Publisher: Destination Software
Developer: Global Star
Release Date: January 20, 2009
Deal or No Deal seems like a natural fit for the video game world, so I'm surprised that it's taken this long for someone to put the license to use, but I shouldn't have been surprised to see this title pop up on the Wii. It's a game that screams for the casual market to embrace it, but it doesn't make for an entirely enjoyable experience. The developers included a few mini-game competitions that are extraneous to the main game, and it almost seems as if they're only there to extend the playtime.
If you've been living under a rock for the past few years and haven't heard of "Deal or No Deal," it's a game show hosted by former comedian Howie Mandell, in which a contestant is given the chance to pick a suitcase from a number of similar suitcases, each containing a picture of how much money it's worth. Once a suitcase is selected, the player opens up each of the other suitcases in varying groups, slowly whittling away at the possible amounts that are displayed on a screen. The idea is that the player wants his suitcase to contain the top amount, $1 million. As the player opens the cases, offers are made by a banker to buy back the suitcase he or she has selected. The offer changes depending on the suitcases that have been opened and the amounts that have already been eliminated, and the player most choose whether he wants to make a deal at the end of every round, hence the name of the game.
Deal or No Deal does a pretty good job of bringing all of these elements home, from Howie to the models, and even the banker is represented by a mini-character version. Howie's voice is used for all of his spoken segments, but the voice track is pretty limited and tends to repeat itself, so you'll probably get tired of hearing his clips early on. The only thing that's really missing from the home experience is oddball family and friends that pop up for the contestant on the TV show, and the goofy reactions that players tend to have during the game. Your Mii acts as the character, and you'll create your profile with the Mii of your choice when the game begins.
There are a few variations on the main game to mimic the changes you'll sometimes see in the show format, like offering up a $2 million cash prize instead of the $1 million, but there's nothing particularly inventive here. The sad part is that you'll want to skip over so much of the presentation just to get to anything that resembles gameplay. I never realized until I played this game how much of the show is just about people standing around and wringing their hands or talking it out. Really, the only thing to do in Deal or No Deal involves tapping the A button over and over again to skip the various scenes before you pick a suitcase. After you've selected a case, you tap the A button again to confirm and tap it again to see the amount. When the banker finally makes an offer, you put the pointer over "Deal" or "No Deal." That's pretty much the entire game, and it's really, really boring to sit through more than a few attempts.
However, there are other distractions, most notably a few different mini-games that allow you to gain more cash outside of the regular game. There's a blackjack game that pits you against another player or the CPU, where you try to hit a total amount of $2,100 without busting. Then there's another game that has you selecting from six suitcases, wining each amount until you hit the empty case, which in turn wipes out your winnings and lets your opponent keep his. These mini-games aren't much, and there are not a lot of them to see, but at least they keep you distracted from the boredom of the regular game section.
Graphically, there's nothing particularly outstanding going on, but the set of "Deal or No Deal" is pretty accurately represented, minus the crowd detail. There are a couple of nice little touches, like the facial expressions given to the Mii based on the amount the banker has offered or whether you've still got a few big numbers on the board. It's easy to tell that the host is supposed to be Howie Mandell, even with the cutesy approach to the character models.
There's no real music outside of the standard "Deal or No Deal" theme, but it's instantly recognizable to anyone who's seen the show before. The same goes for Howie's voice, but it's hard to tell if they used sound bites from previous shows or if they actually had him come in and read the lines. The lines all have a strange disconnect, so no real emotion seems to come through when he's offering up a statement.
Altogether, Deal or No Deal is a pretty poor adaptation of the TV show, but that's partially because you can't really do much with a show that's mostly about talking it out. There's not a lot of gameplay to bring over, and I'm glad that the developers tried to do something with the mini-games so that the players have a bit more to do. Still, the mini-games aren't particularly fun, and there's no real reason to keep playing after you've tried a round a two. You should avoid picking up this one, even if you're a big fan of the show, because the whole experience doesn't have a lot to offer.