I love a quiz show. You might say that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is the daddy of them all. It’s an absolute classic where the structure is simple. Answer fifteen questions to win £1m. Sounds easy right?
The TV format has been replicated on a global sale, with numerous adaptations having aired all over the world. Not long ago we had our first £1m winner for fourteen years here in the UK, and it was still incredible television to watch.
In fact, there have been companion games to the hit show since the very beginning. I remember owning the PC and PS1 versions, which did a good job of capturing the tension of the TV programme. They were simple, but fun. Here however, the million pound question, if you like, is what more can a new game based on a 22 year old format possibly offer?
Well, straight out the traps there was a feature I hadn’t seen before in past iterations of the game. After initially noticing the logo contains dollars rather than pounds, I was delighted to see you can choose from six regions to make the experience more authentic to wherever the player is from. Each of the countries has 2,000 tailored questions which is a small but welcome touch, and should add some longevity to the game by avoiding repeats from the outset.
In Solo play, you can then go on to choose your question topics, and deselect ones you would rather not come up. As you play, and hopefully win money, you will earn Neurons which can be used to purchase new topics – some which are really specific such as “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter”.
Finally, you’ll be able to choose a character to play as. The eight or so you can play as are pretty generic, but do offer a little variety, which is no bad thing as the structure of the game is essentially unchanged each time you play.
The other thing I immediately noticed was the iconic music kicking in. That’s right: the game is properly licensed so all the hallmarks of the show are present and correct, just how it should be.
That said, sadly there’s no Chris or Jeremy hosting here. Instead, the nameless host speaks like a machine and is creepily devoid of emotions as he chats you through the game. It’s as if the part is actually voiced by a machine. It’s good that each move you make is backed up by voice acting, even if it is hard to listen to and doesn’t always flow with what is going on. It’s a cringe-fest from the host and the contestants; sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all. For example, Heng, the young chap you can play as, proclaims he’s amazing for getting the £300 question correct. You’d be doing pretty rubbish if you didn’t pal.
You can play through the questions on Normal or Easy. If played on Normal, questions will be time limited to put you under pressure. The difficulty changes this only – there’s no noticeable difference in the difficulty of the questions themselves though, despite what you might expect.
In another nice little touch, after choosing your answer you’ll get a second chance to confirm it’s your final answer, before it’s locked in. However, you’ll get tired pretty quickly of being asked if “that’s your final answer” as it happens on every question in a monotonous, repetitive way. Still, you can make use of the “skip” feature to avoid this, but then you risk breaking the tension that the game is trying to create, especially at the big money questions.
The famous lifelines are all here, as well as the short lived “Flip”, which featured towards the end of the Chris Tarrant era. “Phone a Friend” is pretty well done and “50:50” and “Ask the Audience” work just as you would expect. The Neurons system is a good way of making the “walk away” option worth taking, as the more money you win, the more you’ll earn. It means you are gambling with something else instead of virtual money, so there is actually a consequence if you play and lose.
However, it’s not all about playing solo as in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? there are a fair few multiplayer options thrown in. Locally, there are a good few ways to play which are: “Family Mode”, “Cooperative Mode”, “Taking Turns” and “Free-For-All”. Respectively, this sees you facing easier questions so everyone in the family can play, teaming up to take on the “money ladder” together, sharing the controller, thus competing together, and all battling it out to answer the most questions in a row. “Free-For-All” is the best of these, whereas the rest don’t offer much of a change to the usual gameplay.
More interestingly, there is also an online “Battle-Royale” mode where you can play against 99 other players to see who is the last one standing. This is also accompanied by leaderboards for you to flout your greatness on, if you’re good enough. However, despite trying numerous times I couldn’t find one single player to matchmake with for this mode, which doesn’t bode well for the game’s online community. It’s a shame too, as it sounds quite fun and is something that hasn’t featured in previous releases.
However, I might be able to explain why this is. The price. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on Xbox One will cost you £33.49 from the Microsoft Store, which is, frankly, extortionate. Despite a few new tweaks on the well-explored formula, this is essentially a remake of games we have seen and played before. The core gameplay hasn’t changed in over 20 years. It’s not as if developers Appeal Studios haven’t tried either, but it’s hard to imagine what else can be done with a game like this. The only potential *er hem* lifeline was the online battle royale mode, but so far this is not the case. Unfortunately, it may be time for players to walk away.
Despite some good ideas, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? shows that as a full price title, there’s not enough here to justify to cost. Fans of the show will get some enjoyment here, but even they will feel short-changed by the price tag.