I have a very interesting history with trivia. As a kid, I was part of my school’s competitive trivia team, and would study endlessly to win. I continued this role through to high school where a falling out with the club caused me to become a lone wolf. However, I never lost sight of my love for trivia, and for about a year, I worked for the now dormant website TheQuiz writing trivia and personality quizzes. All of this is to say that I have a great appreciation for the game, and I know that making a good quiz game is not an easy task. Enter Papa’s Quiz.
Papa’s Quiz is a game from the Swedish developer Old Apes. It features 3000 questions, 185 categories and a robust character creator. It supports up to 4 players with controllers and up to 8 players with mobile phones in a manner similar to the numerous Jackbox Party Pack options or Use Your Words. However, whereas those games were more varied in their approach to the party title, Papa’s Quiz opts to do one thing above all else: good trivia. Does it succeed?
The core fundamentals of the game are fairly similar whether you are playing single-player or multiplayer. There are 5 rounds. The first round is a general trivia round: the faster you answer compared to the competition, the higher your points (time means less in single-player). The second round will slowly reveal images based on a given topic, and you need to pick what it is. The third round will have you answer trivia and the winner gets to steal points from their rivals (or the hosts in a single-player game). The fourth round will give you a topic, and you need to pick the matching picture (i.e. Which of these four dogs is a German Shepherd?). Finally, in the last round, your points are tallied up and converted to time; the person who answers the most questions correctly before their time runs out wins. They get a bit of extra time for right answers and lose time for wrong answers.
The trivia component of Papa’s Quiz itself is incredibly competent. The questions are varied, even if they tend to lie somewhat on the easy side. You get a choice between four topics every round (3 regular and one junior) and these topics can range from Disney to Logos to US History to Football (both types) to Fortnite. The questions themselves are modern, and funnily enough, I personally found the Junior section to be the most difficult. I cannot say I know what the Blinding Lights TikTok trend is… sue me.
You can refresh the topics as much as you like. However, to select, you need to tap on the arrow keys on your phone or face buttons/stick/d-pad on the controller, and it can become a fight with the other players to pick the preferred topic. While this is a great idea for multiplayer, the decision to carry this selection style over to single-player is positively baffling, making selecting a topic far more cumbersome than it ever should be.
This translates to the UI itself in a number of ways. To make selections for a game or on the pause menu, you need to use the d-pad and hit right or left to validate or go back. Using A and B are not permitted. While this control system ultimately works, it makes going through the settings a chore. This may have worked on a WASD keyboard, but a simpler system would be preferred.
This lack of simplicity is also found in the settings of Papa’s Quiz, where things like disabling the victory dances after every round (they can be skipped by the player but still add unnecessary time) are a surprising task. There are also just many little problems that hold Papa’s Quiz back from being a trivia classic. My high score in the trivia round was never saved, the connection to the servers was lost after turning off the console, sending me back to the main menu, and the latency on the phone appears to be slightly more than the controller, giving an advantage and ultimately more points to controller players when all else is equal. This could be an even bigger problem over a stream, which is why games like Jackbox often include modes to account for latency or don’t tie it so directly to their games. None of these are deal-breakers – far from it – but they do add up.
The presentation of the game is somewhat of a mixed bag. The game utilizes some rather monotone voices for Papa and Monty and a generic text-to-speech for the reading of trivia questions, which can somewhat dampen the mood. The voices for the characters, recorded by a Swedish comedienne, in contrast, are great. The character customization system is robust and impressive, especially in comparison to its peers like Jackbox, but the art style itself is not personally to my tastes. That said, I know this cartoonish style has its fans and thus will not be reflected in my rating.
Finally, there is the topic of price. At £9.99, the price is pretty fair overall. There are better options out there, but if you compare this to a typical trivia set, Papa’s Quiz does go beyond in a number of key ways with its character customizer, socially distant play and streamer-friendly nature.
All in all, Papa’s Quiz on Xbox is probably the textbook definition of a fine game. It does exactly what it sets out to accomplish, and while the UI, presentation and minor design issues do hold it back from being something more, this is still a solid trivia game. There is plenty of variety in both questions and categories and, for the price, you can certainly do worse. While I still think Jackbox is the better game and capable of providing the best value, Papa’s Quiz is not a bad title to add to the rotation of socially distanced game nights.