In 1999, millions of viewers such as myself helped turn ABC's Who Wants to be a Millionaire into the year's surprise smash hit, helping to bring back the game show as an American prime-time favorite. As soon as I heard that a CD-ROM version was available (a mere three months after the show's debut), I snatched it up as fast as I could. The result was about as perfect a transition from television to CD-ROM game as is possible. Unfortunately, this game show just doesn't work quite as well at home.
Part of the excitement behind the show is the high stakes and suspense due to taking chances and potentially losing lots of cash. With the CD-ROM version, though, no actual reward awaits you other than a substantial total posted on the high score board. Unlike the show, you get as many shots at the million as you want -- not just one -- so you have absolutely nothing to lose by attempting every question. At one point I missed the $500,000 question, knocking me back down to $32,000 as a final total. My response? "Oh well, I'll try again." Totally different than what I'd be saying if I were actually in New York sitting across from Regis Philbin in such a situation.
Millionaire's focus on individuality represents another fault as a home trivia game. While this makes for great television, it severely limits the fun factor of multi-player participation. Literally as many people who can fit around a keyboard can play the Fastest Finger round, but only one will come out as winner to play for the next ten minutes or so. Sure, the losers could sit around and help out the winner on any tough ones, but wouldn't this be "phoning a friend" a bit more than rules allow?
On the other hand, if you prefer a one-player trivia game, Millionaire performs admirably, but not as well as others out there. Why is this, you ask? Easy questions! While the first few questions do often present a greater challenge than those on the show (don't be surprised if your check reads "$0.00" a time or two), they generally do not. This means that you are forced to waste your time by answering such common knowledge questions as "How many chambers are in the heart?" or "What was the name of Han Solo's ship in Star Wars?". Like the show, however, the questions increase in difficulty along with your success, and knowledge of a great many things is necessary to actually win the grand prize.
When things do get a bit tough, you of course have the three lifelines available. Much to my chagrin (though keeping in the spirit of the show), the 50:50 lifeline left me with the correct answer and the one I wasn't sure about more times than not. Phoning Regis' friends, though, usually proved helpful, as did polling the audience. Commendably, the Ask the Audience lifeline is based on actual statistics gained from an online poll and were not just created out of the blue. In other words, the developers aren't out to thwart you here by swaying you toward the wrong answer.
One thing that did not disappoint me about Millionaire was its undeniable Jellyvision touch. Just as in the developer's insanely popular and irreverent You Don't Know Jack series, Regis isn't afraid to throw in the snide remark or downright insult. If you walk away with no cash, he might even say something like, "Well, look at the bright side ... at least you don't have to pay taxes." There are a couple of other pleasant surprises in the vein of YDKJ, but I won't ruin them for you.
When compared to the YDKJ series, though, Millionaire pales in comparison. Jellyvision did an admirable job with the subject matter at hand and has created a satisfactory one-player trivia game. Still, YDKJ remains much more entertaining, no matter how many participants. Overall, Millionaire only makes for a decent home trivia game at best. This one's for diehards only.
Graphics: The graphics strongly resemble those in the show, though I must admit I was a bit disappointed with Regis' pixelated appearance.
Sound: Regis' voice comes in loud and clear, along with the show's dramatic music. Unfortunately, the questions are not read individually by Regis and his phrases often repeat themselves.
Enjoyment: Though a great simulation of the show, playing through so many easy questions may not make you want to be a millionaire after a while.
Replay Value: It's a solid representation of the show you might want to play over and over (if you're a diehard) until the questions start to repeat.
People who downloaded Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? have also downloaded:
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: 2nd Edition, Jeopardy! 2nd Edition (2000), Wheel of Fortune, Game of Life, Monopoly (1999), Wheel of Fortune Golden Edition, Tetris Worlds, Oregon Trail Deluxe
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