The Price is Right has long been one of the great shared television experiences in the United States. Sure, other game shows have come and gone, but there’s no hegemony in TV-based cultural consciousness like the one Bob Barker set up decades ago. The Price Is Right iPhone game has had a high bar set for it, and while it captures the spirit of being told to “come on down,” that isn’t enough for us to recommend it to you.
On the plus side, The Price Is Right gets the look and feel of the TV show down pat. The music, the sound effects, the crowd, and the Rod Roddy sound-alike announcer are all pitch perfect, and we found that playing the game is much better with all the game sounds on. The controls are simple; you’re pretty much limited to a tap every now and again. The on-screen display is admirably designed. showing your total winnings, a menu button, your contestant’s face, and the relevant game information. The characters are modeled in 3D, and you have several to chose from and name as you see fit. The graphics are slightly above average, but rendering speed and load time are substandard.
You have a few options in terms of how you want to play the game: there’s a party mode with up to four friends (though you have to pass your iDevice around to play), a classic mode that basically just mimics what you’d do if you were on the show, and a three-strike game that gives you more chances to make good at the Showcase Showdown. We preferred the three-strike option so we could keep playing, but the differences are minimal. Also, once you beat all the minigames, you open up a game mode where you can pick a single minigame to play. Unlocking this takes an enormous amount of time, seeing as how you can’t pick which game you’ll play once you win Contestant’s Row.
The basic game starts off on Contestant’s Row, where you try to guess a particular item’s retail price. After getting sufficiently close to the mark, you’ll move on to one of the plethora of minigames–like Plinko, Check-Out, Punch a Bunch, and Hole in One, to name just a few. If you win, you’ll move to the Showcase Showdown, bid on a prize package, and win a BRAND NEW CAR!… maybe. During the game, little windows will pop in and show you a little real-life film clip of the product you’re bidding on. This, we will say, is very cool. The Showcase Showdown is even more faithful, down to lovely models presenting the winnable items. The crowd even goes wild when a big-ticket item comes into play.
But the more we played The Price Is Right, the more its flaws become apparent. The cut scenes are needlessly long, and while you can tap on the window to speed up the process, the game feels like it should be 50% faster. Further, the game was pretty glitchy for us, crashing out several times, and is also a pretty big battery hog. And certain aspects of The Price Is Right can be frustrating, especially when the computer doesn’t play fair. For instance, we guessed a Showcase’s value within 1K of the real total–which is borderline perfect on the show–but we were still beaten by the computer, which guessed within $20.
We also grew very tired of the extended commercials for the products we were to bid on. On TV, somehow, it’s okay to hear about how Bayer Aspirin helps with headaches, but when we’re playing a game we paid for, we’d like less time spent extolling the virtues of whatever store-brand lettuce we’re bidding on. Moreover, you’ll eventually start seeing the same items recycle. It’s one thing to nail the cost of that fireplace exactly, but it’s not as fun if you’re just re-typing the exact amount.
The Price Is Right gets the flavor of the show right, but all the slow loads and blatant advertising really bugged us after a while. If you have $4.99 burning a hole in your pocket and an undying love for Bob Barker, we can think of worse places to spend it than this game, but everyone else should just enjoy their next sick day in front of the TV.