"Having two people there to answer questions instead of three really changes the dynamic, and not for the better. A lot of the strategy is removed. All you must do to win is beat out the one guy. That’s actually not too terribly difficult if you know the answers to a lot of trivia, as I apparently do."
Merv Griffin was a genius. Years ago, he conceived the idea of “Jeopardy!” and it’s been testing American minds ever since. I still like watching when I happen to catch it on TV and my wife isn’t rushing to change the channel. Usually, I can get a few questions correct but wouldn’t finish better than second place if I were actually on the stage talking to Alex Trebek. For people like me who want to game on the go, there is Jeopardy! Teen Tournament.
The original Game Boy wasn’t particularly powerful. Before you stand even the most remote chance of enjoying Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, you need to remind yourself of that fact and embrace it fully. That’s because just about every hindrance that the system can pose to a good game of “Jeopardy!” rears its ugly head and detracts from your enjoyment. With that said, this is ultimately a game for people who want stimulating trivia on the go. That portion of the game, the developers got right. Mostly.
When you begin a round, you’ll be greeted by six categories of questions. These vary by random drawing, and if you don’t like them you can cancel out and choose a different set. The first time I played, I found that the subject of “Synonyms” came up three times out of six. That simply wouldn’t do, I thought, so I picked new ones and the problem of repeated categories disappeared. I would imagine that you won’t be able to play too many games before you’ve seen all of the topics a few times in the past and have everything memorized, but that’s more about cartridge space than it is developer ineptitude.
Hardware limitations crop up in a number of other ways, too. Your options for playing are twofold: you can play against a computer opponent (just one, mind you; not two), or you can play against another player. Having two people there to answer questions instead of three really changes the dynamic, and not for the better. A lot of the strategy is removed. All you must do to win is beat out the one guy. That’s actually not too terribly difficult if you know the answers to a lot of trivia, as I apparently do.
Categories range wildly, from simple things like “Toys & Games,” which I think has shown up in every computerized version of Jeopardy! that I’ve ever played, to more complicated topics like… water. The latter actually gave me a run for my money, since some of the answers are incredibly obscure. I’m not sure I could answer some of them even if I were still in high school and surrounded by textbooks. Problematically, some of the simplest of questions have really high cash value if you answer them correctly--like when I got $800 for knowing that a judge presides over the court--while more advanced ones might well show up where they’ll reward you with the least dough for a tough answer.
When you decide that you want to answer one of those questions, you have a minute to move a cursor around and select the various letters. Since the game supplies the “Who is” and “What are” and so forth, you only have to worry about entering two or three words of the response. This is normal and is how all the other games in the series have worked, so there are no complaints there except that the Game Boy seems to like causing you to extend your sweep of the letters one space further than intended. Then if you try to quickly delete the error, you could inadvertently choose to ‘END’ your answer, rather than removing the offending character. Oops!
The interface also can get in the way when you’re selecting which question you want to tackle next. After each question is either answered by a contestant or missed entirely, another can be chosen from the board. Rather than remember the category from which you pulled the last bit of trivia, the game resets to the far left so that you have to navigate over to the column of interest. This gets tiring pretty quickly and is a bewildering oversight, to say the least. So is the near absence of “Daily Double” questions. There’s only one available the whole game, rather than the standard three. Once again, the level of strategy necessary to win the day is significantly reduced. Perhaps this was a result of the limited number of players, but it still disappoints.
At least the game is portable, though. You can pause the action whenever you need to, which means it would have been an easy way for kids to pass the time on a road trip, then dash away for bathroom breaks without ruining the flow of the game. You play with just the one cartridge, too, passing the brick-shaped old Game Boy around like a hot potato. Because the game works well on the road, some may be happy to forgive its shortcomings and surrender to a few rounds of trivia-fueled fun. If you can find the cartridge and you have young teenagers to amuse on that trek across the state or nation, you could do a lot worse. Everyone else will want to stick to the home console versions, where the lack of concessions to poor hardware makes for a more enjoyable experience overall.
Staff review by Jason Venter (May 21, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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