A trio of trivia video games

The Baltimore Sun

When it comes to party games for family gatherings around the holidays, you can't go wrong with trivia. With the spate of trivia-related video games released recently, you would think software makers had just figured that out.

But with that revelation comes a given: Simple is better. Two of the three trivia-focused party games below are packaged with their own game pads, ensuring that novices won't have to navigate the typical controller's dozen or so buttons. So, if you're looking for an alternative to board games or rental movies to keep folks entertained, here are some picks.

'Scene It?'

The pitch: Scene It? has been available on DVD for years, but this is the first time it has migrated to a game system. The movie-trivia game comes with four wireless buzzers that have one big button - either red, blue, yellow or green - and a column of four smaller buttons underneath.

The game references movies from the past half-century and does a good job of mixing up the kinds of questions. For example, one part of the game shows a brief film clip and asks a series of questions based on what players just watched.

Pros: The wireless buzzers greatly simplify the game play, and the variety of questions keeps things interesting.

Cons: Trivia is limited to movies, and, in some modes, players' answers aren't hidden from view, making it easy to cheat.

Bottom line: Despite the drawbacks, we had a good time with this one. Film buffs especially should enjoy it. Rated "teen." For the Xbox 360.

'Buzz! The Mega Quiz'

The pitch: Already a hit in Europe, the Buzz! series comes with a game featuring more than 5,000 questions on a variety of subjects, in a format designed to resemble a TV game show. The game has four buzzers, each of which is connected to one main wire that plugs into the PlayStation 2's USB port.

A loudmouth animated British guy hosts the game, which includes three rounds of trivia questions. Sometimes, you just have to answer correctly to get points; other times, you'll have to be correct and be the fastest.

Pros: The host's mocking commentary is amusing, and the game can support up to eight players by plugging in a second set of buzzers.

Cons: Although there's a nice variety of trivia subjects, the questions are geared toward adults. You also might have trouble keeping the buzzers' wires from becoming a tangled mess.

Bottom line: A fine trivia game that's definitely more fun in larger groups. Rated "everyone 10 and older." For the PlayStation 2.

'Smarty Pants'

The pitch: This one doesn't come with buzzers, but the Wii's controllers are so easy to use, it doesn't really matter. Up to four people can compete in the game, which has 20,000 general-knowledge trivia questions geared toward both adults and kids.

Although you can choose to compete alone or cooperatively with others, the most worthwhile option is playing against others in groups of two or more. In "wagering" mode, players together choose the value of questions before each round, while in "countdown," the value of a question decreases the longer you take to answer.

Pros: Lots of questions in a game suitable for all ages.

Cons: The presentation is a bit dull, and its suggested price of $50 is too steep.

Bottom line: For those thirsting for a Wii trivia game, it's passable. Rated "everyone." For the Nintendo Wii.

Monty Phan writes for Newsday.

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