While a nation of gamers has surely gotten a ton of mileage out of “Rock Band 2” and “Wii Sports” — possibly the two greatest party video games ever created, it’s time to move on ever so slightly. You might have played either of the “Rock Band” games or rival “Guitar Hero: World Tour” for hours at a time upon their release, but eventually, even the most dedicated “Rock Band” aficionados might cast about for another game to keep the gaming going once it’s gotten too late to justify continuing to disturb the neighbors. At a recent party my wife and I threw, that game was “Scene It: Box Office Smash” (rated T, $60 for game and controllers, $40 for game only, Xbox 360).
“Box Office Smash” is the second game in the long-running movie trivia series to hit the Xbox 360; like its predecessor, “Lights, Camera, Action,” it’s best played with the four, big-button controllers made for the game. If you’ve watched a game show, you’ll know how these work just from looking at them. Hit the giant button at the top to buzz in when applicable, then use one of the four color-coded buttons to answer a multiple choice question.
“Box Office Smash” features a number of different game types, from simple anagrams and crossword-style puzzlers to wackier ideas that require you to guess the movie based on a childlike drawing of one of its scenes. One of the first titles to use the Xbox 360’s new avatars, “Box Office Smash” moves along at a quick pace, with a short game taking around 15 minutes and a long game taking a half-hour, tops. The big button controllers are both easy and fun to use, with the only confusion coming from the fact that some game types require you to buzz in, while others let everyone take a stab at coming up with an answer. (Quicker answers net more points.)
While “Box Office Smash” improves upon “Lights, Camera, Action” by adding several new game types as well as online play, anecdotal evidence from friends of mine who’ve played both titles suggests that the sequel features fewer questions. I had repeated questions in just my second game. Some posters in the Xbox.com forums even complained of being asked the same question several times in a row within the same game.
On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a $7 downloadable Award Winners expansion pack that will add about 300 new questions and a new bonus round game type related to 20 award-winning films. This pack, available next week, should help relieve some of this repetition, although it’s worth asking why some of the content wasn’t included in “Box Office Smash” from the get-go.
While repeat questions would appear to reward the obsessive player who memorizes all the answers, “Box Office Smash” can be a bit too populist. After each round, players are awarded bonus points, based on a variety of categories. It’s clear that with many of the categories being things like, “slowest answer” and “most incorrect answers in a row,” the overall goal is to make sure everyone’s still in the hunt when the final round rolls along. Most gamers, including this one, appreciate the intent, but cutthroat players might like the option to turn these silly bonuses off. Instead, they’ll have to settle for an option to punish players for wrong answers.
Like many quiz games, a lot of weight is placed on the last round, which in all my playthroughs centered on a movie clip. While some questions relate directly to the clip you watch, others require familiarity with the movie in question. Because the final round increases your score multiplier for each consecutive correct answer, who wins or loses a game of “Box Office Smash” could just come down to who knows the most about whatever movie was shown during the final round.
As much fun as the controllers are, it’s a shame they’re only used in two “Scene It” games. Sony has the multidisciplinary “Buzz” trivia games on its PlayStation consoles. Why can’t Microsoft license “Scene It’s” ergonomic input device for use with, say, an MTV Games remake of “Remote Control,” an Xbox Live “You Don’t Know Jack” or titles featuring categories like sports, science and world events? We history majors need a chance to shine, too.
And maybe I’m spoiled from being about to export songs from the “Rock Band” game disc to my 360’s hard drive for use in “Rock Band 2,” but why isn’t a similar feature available for content from “Scene It: Lights, Camera, Action?” It’d go a long way toward solving the repeated-question problem for those of us who haven’t spent much time with the first game.