Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Screenlife Games
Release Date: October 28, 2008
I never got into the "Scene It?" games when they were released as standard DVD game versions, despite enjoying movie trivia quite a bit. My first real exposure to the game was with the initial Xbox 360 release, Scene It?: Lights, Camera, Action, so the experience is still pretty fresh for me with the second 360 release, Scene It?: Box Office Smash.
The follow-up title comes with either the pack-in Big Button Pads that the first one had, or you can pick up the standalone game for $20 less if you purchased the initial bundle a year ago. This time out, there's also the addition of online play and the use of the new avatars from the NXE update, even though I couldn't quite figure out how to use my created avatar in the game yet (I'm assuming there will be a patch for that). Outside of a couple additions, the gameplay seems to stay pretty similar to what we had before, and while I believe there are a few new puzzle additions, the idea and how the game plays will be familiar to anyone who's played a Scene It? title in the past.
Ideally, Box Office Smash is designed to be played with up to four players, and it works best with a full group. There is a single-player mode that allows you to go through a 10-puzzle block, with score multipliers that rack up your tally as you advance through the ranks, but by the time you finish, you'll realize that playing a trivia game by yourself isn't exactly ideal. However, when you're going up against three other opponents, especially those who can hold their own with movie trivia, the experience is definitely enjoyable, and it also allows for a few different options when it comes to game modes.
Once again, you can pick between long or short rounds, with the difference being that short rounds consist of three different puzzles, while long rounds have five. Time-wise, the difference is about 15 minutes, with most games finishing up in 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the skill level of the players involved. There are three rounds to compete in, and then a final round that asks a series of questions, with correct answers adding a bonus multiplier to your final score. After each round, there are bonuses given out for various accomplishments, such as answering all of the questions correctly in a certain puzzle, buzzing in the fastest or slowest, and so on. These bonuses seem to be designed around keeping all the players in the game, and you'll notice that if you're playing against someone who isn't as good at trivia as yourself, the game will attempt to boost their score through these bonuses to give them a chance to catch up.
There's no shortage of puzzle types available in Box Office Smash, and while some are familiar, they're all pretty enjoyable to check out, and they definitely add a bit more flair to trivia than a typical board game. Altogether, there are 22 puzzle types to check out, each with a group of questions. Considering that the game uses a heavy amount of actual media from over 250 movies, from stills to clips to audio, it was strange that after only three games, I came across identical questions, which is definitely disheartening for the longevity of the title, especially online. Either there isn't enough room on the disc to hold a huge variety of questions, or the question randomization algorithm needs a bit of work.
Out of the 22 puzzle types, I was a big fan of ones like Now Playing, where you guess the movie based on the poster, with pieces of the poster slowly appearing over time, and Pixel Flix and Sketches, both of which have an artistic take on various scenes or movies using odd interpretations that are instantly recognizable once they fully appear or play out. There are plenty of others, though, including Anagrams, Celebrity Ties, Child's Play, Credit Roll, Crosswords, Distorted Reality, Genre X, Invisibles, and so on. They're all enjoyable enough, with only a few that didn't really grab my attention.
I love that Box Office Smash incorporates some pretty recent movie titles into the mix, so if the original title has already grown stale for you, then this updated version throws enough new film trivia your way to make you pretty happy. It doesn't ignore older films either, and I found myself stumped on a few of the selections, so don't think that you'll be able to steamroll your way past all the trivia in the title. Also, this entry will allow for some downloadable movie trivia packs from Xbox Live, which will in turn keep the questions fresh and hopefully reduce the amount of repeats.
Visually, the game does a bit more than the first title with the presentation, in part due to the presence of on-screen avatars. There are pre-made avatars in the game using the same art as the avatars you can create on the dashboard now, but the selection there is pretty limited, so until you can import your current avatar into the game, it's not a strong selling point. It's better than just selecting a color like in the previous Scene It? title, and there are little bits before and after rounds showcasing your selected character, which adds some more visuals to the game than its predecessor had.
In terms of audio, Box Office Smash isn't a typical game, and while it incorporates a few unique bits of music at the beginning and between rounds, there's not much to listen to, aside from the movie and audio clips. As in the previous title, there is an announcer who will make comments about the teams, usually little one-liners or quips, depending on how well a particular team is doing. He doesn't seem to repeat himself too much during one game, but the script is pretty limited, so you'll end up hearing the same stuff over multiple games, and it can eventually get on your nerves.
However, despite some minor annoyances and the slight repetition of questions, I still enjoyed Scene It?: Box Office Smash enough to recommend it to previous players. It's a pretty solid purchase if you've got friends to play it with, especially if you're just going with the $40 version of the game (minus the remotes). Even if you don't have a group of local friends, the addition of online play makes it well worth the price. Just be aware that there are people online who have seemingly memorized every question in the game ¯ or I'm just a really bad trivia player. Box Office Smash is definitely worth checking out if you're a movie or trivia fan, and if you happen to enjoy both, I don't think you'll be disappointed with this one.
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