Game Review - by James Allen
Back in the day, I used to spend most of my time watching the game shows on USA every afternoon. From my favorite game show, Press Your Luck, to Scrabble, to Name That Tune, these shows didn't rely on million dollar cash prizes to attract viewers, and viewers rarely won over $25,000; until Regis and company, Press Your Luck held the record with $110,237 won on one show. That brings us to the classic $10,000/$25,000/$100,000 Pyramid, hosted by ageless robot Dick Clark. Sierra has been kind enough to port the game show over to the computer, so we can experience the excitement and fun of the Pyramid. Will The $100,000 Pyramid go to the Winner's Circle, or leave with nice parting gifts?
There are three modes of play in The $100,000 Pyramid: one, two, and four players. In one and two player mode, the human players are paired with a "celebrity" which always gives the clues to each of seven words in a category. In "party" mode, for four players, the words are displayed, and all the players take turns in answering and giving. It's an honor system, as the opposing team is responsible for inputting whether the correct answer was given or not. All of these modes follow, pretty closely, the format of the original game show. This is good in a way, as the initial, classic gameplay isn't altered. However, there isn't any multiplayer, so you can't challenge others across the ocean. For a game that so closely emulates the TV show, we couldn't really ask for any more additions other than multiplayer, and The $100,000 Pyramid recreates the game show well.
I have to say, I was quite pleasantly surprised with the sound. All of the questions are verbally conveyed by each of the four celebrities, and since there are 700 categories (or so they say) of them, that's quite a number of audio samples. Albeit each word has usually four or so clues which are repeated once all of them are said, it's still pretty amazing. I'm just used to games taking shortcuts in the sound department of late, I suppose. It's vastly amusing when a clue comes up, and the computer player pauses to think of a clue to give. Sure, this is pre-programmed in, but it's the little things that make the sound so special. Heck, they even have the coo-coo sound! Outstanding!
$100,000 Pyramid has all of the tension and fast paced gameplay I was expecting in such a game. Let's run down the actual game itself. There are two teams of two people each, and they take turns guessing words from the clues given by their partner in a given amount of time. The computer version gives you double the time to answer all seven words compared to the game show, which actually works out with all that typing. At the beginning of each round, there are six categories to choose from, and all of the words will have something in common. For example, the category "Any Time" would have "things open 24 hours a day," such as a hospital, Manhattan, and the Internet. Each category has seven clues, and there are also special hidden bonus categories, such as 7-11 (answer all seven, get $1,100) and Mystery 7 (the subject is not given). After all the categories are chosen, the team with the highest score (out of a possible twenty-one) moves on to the Winners Circle. In the Winners Circle, single words are replaced with ideas, such as "things you recycle" and "what a judge would say." The clue-giver is more restricted in this round, as they cannot gesture, and single words are only allowed.
In Single Player mode, you must get a minimum score in the first round to advance to the Winner's Circle. Guessing all six of the categories correctly wins you money, and unlocks the next pyramid level on your way to $100,000. This is slightly different from the game show, and I wish the developers had used the real, two round format for two and four player modes: $10,000 on your first try, $25,000 on your second. Such is a minor point, which should not detract away from the game.
The game is very good at guessing what you are going to type, and this is especially helpful with long answers, like laundromat. All you need to type in is "laundr," and the computer finishes it off for you. I really like this, and sometimes it catches you off guard. In the Winner's Circle, all you need to type is the key word, rather than the whole category name. Typing in "Things" over and over would become tiring much too quickly, and I'm glad it's not an issue. The only problem with the gameplay is that the game does not end when one team mathematically eliminates the other. When the second team gets more points than the first on the last category, the game keeps going. Oh well. All in all, The $100,000 Pyramid was handled very well, and it's an accurate representation of the original game show.
The graphics are by no means stellar, but the striking crisp and clear nature of them is worth notice. In a world where clipping problems and 3-D graphics are all the rage, The $100,000 Pyramid comes to the table with a convincing environment. The set is duplicated almost exactly, and it gives the impression that you are on the actual show. The player animations could have been more varied (or just have more of them), but you'll hardly notice. Everything is presented with such a finished look, you'll rarely notice the graphics, since they seem so natural.
If you're a fan of the classic TV game show, The $100,000 Pyramid is not to be missed. It's a great party game, much like You Don't Know Jack, but with much more interaction. With outstanding sound, competent graphics, and accurate gameplay, this replication of the word association game of the Eighties is a great effort, and definitely worth the price tag. I knew those Egyptians were on to something.