Smarty Pants Wii
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
On the face of it, Smarty Pants is the ideal game for the Wii. The console has managed to appeal to those who normally wouldn't attempt to pick up a game controller. Mothers, grandparents and just about anyone else who has previously ignored the form of entertainment we enjoy so much, have suddenly become interested. Of course a lot of these people really enjoy quiz games. You only have to look at the popularity of TV quiz shows to realise that. Smarty Pants, with its collection of a whopping 20,000 questions could very well be the ideal stocking filler this Christmas.
Smarty Pants offers you three ways to play the game. You can opt for Solo, Friends or Family modes. In Solo mode you'll simply answer as many questions you can within the time limit. Correctly answering four questions in a row will earn you bonus time. You keep going until the time has run out. Friends is the game's competitive mode. Here you'll play against up to three opponents. You can play different length games (the length determines the number of rounds you'll play) and you can either have a wager or countdown scoring system. The wager scoring system requires you to play a shooting gallery type mini-game before each round of questions. If the subject you are about to answer questions on is one you know plenty about you'll want to hit as many targets that will increase your score as possible. If your opponent doesn't know much about the subject however they can decrease the total score by hitting the targets that will decrease the score. Whatever total you're left with at the end of the shooting mini-game is what you'll earn for each correct answer. The countdown scoring method gives you a set number of points for each question and the points decrease so the quicker you answer the question, the more points you get. Family mode requires two or more players to work co-operatively to answer a set amount questions within the time limit. The player (or players) who aren't answering the questions will occasionally have to perform various motions with the Wii remote in order to slow down time.
Smarty Pants has its share of positives. The 20,000 questions in the game are not only localized to the country you live in, they are also tailored to the age of the player. Before you play either mode you'll be asked to input your age. I played the Solo mode first at my real age, 35, and then as a 9-year old. The questions I had to answer when playing at my real age were the kind you would expect from a game of this nature. Rather pleasingly, when playing as a 9-year old the majority of the questions where what a child of that age could answer. There were some simple history questions for instance and questions about TV shows that a child of that age would most likely have watched. One of the problems with quiz games is that they tell you the correct answer when you get the answer wrong. Smarty Pants gives you the option to disable this which means you're going to extend the replay value of the game even though it's unlikely you'll get through the 20,000 questions very quickly. I haven't had the questions repeat on me yet after playing through a few dozen times which is good to see. The game allows you to use your Mii character as your avatar, which some players see as a good thing. In an attempt to mix things in the Friends mode you have Challenge Cards (that are earned when spinning the wheel to select your questions) that can give you an easier question, give someone else a more difficult question, take away one wrong answer and even give you more time to answer a question.
There are some problems with the game. The Solo mode is uninteresting as there is no way to play against an AI opponent. Some of the motion controls in the game feel forced and just don't fit in with the game at all. When you answer a question in Friends mode you have to press and hold the A button and swing the remote upwards. Why not just press the A button? Also in Friends mode you have to spin the wheel to see what questions you will have. Once again you hold the A button and perform a motion with the remote. Again why not just press a button? There are even a few mini-games where you have to swing the remote around and they seem pointless. Then you have the Jump, Dance, Wave and Shake motions you have to make in Family mode, in an attempt to slow down the timer when not answering the question. It's all needless. The option to disable all of this motion-sensing activity should have been included. Can you imagine granny shaking the remote around like she was a bartender mixing a cocktail? Perish the thought.
The presentation of the game is a little wanting to be honest. The game doesn't have much personality and the graphics are probably best described as functional. The presenter's voice isn't subtitled but this doesn't really cause any problems as the questions are shown in text and so are the tutorial messages in the game. During the Family mode the instructions to Jump, Dance, Wave and Shake are shouted through the speaker on the Wii remote but the instructions also appear in text next to your avatar on the screen so you'll know just what needs to be done with the Wii remote.
Smarty Pants is definitely better played as a multiplayer game. As a single-player game it all feels pretty pointless. When it comes down to it however, it's a solid quiz game that just has a few quirks. The lack of AI players to play against is a problem. The game doesn't even offer you the chance to play online. The game deserves praise for tailoring its questions to different age groups and for providing a co-operative way to play the game with the Family mode. The amount of questions on offer is also commendable. The motion gestures you have to perform feel pretty pointless however and you can't help but think that more effort could have been put in to inject some personality in the game.