Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Special Editions Review

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Is a global phenomenon. Over ten years ago, it launched on UK television and has since been seen in over a hundred countries around the world. More than eighty countries have licensed the format and made (or are currently making) a version of the show. There are countries without widespread access to running water that have their own version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

There are many slight format alterations, even to the UK’s original, and the relative value of the ultimate prize varies in each national variant but the core of Millionaire, charity specials aside, is always the same. A single contestant answers a series of multiple choice questions, climbing a ladder of cash prizes along the way. Each contestant has a number of “lifelines” to aid them in their climb up the ladder and at certain points the prize value is secured so that a contestant cannot lose everything. Sometimes the number of questions varies, some of the lifelines change in localised variations and some countries added a countdown clock for each question.

[videoyoutube]doublesix’s console version of the game show returns to its original format. Fifteen questions, secure prizes at £1000 and £32,000 and no time pressure. We even see the return of the “Fastest Finger First” round in order to decide play order for multiple players. Unfortunately, something else has migrated from the television studio to this virtual version: the inexorably slow plod of the the format.

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The absence of a pressure-building timer counting down means that you’re free to spend as long as you like pondering your answers – or googling them. This works on the television show because there is real money at stake. The viewer invests in the contestant’s success or failure, depending on how likeable they are, and the long pauses between every step of the question-answer-question process builds suspense.

When all you’re playing for is a spot on the online leader board (there is no local leader board) and some bragging rights, the unskippable production surrounding the core of the game becomes frustrating. Every new game starts with the same introduction and it can’t be skipped. Even pausing the game doesn’t actually pause anything, it just overlays a menu while the game carries on below.

Likewise, the rigmarole between questions can’t be skipped. Some of the shorter sequences in the lifeline process do seem to be skippable, although there are some sudden jump cuts in the game’s natural editing that make it difficult to tell if my button taps were causing the jumping. There is no on screen “skip this” prompt so I was left tapping the X button indiscriminately, trying to speed things along. And then I’ve inadvertently chosen A as my answer, with no way to back out. It seems that the only presentation point of accuracy not brought over into the console version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire is the endless repetition of the question, “is that your final answer?”.

The big-headed, long-limbed host is reminiscent in style to the console-quiz show’s indisputable king, Buzz. Unfortunately there’s no charm or wit to this character and although the appearance is good enough and the sparse voice overs are competent (although not provided by Chris Tarrant), the host just isn’t charismatic enough to make the interstitial presentation aspects of the game worth enduring.

It seems that the game is set up for plentiful DLC support in the future, with a couple of options already available in the single-issue movie pack or the South Park special add on pack. The movie pack adds questions and limits you to a single subject which had a peculiar propensity for questions about Nanny McPhee, and kid’s movies in general, during my playtime but does add another 600+ questions to the game.

[drop]The more fleshed-out South Park add on fills the virtual studio with the TV show’s instantly recognisable characters and adds some presentational quirks like new camera angles and South Park-esque reaction voice work to the answer reveal. The South Park pack is for stalwart fans of the show only, though. Plenty of questions about specific show titles left me perplexed as to whether fans really do remember the name of episode fifteen in season three.

It’s undeniably well made, with high production values on the front end and on screen graphics that match those of the TV show nicely. However, there are too many frustrations in the mechanics of how it all works and the tedious, plodding game speed to recommend this to anyone but a die hard fan. In fact, it’s perhaps even an admission that the format itself is now past its best since this version reverts back to the original, rather than any one of the current formats. So it’s difficult to recommend to anyone that isn’t a former die hard fan who wasn’t very keen on the more recent format alterations; a very specific niche.

Pros:

  • The visual presentation is solid.
  • Plenty of questions make repetition unlikely.
  • The format is proven to be astoundingly popular.

Cons:

  • It is frustratingly slow from the very start.
  • Limited voice over lines get repetitive and grate very quickly.
  • Single player nature of the game makes it unsuitable for parties.
  • No offline leader board option.

If you always dreamed of being on Who Wants to be a Millionaire but don’t care for cash prizes, this is a game for you. If you love multiple choice trivia and don’t mind listening to the same stock lines of voice over, delivered without much verve or character, then you’ll probably get along with this. If you like quizzes and have a particular desire for wait-your-turn local-only multiplayer with online-only leader boards, then it seems that Millionaire was made for you. Otherwise, it’s difficult to recommend.

Score: 3/10

Game reviewed from the PSN version.

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11 Comments

  1. Ouch. Does seem mad that u can just google the answers with no time limit.

  2. No Chris Tarrant, no buy, Simples

    • To be honest, that’s why I couldn’t stand the program “But we don’t want to give you that!”…..STFU Tarrant!

  3. Thanks for the review, i was thinking about picking this up but you’ve saved me from disappointment.

  4. ive still got the who wants to be a millionaire game on ps1. if i weren’t moving out next month an low on money id probably pick this up despite the bad review.

  5. I bought it and the south park pack when it came out. It is quite slow but I think the score is a little low. Love the south park ones and I bought it mainly to see if there will be the Simpsons, futurama, etc in the future.

  6. Got it in the sale. Quite like it, but yeah, needs to be speeded up.

    • Me too and yeah it needs a skip button for some bits. IMO 3 out of 10 is a bit low. I’d give it a 5.

  7. I’m probably being nit picky here but I have to disagree with your con about the game being unsuitable for parties. First of all you kind of know what you are getting into when you buy it. The formula hasn’t changed that much over the last 10 years and I’ve never seen two contestants answering the questions together on that show before. Also, I imagine the experience for people who are not playing the game isn’t that much different from the one you’d have if you were watching the show on TV. If everyone just changed the channel because he/she wasn’t the person who was answering the questions the show would have been cancelled a long time ago. No, it’s actually quite fun to guess with other people around. :)

    • The couples specials and celebrity ones often have two contestants

  8. Almost temped to buy this for the south park dlc.

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