Releasing a quiz game on Christmas Eve makes a statement. To us, it says “at a time when you’re gathering around as a family, we’ve made you a quiz that’s perfect to play together”. It’ll be fun; a solid swap for some charades and Pictionary.
Well, you might want to keep those boxes out, as Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover is about as far from a party game as you can get. At least, it’s not a party that we’d want to go to. Trivial Pursuit is an outdoor rave in comparison to what Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover has to offer.
Pop into a Tournament, the one multiplayer mode in Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover, and you’ll soon see what we mean. Planet Earth acts as a background as you’re taken through a series of multiple choice questions, all focused on a particular area of the globe. This is a geographical Mastermind.
Here we go. Don your thinking caps. Which mountain is tallest? Cho Oy or Nanga Parbat? Did you get it? It was Cho Oy, you mountain philistine. Now, which is the longest river? Lena River or Irtysh River? Of course, it was the thinking person’s river, the Lena River.
Dull as dull can be, right? Well, we’re being a little unkind. These are examples of Hard questions, and you can pick exclusively from Easy and Medium categories. There are also some slightly more interesting models of question: things like ‘which animal is the largest?’, or ‘put these important people in birth order’. But our examples are emblematic of the biggest problems in Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover. Too often, the questions feel like they’re created by an algorithm (because they are), and – even more often – you struggle to care what the answer is.
What becomes clear in Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover is that there is a database of mountains, rivers, lakes, capital cities, countries and more. We know, because you can visit it: it’s there on the main menu, in all its scraped-from-Wikipedia glory. You can view their heights, lengths, distance from each other and more. But it’s during your second or third game of Planet Quiz that you realise a random number generator is simply plucking one lake and pitting it randomly against another lake. Which one’s bigger?
The formula wears on you. You see through to the inner workings of Planet Quiz, and it’s a dry, lifeless old beast. And – call us uneducated – but we don’t have context of where Lake Bangweulu is or how much water it holds, nor do we care particularly. It’s a rare thing to emerge from a quiz and feel like you haven’t learned anything, but that’s exactly what happens here.
We’ve been racking our brains trying to work out who Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover actually is for. First of all, and let’s make this clear if it hasn’t been made clear already – this is not a game for more than one player. The format is purely functional, rattling off trivia questions one after the other. There’s nothing here that approaches entertainment. We forced it onto our family at Christmas and it lasted less than a half hour.
But what about education? Is this something that you could use to brush up on your geography, or hand to a know-it-all geographer? We can only offer a sketchy ‘perhaps’. There is a campaign mode that allows you to go region by region, answering questions at increased difficulties, and that might be a decent structure for that player to work through. But we can’t help think that the generic, algorithmic nature of the questions makes things unsatisfying for even that player. There are no fact nuggets for them to take away and repeat to someone else, no questions specifically authored by a human being. Those players will come away with absolutely no new learnings, and that’s quite the achievement for a quiz game.
It’s not particularly enjoyable to control, either. Some questions ask you to drop a flag, creature or picture onto a location on the globe. But why you have to drag-and-drop, rather than just slot the picture in, is beyond us. It’s likely a hold-over from a mobile or PC port. And we lost count of the number of times that we accidentally cancelled a selection rather than confirmed it, simply because the cursor has a habit of defaulting to a selection that we’ve already placed on the map.
There are some strange curiosities too, which made us question whether we could trust the answers. We knew that one solution was ‘Italy’, for example, but it turned out to be ‘Italian Republic’. Now, ‘Italian Republic’ is not technically untrue, but you could ask a thousand people what that boot-looking country is and not one of them would say ‘Italian Republic’. It’s pernickety to the point of pointlessness.
Is there anything to recommend in Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover? It looks nice. This isn’t a quickly cobbled together cash-in from someone who’s good at copy-and-pasting stuff from Wikipedia. The interfaces and the swooshy planet background are well made, making this look reasonably professional. And some questions, particularly when things strayed into flags, animals or famous people, made us sit up, at least for a moment.
But it failed all of its tests. As a multiplayer game, it stank: my family is going to be cynical about any of my party-game choices from now on. As a single player learnathon, it failed to leave a mark. The questions and answers were so generic that they scooted in and out of our ears, never to return.
Ultimately, Jeremy Paxman would turn off Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover for being a bit stuffy and boring. Don’t let the snazzy presentation or the Christmas Eve release date confuse you: this is a series of geography exams created by AI, and it’s absolutely as boring as that sounds.
You can buy Planet Quiz: Learn & Discover from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
- Looks reasonably pro
- Some of the less Wikipedia-sourced questions are okay
- Only one multiplayer mode
- Questions all follow a stock template
- No fun to be found
- You find yourself asking why you are here
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - naptime.games
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 24 Dec 2021
- Launch price from - £9.99