Review by ff7bigfan
"Free Wheel of Fortune, not a bad distraction for a little while"
Located at wheel.station.sony.com is the Wheel of Fortune Online game. Wheel of fortune has been on television for several years. One of the reasons for this is because it can be an exciting and fun task trying to solve the puzzles for yourself at home, while the contestants struggle with it on the show. For those that have never seen Wheel of Fortune, it is a game show. You have three contestants competing against each other. Contestants can spin the wheel, and guess a letter, and if that letter is one of the letters in the puzzle, than that letter is shown, and they get whatever they spun times the number of times that letter shows up. They can also buy a vowel, or attempt to solve the puzzle. The person who solves the puzzle gets to keep whatever they accumulated during that round.
The gameplay in this is very similar to the actual show. When you first start out, you have the choice of three different types of play, revolving around three different subjects. The game types include classic wheel of fortune, college wheel of fortune, and soap city wheel of fortune. After you have chosen which type of game to play, you are given the choice of a character icon. You have the choice of a few different characters including goofy looking old people, sophisticated looking young people, rich people, muscular people, etc. The character avatars change with each style of game you choose to play.
After you have decided upon which style of play you wish to enter, and you have chosen a character avatar, you can choose from a lobby of your choice, in either beginner, intermediate, or advanced lobbies. If you do not want to choose a lobby, you can go to quick start single player, which puts you in a game on your own, or quick start multi-player, which attempts to find a game that you can join against other people that want to play.
One of the problems encountered when playing multi-player is the lack of people that are even there. Just looking around at each of the lobbies, for each of the different types of games, I found only a couple of lobbies that had more than 10 or 15 people. A lot of lobbies had 3 or 4, or 6 people in them. Although you can only have a maximum of three people per game, it is a bit disappointing that you may be able to find only a few people at any one time that may want to play. This problem was encountered more in the college edition, and the soap city edition, but it is a problem that could easily be fixed. Rather than having three rooms for each difficulty level, it may be a smarter move for the developers to shrink it down to just one room, since it would not really cause that much clutter.
During the game, you will play three different puzzles. Each puzzle is random, with categories arising like person, place, thing, phrase, etc. If you join a game with other people, the order is decided by an initial puzzle. The category is given just below the puzzle, and the letters of each word are shown in white tiles on the board. Random letters fill in one by one, until one person manages to submit the correct answer of the puzzle. This person is the first to go.
From here, the game plays out like the regular game. The person whose turn it is to go can spin the wheel, and guess a letter, buy a vowel, which costs $250 each, or solve the puzzle. The dollar values on the wheel range from the low hundreds, into the thousands. As each round goes by, a greater value is added to the wheel. There is also a square for bankrupt, which means you lose all your money, and your turn, or lose a turn. Between each round is a commercial break, that brings up a new screen, and gives you the chance to click on a link to go back to the game, and gain a free spin, or extra time to guess the answer to the final puzzle. With each turn, you have a total of 30 seconds to do something before losing your turn.
If you are the winner of the game, you get to play in the bonus round. This is one small puzzle where specific letters are given, if they are in the words, and you get to select three more letters to be given to you. Nothing really exciting, as it is just you trying to figure out the word or words from the letters that were given.
If you play single player, it is almost entirely the same as multi-player. The only difference is that instead of a timer, you have a set number of moves placed on you. This means that if you lose a turn, the number is reduced by one. It is set at 5 turns, so if you lose a turn a lot, or you are unlucky with the wheel, and keep spinning bankrupt, you will not be able to finish that puzzle, and you will move on to the next one.
For the graphics that are there, they are not too bad. Overall, the graphics are simple, as there are not many graphics to recreate. One of the nice touches is the character avatars. They come in all different types of people, and during the game, you can make one of three different facial expressions including a goofy grin, a “What‘s up with that” look, and a “Damn you, I knew the answer but you took it from me” look. The backgrounds reflect the setting of the game, whether it be the romantic feeling of soap in the city, the college atmosphere of the college edition or the regular studio production look of classic wheel of fortune. Although they do not contain too much detail the backgrounds work just fine in the game.
The sound department is one of the best elements of the game. There are a few game show sound effects, including the classic wheel of fortune song, along with other noises for spinning the wheel, getting a wrong answer, going bankrupt, and even going onto a new round. Each of these sound effects are recreated perfectly, and sound just like the real show. Also included for your enjoyment is a list of phrases that you can say to the other players. These phrases are things like hi, thanks, great game, bye, silly me, etc. You can also hear sound effects based on each of the facial expressions that you can make.
Difficulty really depends on your ability to solve the puzzle. The layout of the game is fairly easy to understand, and use easily after only a few minutes. Choosing the right letters is really based on luck until you get a clue as to what the answer is. The one thing that really makes the game difficult is the freedom the developers have used in handing out free spins. Between each round, each player has the opportunity to gain a free spin, so you may have to go through up to a possibility of 8 turns in a round before you get a chance to go. This is the extreme though, but even having to wait a two or three turns may mean that another player will solve the puzzle and gain the money. This fact, combined with the fact that there are only three rounds can make it a little difficult to accumulate the money to win the game.
Wheel of fortune is a fairly good game, if you are into a game like this. The developers have done a fairly good job on most elements, so wheel of fortune fans will be able to get a good amount of enjoyment out of it. Another positive element in it’s favor is the fact that it is free. By simply signing up with the station, you can play this, along with many other classic game shows. If you are in the mood for a simple game that does not require too much thinking or effort, than this is a great game to try.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/10/02, Updated 06/10/02
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