Wheel of Fortune
Windows - 1998
Description of Wheel of Fortune
I want to spin, Vanna
Hmm.... My relationship to game-shows is slightly different than the average person probably. You see, my mother worked for Heater-Quigly back in the game-show hot era of the 70s. They produced famous American TV Game Shows like Hollywood Squares and Gambit. As a child, I went to company picnics and met all the stars. Watched them play baseball and show off their grand egos. I even went to the shows often and saw how everything worked backstage and how the audiences are told what to do and when. How contestants were first interviewed for the right attitude and also coached on their behavior.
It all had an interesting impact on me. I realized stars were just plain people and nothing more, and game shows were pretty fake really. This left me immune to all the hype. I was even in a game-show once as a child, but that's another story. Ever since this time, I avoided game-shows like the plague, its hard to watch something you don't believe in. Of course I did sit through the odd show of Jeapardy , which I have a high amount of respect for. It's one of the few shows with really intelligent contestants. As a matter of fact, I met a contestant once on an outing to a hermit's house down in San Diego with a friend. The poor visitor was practicing all weekend in a terrified sweat. I never did find out how he did.
I, of course, also did catch the odd showing of Wheel of Fortune in the 80s. Vanna White and her then popular anorexic physique strolling across the stage to turn letters and show prizes all the while Charlie O'Donnell got to do the talking and interacting with the contestants. Made her look like a paper doll. I wasn't very impressed since she seemed to me worse than Barbie (yeah, I know, I didn't like Barbie either). Well, nearly 15 years down the road and it's all coming back to haunt me. Game-shows haven't changed in that time but Vanna White certainly has!
Come on, give me the big money!
Wheel of Fortune is one of the Hasbro titles that came out in the December rush. It lets the player participate as a contestant and brings the feel and atmosphere of being there. Fantasy prizes are on offer, from hang-gliders to medieval castles. It's all for fun, darn. I mean I could really use a castle. Charlie O'Donnell does a little introductory chat at the opening when you select a game. There are three types of games to select. Normal, Solo and Tournament. Normal mode allows up to 3 contestants. which can be either all "human" players or a combination of human and computer run players. Within Normal mode you may select either timed games, standard is 15 minutes, with fast being 10 minutes and slow, 20 minutes. Or, you can select games that are played in Rounds, so 3, 4, or 5 Rounds.
Solo play means it is only one player, no other contestants and can be used to train against the timer. So, again you can select timed games or Round games. Tournament games, on the other hand, require 3 human players with scores in the high score. So, three different contestant names must have played previously in order for them to compete against each other.
Once you've chosen which style to play, you are invited to the Hollywood like front doors of Wheel of Fortune and an introduction by Vanna herself. She can speak! If, well, with a slightly accented English in which she drops her Gs on the ends of "ing" words. But, for the most part her voice is pleasant and not too annoying. I mean it is a game-show and she has to do those, "Allllll riiight!" sentences when someone does a good job and wins a good deal of fantasy cash. You begin by receiving a word, sentence or phrase to solve and spinning that wheel with the money numbers listed on it, all the while hoping you don't land on "Loose A Turn" or "Bankrupt" wedges. With every 15 minute round, there is a special money amount added or a surprise wedge.
Go for a spin! When the spin is over, the letters are presented and you can select your letter guess as to what is in the phrase. If you are wrong, the turn is handed over. If you are right you get cash for each letter in the phrase and can spin again, buy a vowel, or solve the phase! The audience is there too, just like I remembered. Cheering and shouting and awwwwing and ooooing their way through the game as you barely miss a Bankrupt or the $2500 cash wedges.
The game plays similarly to a Shockwave presentation. Letters are flying about, angles change, Vanna appears on a TV screen, or the Wheel while it spins. It's all quite flash. Three to four rounds are run in normal, 15 minute mode, and at the end the winner with the most cash goes on to select a secret prize in the Bonus Round. You are then given a puzzle to solve and a few letters to begin with. You then select 3 consonants and a vowel and attempt to solve it to win the prize. Basically prizes equal a cash value at the end and are added to your score and used to total up your highscore.
