Games based on TV shows are quite normal nowadays. What isn't so common is a game based on an entire network. Even with some specialty networks, it seems easier and more logical to base a game on one aspect of the network or a recognizable show rather than the whole thing. That doesn't mean that it doesn't happen, however, as evidenced by last year's Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked, which used the network's focus on cooking and applied it to the cooking game genre well enough to be considered decent. GSN, or the Game Show Network as it was once called, is another network that seems like a perfect fit for a video game, as some popular game shows have made the transition to video game form fairly well. Storm City Games must have been thinking along those same lines when they released GSN presents Family Gameshow for the Nintendo Wii. While the featured shows don't exist, the game compilation provides some good entertainment at a budget price.
Family Gameshow is composed of three different game shows, each with its own host. Control Freak is your standard quiz game show in which you answer a series of questions from a randomly chosen category. The player is given bonus points for answering the question correctly and in a timely manner. The single-player mode differs a bit from multiplayer, though. When playing alone, you have the chance to use a joker card to cut down the number of incorrect answers, giving you a better chance at winning.
Multiplayer gives you the opportunity to select someone to answer the given question. Letting someone else answer will still give you control of the board, but you earn bonus points if he or she answers incorrectly. If the other player answers correctly, they get the bonus instead. However, if you try to answer the question yourself and fail, you can decide who answers it next, and whoever gets the correct answer will then gain control of the board until all of the rounds are over.
Puzzle Addict is a game centered on a giant crossword puzzle. Single-player mode has you concentrating on the crossword while multiplayer gives each player a chance to solve a part of the puzzle. For bonus points, the game throws in mini versions of sudoku, word search and shuffleword, where words are split into pieces and jumbled together.
Finally, there's Brain Strain, which has more in common with games like Brain Challenge or Big Brain Academy. Games are randomly chosen, and the selected player must go through some challenges that require some thought. Some examples of puzzles include jigsaw puzzles, memory tests, silhouette matching and simple math problems.
On paper, having three game shows doesn't seem like much to offer for something with the GSN license attached to it. It certainly helps that all three games are fairly fun in their own right and that the single-player mode has the small hook of encouraging you to progress until you reach a personal skill level with that particular game. Variable difficulty levels also make it enjoyable for all skill levels, and the special Generations mode does a good job of varying the difficulty of the questions among all players, depending on the age groups you input before playing.
The only real issue here is that each of the three games isn't particularly strong in their own right. Control Freak, for example, is a decent quiz game but can't hold its own against games like TV Show King or Trivial Pursuit. The games in Puzzle Addict and Brain Strain are fine, though you've certainly seen the minigame types in other brain games. They aren't bad, mind you, but their quality is only eclipsed by other games that concentrate on a particular game type instead.
If it weren't for the fact that the games make you take turns instead of play simultaneously, the controls would have been problematic, as you can always see where your pointer is at all times. Since that isn't the case, the controls turn out just fine. It is a Wii Remote-only affair, where you simply point at the answer and click it. There is a bit of dragging for the word search puzzle and some typing when a keyboard is present, but otherwise, there isn't anything else to the controls. One odd choice, however, is the use of the d-pad in some Brain Strain games. It functions rather nicely, but it's strange that it's only used here and not in Control Freak, since the arrangement of the answers is also suitable for the d-pad.
The graphics are simple and work well enough for the games presented. The environments are pretty familiar setups for any game show. While the three different sets seem to have the same basic layout, there are enough props to differentiate them from one another. Another nice touch is the GSN transparent logo being displayed at the corner of the screen as each show starts. The same can't be said for the crowd, though, which is too dark to see and has the same seating arrangement no matter which game is played. The character style is interesting, as they look like marionettes. There is no Mii support here, but the Nintendo-made characters there would certainly clash with the game's style.
The animations for each character are fine, though they are very limited. The mouths of the hosts move fine and do a good job of moving in time with the words spoken even if it isn't a complete lip sync, though their constant popping in and out of the camera view quickly gets annoying. The contestants move fine but don't have too many animations to cycle through. They only have two win and two lose animations apiece, but you'll be hard-pressed to see more than one happen in a round. Overall, the graphics aren't too exciting but they get the job done.
The sound is decent, but it certainly could have been better. The music is reminiscent of what you would normally hear in a game show which means that it isn't great but certainly accentuates the theme rather well. The effects perform the same task, as they aren't necessarily good but are good enough for any game show. After all, you can't make crowd applause, sighs and buzzer sounds any better. The real disappointment comes in the voices of the various hosts. The lines are fine and the delivery is good, but it all has the clarity of a tin can. There's a constant echo permeating their speech, and while they normally don't have anything of importance to say, the quality (or lack thereof) is distracting.
GSN presents Family Gameshow is a nice diversion simply because of the small variety of the games it brings to the table in comparison to other game show video games. While the games aren't really more than average, they don't dip below that rating, either, and the variety means that boredom will set in much later than with other games of its type, especially when you consider the length of each included game show. As long as you don't mind the echo coming from the hosts and have friends who want more substance than what minigames can offer, you'll be fine with this decent budget title.
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