Before the Japanese began sending people through foam Tetris shapes via conveyor belt, there was a golden age of the game show in America. Shows like The Match Game and Family Feud were primetime hits and the trickle down effect even led to niche off-shoots like Supermarket Sweep.
There’s still a feeling of nostalgia with many gameshows, today. Be it primetime or daytime, many generations grew up with Bob Barker, Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek and while many never have punched their ticket to the live audience show in California, for a much lower price you can live vicariously through an avatar contestant on the iPad.
Today we’ve put together three classic gameshows reincarnated on the iPad: Family Feud and Friends, Jeopardy HD, and Wheel of Fortune HD. Let’s jump right in!
Note: Though there are two versions of Family Feud in the App Store, I chose Family Feud and Friends because both are made by the same developer, but Family Feud and Friends was more recently updated and seems to be the more supported product going forward.
Perhaps no other gameshow has been through more host changes than Family Feud. Thankfully, for the iPad game, the reassuring voice exclaiming “Survey says!” remains the same throughout the game. In Family Feud and Friends, you can challenge Facebook friends to a few rounds of the Feud quite simply, but if you’d rather just pick up and play without badgering your pals, you will be randomly pitted against another user. The game is a dead ringer for the television show with the exception that you play as a one-person team and there is no time limit for responses.
As for gameplay, Family Feud has some nice features and a few annoyances. I appreciated that while typing (against the timer) there is some word prediction to assist players without outright giving away the answers. I also liked the “level-up” style of gameplay experience. I was not a fan of the freemium pay-for-play model that required me to either earn enough credits to start a new game, wait until the next day or pay for more credits. Thankfully, I had enough self-control to wait until a following day. But the other games offered paid add-ons as well and at least this one starts out as a free game.
Make no mistake, this game is a challenge. The puzzles were difficult and I wasn’t allowed to skate by with close answers. For instance, I had a puzzle that asked what are the top things people offer unwanted advice about. I tried “love” and “girlfriend,” but neither was accepted despite “love life” being the No. 1 answer. Some people will appreciate this level of vocabulary rule abiding, but others will find it disappointing. Finally, the Fast Money round is tough. You essentially need to guess all of the top answers in order to net the requisite 200 points to win the game. I was only able to do so about one out of six times.
Take home: The Feud is alive and well on the iPad, though this newer release brings some bad (credit system) with the good (social networking). It is free, though, versus the last iteration’s $6.99 price tag, so that could minimize some user nitpicking.
Developer: Sony Pictures Television
This is Jeopardy — three words that are etched into the brain of a young geek. I’ve always had a soft spot for trivia, so enjoying Jeopardy is second-nature. Even during the Tournament of Champions, when people like Ken Jennings make viewers like myself feel as though they’ve wasted their lives not reading Encyclopedias all day, I still enjoy it.
Jeopardy makes the leap to the iPad in the same vein as Family Feud: simulation. Jeopardy’s developer, however, starts you out with the option of making your avatar. I chose to let the computer pick my contestant avatar for me, and was assigned the avatar to the left in the picture below (with the feline signature).
As far a gameplay is concerned, if you’ve seen the show then there are no surprises here. What is heartening, though, is the attention to detail: at the beginning of each round, the categories are displayed one-by-one; there are the correct amount of Daily Doubles; and most importantly, the Final Jeopardy music is spot on. And, thankfully, Alex Trebek doesn’t give mini interviews before Double Jeopardy or belittle you when you can’t get the Double Jeopardy question.
There are only a couple of downsides to Jeopardy for the iPad. One is that the questions are multiple choice. Having multiple choice questions removes a certain challenge from the game as it provides a one-in-three chance of getting a question correct when you otherwise may have had no clue about the correct answer. The other downside is a result of the first: even the difficulty setting of hard is not intensely challenging. I ended up beating the nearest contestant by $30,000 when all was said and done.
For $1.99, Jeopardy HD is not hard to defend for fans of the show. I’m probably in the minority by wishing it weren’t multiple choice and the small attention to detail really makes the game shine.
Developer: Sony Pictures Television
If you download both Jeopardy HD and Wheel of Fortune HD, you’ll most definitely notice some similarities immediately, namely the use of a custom avatar. Since both games share the same developer, this is no surprise. Luckily, Wheel of Fortune HD also follows in Jeopardy’s footsteps of being a great incarnation of the show, with a few glaring exceptions.
Perhaps no other show needs its host(s) to have an accompanying avatar more than Wheel of Fortune. Pat Sajak and Vanna White are not only ageless, they are timeless and more so than Alex Trebek, they are missed in their element. Thankfully though, the gameplay is excellent.
Like the modern version of the televised show, the rounds begin with auto-completing toss-up puzzles. Then comes the much awaited moment of spinning the wheel, which is performed with a swiping motion.
You might as well spin the wheel with a quick flick; if you attempt to spin slowly (in an effort to strategically land on a particular dollar amount), the wheel will move more slowly but it still makes a similar number of rotations.
Skipping the turn of the computer players will become a necessity, but it’s a shame the app does not allow this to be an automatic setting. If you choose to play via Apple’s Game Center, you won’t have the option to skip which makes for more realism, but also means more investment. Expect to see “Waiting for Host …” fairly often. The only other complaint I have is a complete lack of timers. A player can wait at the letter-choosing screen as long as he/she wishes while attempting to mentally solve the puzzle. Nowhere is this as frustrating as it is in the Bonus Round. Being able to limitlessly determine possible answers is a akin to those contestants on the actual show who pretend to have trouble choosing their four allotted letters while they surreptitiously attempt to gain extra time to determine the answer.
At the end of the day though, it’s still a strong entry in the gameshow realm and even with its quirks it won’t disappoint most casual fans.
American gameshows are probably past their heyday, having been replaced with “reality” based competitions. Yet there’s something charming about picking up the iPad and remembering watching these shows in your pajamas at Grandma’s house. Is any of them a perfect port from television to iOS? No. Are they quite close and worth the pricetag? Most definitely.