of you playing.
The connection to your PlayStation 4 is entirely dependent on your home’s Wi-Fi network and the PS4’s ability to broadcast its availability. A BT HomeHub had us having to fall back to using the PS4’s local IP address to connect, or you can go further and switch the PS4 over to a Hot Spot mode and have to connect to it directly. On the other hand, testing with a Plus.net router worked seamlessly. It’s a shame that this kind of thing can’t be made 100% seamless, but at least Sony have built in the fallbacks for when networking fails.
While the game is mainly about playing with the PlayStation 4, the mobile app does also have a simple pass and play mode. Two teams take turns to answer, with the winner the fastest to get the right answers to their five questions. You’re able to fling Power Plays at the other team and see the question they’re about to get, but if you don’t know the answer the only thing you lose is time as you simply tap other answers until you get it right. It removes a lot of the pressure.
Knowledge is Power makes good use of PlayLink to open the door to those more familiar with tapping on phones and browsing the internet than knowing where that Square button is meant to be, and that’s its real strength. Outside of that, it has a few other ideas, but ends up as a fairly middle of the road quiz game that’s easy enough to put on the telly and your phones for a quick test of knowledge.