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Who Wants To Be a Millionaire: 2nd Edition

video game review video game review Video Game Review: Who Wants To Be a Millionaire: 2nd Edition Publisher: Sony
Category: Puzzle
Platform: PS1, PC, Mac
ESRB Rating: Everyone    Release Date: June 2000

Overall Rating: 1.5 Stars out of 4

Review by Tom Allen
1½ Stars out of 4
(Review of PS1 version)

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" is a fantastic television show, well deserving of its Emmy win. The bad news is that the show has become tiresome. The producers still make Regis ask for final answers (instead of employing a lock-in system with a simple button for the contestant to press). Furthermore, Regis still explains every detail associated with the lifelines once they are used. The lifelines do not need explanation, especially after their second use within an episode.

Despite my fading enthusiasm for the series (I wish it would return to a series of specials so it can be something to look forward to again), I was expecting the game to breathe new life into the franchise and provide what the television show can not: interactivity.

I was half right and half wrong. I was right that the game has more potential than the television series. Furthermore, I was right that actually "being" in the hot seat was vastly different than I imagined from watching the show. As much as I liked to fantasize about conserving lifelines, that strategy quickly falls to the wayside after several hours of losing at the game.

I was wrong in assuming that the game would match the television show's visual quality. I marvel at the set design and light direction and how each of those two elements changes at the threshold levels of $1,000 and $32,000.

For example, in the show, you can see the audience behind the contestant until one of the thresholds is passed. In the game, you can't see the audience, and what's more, you can't even see yourself or Regis! The chairs are completely empty, like something out of this summer's "Hollow Man."

The game does not use one single trademark lighting effect from the show. The only part of the set you see in the game is the contestant's circle; you do not see the background of the set with the yellow stairs.

Half of the Millionaire experience is the lights and set. With these elements gone, the only things left are the questions and music. Thankfully, the music has not been re-done. Every theme from the show exists in the game, albeit with some load pauses when the game switches tracks.

Wait! I forgot Regis! Regis does an admirable job with the voice-overs for this game. I enjoyed every one of his remarks, even ones I already heard. Regis has some clever lines in this game that he should also be using for the show. Some people like Regis; some people hate him. I enjoy Regis, and I don't mind saying so.

Regis' phone-a-friends are annoying, though. They are chatty as hell. I would have liked to see Regis call Kathie Lee Gifford, or even husband Frank. That psychic friend got a little too much air time, as did the ubiquitous question about that damn Denny's Grand Slam breakfast.

Actually, I didn't much mind the repeating questions; they gave me a chance to win! This game is very tough, perhaps even tougher than playing along at home. I am glad the developers let you cheat by pausing the action while you consult your globe, atlas, or dictionary. (Note: Reading a question about Super Mario Brothers was a surreal experience on the competing PlayStation.)

Developer Celador should be tarred and feathered for the lack of three- and four-player support. The two-player mode is a complete bust. A single fastest-finger question determines who plays first; that's it. I counted four consecutive occasions in which neither myself nor my competitor knew the correct order to a fastest finger question. The game is so stupid that it does not even give a new question even after several repeated, failed attempts. Regis just keeps verbally spanking you until you hit the reset button.

I also don't see the point of having a time limit since you can pause the game. The only result is that cheating requires you to pause and unpause if you need to see the question or choices again.

While I was severely disappointed with this title, I kept coming back to it. In fact, after the third day's play, I was addicted. Obsessed with winning the million, I played for six hours straight. I began cheating well past hour three.

The game does capture the suspenseful spirit of the show (and the music never ceases to be entertaining), but I have to grade this game low, simply because its cheapskate production values are appalling.

This game could have easily received an "A" had the developers had the same commitment to quality as the show's producers. Fans of the show will enjoy the game, but these people, especially, will be expecting more.

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