Written December 2008 for http://www.xboxgamezone.co.uk/
The launch of Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action in late 2007 brought about a new age for the Xbox 360 if you ask me. No longer was the 360 the console just for hardcore gamers, it was suddenly becoming the family console. The console that everyone could gather round at Christmas and have some fun, young and old alike. For me, the first Scene It? game meant that I had a reason to stick the 360 in the living room, the whole family enjoying the movie trivia fun that it brought with it. In late 2008 this has all been extended even further with the launch of Lips and You’re In the Movies. So it only seems fitting that now there’s a new Scene It? game to join the fold. Scene It? Box Office Smash can actually be summed up in very few words. It’s more of the same, but as players of the previous game can tell you, that’s not a bad thing at all!
For those of you who perhaps didn’t have a 360 this time last year or just didn’t notice this gem amongst the wealth of First Person Shooters and Sports titles, the premise of Scene it? Box Office Smash is very simple. Start up the game with 1-4 players and journey your way through a number of different game rounds, all with film trivia, all demonstrated in different ways. Some of these games involve watching film clips and answering questions about the film, others involve listening to sound clips from films and identifying what film or identifying what film poster a picture is from. It truly is fun for all the family, providing the family enjoys films of course! That’s not forgetting the nice user friendly touch; you can buy the game in a pack containing 4 big buzzers. They look just how you’d expect, one big button at the top of the controller for buzzing in and 4 smaller ones for answering questions. They’re not essential as you can use a regular 360 controller but it makes sense to have a set of these to make life easier for the less game savvy members of your family.
Box Office Smash brings all these features to the forefront once again as well as some shiny new additions hoping to encourage you to buy the latest incarnations. As well as the original’s options of Short or Long game, there’s also the option for a custom game to change some options around as well as the solo game. Short and Long games are extremely similar, with only about 15 minutes at most between them, and simply being a matter of up to 4 players working their way through various rounds of play. Custom game offers some handy options. One in particular resurrects a feature present in the original game, subtracting points for incorrect answers. In the first one this could easily catch you out if you buzzed in too soon and got the answer wrong, certainly made you think that bit longer just in case. There’s also a continuous mode for party play action, it offers constant questions without interruption just for good old fashioned fun rather than competition. The solo game isn’t bad at all, sure it can’t compete with playing with friends but it makes quite a pleasant challenge if you’re on your own. Basically, you play the game as usual but the more questions in a row you get right, the more points you gain thanks to a multiplier. The multiplier goes up to 10x so you can result in some seriously high scores, and of course points mean prizes…well in this case, they mean achievements. There’s an achievement specifically for getting 300,000 points or more in a solo game to entice you into giving it a go. Box Office Smash was the first Xbox 360 to fully incorporate the New Xbox Experience’s Avatar system. Some might call it gimmicky, but it is quite fun to see you and your friends sitting on a virtual sofa setting up for the game. It is however a bit odd that you can’t use your Avatar if you’re not connected to Xbox Live; instead you’re forced to choose from one of the pre-rendered Avatars. I don’t know if there is a physical reason why this can’t be possible, but it does seem a bit daft.
So onto the new question types, both good and bad abound. Celebrity Ties is quite a typical sort of event. Think Six Degrees of Separation and you’re there really. Each question starts with the name of an actor featured in the question before it, so that all the actors are connected in the end. Very simple trivia really, which is much the same as Genre X. The only difference really with Genre X is the focus on genre rather than actor, every question is set around one specific type of film such as comedy or horror. Pixel Flix is also a nice new addition to the set, one of my favourites in fact. A famous movie scene is re-enacted in 8 bit NES style goodness and you have to guess what it is. Some of the scenes are quite funny to watch and I certainly enjoyed every round of Pixel Flix. Unfortunately the remaining two question types are a bit of a let down. Which is Which simply shows you two images from films and the name of one film and asks you which image is from the film. As there are only two options, you can guess a lot of the time and be fine. The other new question type also means that limited film knowledge is fine. Crossword is just how it sounds. A crossword puzzle appears and gradually letters appear spelling out words related to the film and culminating in the film title itself. So essentially, providing you can spell, you don’t actually need any film knowledge at all to gain some points. This is a great example of the start of the huge problem with Box Office Smash. It just doesn’t feel anywhere near as challenging as its predecessor. Instead it feels like a dumbed down younger brother that is desperate to please everyone but ultimately fails in places. So much can be achieved with guess work or just a little patience. For example, the Film Poster questions whereby you have to guess the film from its poster, is just far too easy. If you wait long enough, the game actually reveals the name of the film on the poster, and at a point where you can still gain up to 800 points out of a maximum of 2000! Sure, that would be fine if you only got 100 points or so, but nearly half the points available just seems a little excessive to me. In places I also found it difficult to read the writing on some film posters, even though I was using a normally very clear 32? HDTV. I never had this problem with the original game so that does seem a little concerning. The anagrams round is also too easy compared to how the first game handled things, having to guess from the jumbled up letters, buzzing in and then having the option of four films; instead the four options are already visible to all players so often it is just a matter of seeing which letter is only featured in one word. Sequentials also feels slightly dumbed down as you are able to make as many guesses as you want as to what order films came out meaning, if you are fast enough, you can simply try every combination you can think of to get your answer.
I know I sound overly critical of such a simple concept but it does feel a little bit like the developers took one step forward then two steps backwards. Even in terms of presentation, the game is lacking in places where once, it excelled. The scoring at the end of each round feels like it flashes before your eyes too quickly not enabling you to keep track, or feel satisfied, at how many points you gained each round. Oddly there are bonus points for being the slowest person to answer or having the most incorrect answers. There is not even a FMV sequence at the end of the game for the winner to see, there is just nothing. Simply the option to go back to the main menu or play again. Sure, it’s a bit tacky after the first time you’ve seen it but at least there was some form of congratulation! Perhaps the biggest cardinal sin for any game of this type is the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be enough questions, or film clips. It only takes a matter of a couple of games before questions start being repeated. In one round of Distorted Reality, I actually had the same question come up three times in a row! This seems frankly ridiculous as surely there should be an algorithm in place to stop this occurring. I have played the first game many, many times and I have no recollection of the same question being repeated yet. Repeated questions become a particular problem in an online game as someone who has played the game a large number of times has a much better chance of winning, simply because they remember the answers from last time’s session rather than because of any superior film knowledge. However, not to bog you down with too much petty complaining, the online is cracking good fun. I found it extremely easy to set up and despite initial sound problems (caused by me forgetting that if I use the big buzzer to answer and my wireless controller to use my headset, the controller will switch off after inactivity meaning that no one will hear a word I say!), it was faultless and immensely entertaining. Certainly, if like me, you have friends all over the country or the world, it’s a bit inconvenient to ask them to come over for a session, so it’s much easier to invite them into an online party and start up a virtual sofa session of Box Office Smash. I didn’t even notice any lag.
I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking ‘Uh oh, not a good game’ and actually, you’d be wrong! The thing is, it is all too easy to pick on all the technical faults and nuances that a game like this displays, while ignoring the fact that it is plain and simple fun. Sure, maybe it’s not quite as good in places as Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action, but should you care? No, not at all. If you and your family or friends love films, you will love this. It is the perfect game to play together after Christmas Dinner, and it’ll be just as good in the middle of summer after a lazy BBQ. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should you. Now, what are you waiting for?