The strategy revolves around extending your turn as long as possible in order to rack up the cash without landing on an end of turn or bankrupt wedge and trying to figure out the phrase. If you solve the phrase you keep the fantasy cash. Of course, if you add letters to a good portion of the puzzle but don't solve it and must hand over your turn, the next contestant in line benefits from your work. There is not a whole lot to it, other than being able to figure out phrasesor words with only a few letters.
Installation was a breeze. It only requires 25MB for the install, 40MB total overall with Direct X 5.2. One thing that seemed a bit silly was the requirement to manually change your resolution to 800x600, 16 bit. This should be an automated process, there is no reason I have to go to the control settings and change the screen resolution! Also, the lack of multiplayer is very disappointing.
Buy a Vowel
The computer A.I. is supposed to adjust to your ability. So, if you are playing better the computer contestant should too. I don't know if it's true, since it is hard for me to judge just exactly how well I'm doing. In the beginning of each round, my choices were hit and miss. Mostly miss. The puzzles are actually designed by the producers of the game and so are consistent and difficult. There are over 2000 in the game. Actually, if you are not American, you will have a great deal of trouble with the puzzles unless you are into American geography, heroes, literature, and trivia. Although, I do have to say there was a British Film as one of the puzzles. A recent, hilarious (well, I thought so) comedy. But, I think it was entered into last years Oscars.
The computer player does give some more of that game-show flavor. Since the human contestants don't speak, its pretty silent except for the audience and Vanna. With a computer contestant you get him chirping up each turn, "I think I'll spin, Vanna," or "I want to buy a vowel, an 'I', like in ice cream." It's OK, it certainly fits the game-show atmosphere, the problem is the times that I played they didn't change the computer contestant's voice, and he starts to say the same things over and over again. That is annoying. He also tends to help you along with doing only part of the answer, well a large chunk, and then loosing a turn regularly so you can get the jump on him.
Playing with multiple human contestants is fun, although there is no multiplayer. You must sit at the same computer and switch seats. If you have kids it could be fun, but some of the questions are fairly obscure and may be difficult for youngsters. Since I have been living abroad for some odd 8 years now, even I was reaching for certain references. It may frustrate the younger ones, unless they are really into these sorts of word puzzles. It's much like doing a cross-word puzzle, with very vague general clues like "person" or "same-name." The puzzles are good, and I imagine if you are practicing to be a real contestant on the show, this might be a good simulator for you.
Well, Vanna has grown older over the years. Her figure isn't quite as emaciated as it used to be and her clothing is a bit more on the respectable side even if it's still that sequined Hollywood stuff that no one wears in real life. Wheel of Fortune gives me the same feeling I had backstage all those years ago, and at the same time is sort of like watching those last episodes of the Tonight Show just before Johnny Carson retired, a show in the twilight hours of its heyday. Wheel of Fortune is certainly made for game-show fans, and if you really love game-shows and always wanted to be a part of that audience applause and the tension (without really risking anything except a high-score) than I can recommend this to you. The atmosphere is spot-on, the difficulty is there and the pressure to remain under time if you play timed.
If you are not into TV Americana, however, I'd give this one a pass. Although the puzzles are good, they are American specific and all that extra game-show trappings may just drive you crazy.
Oh and that children's game-show that I was on? Well, they asked the audience if they had anything unusual with them during a break. I had something called a Flutaphone in my bag (since I had come after school from music class). After the commercial, they asked (while taping) if people in the audience had these items they had written down, and we were supposed to pretend that we just happened to have them! So, I had to produce the Flutaphone. It ended up with me as a contestant in a contest to chew crackers and whistle! I can't whistle unless I "blow-in" and nearly choked to death on stage. I'm sure they never aired that episode.
Review By GamesDomain
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