Being on a game show generates a certain envy. The ratio of contestants to viewers is very low, so watching most of them basically boils down to thinking, “I know I can do better than that!” Many developers before Gameloft have jumped in to fill that void on the iPhone; nevertheless, TV Show King–while not officially licensed by any of the main game shows–does a good job providing a streamlined experience that we wish we could have on a national stage. The game is far from perfect, but we had fun playing it, and we think it’ll appeal to a wide variety of gamers.
The format of the basic game is rather simple. The male host introduces the game to the crowd, and you hop on the dais with three other players. In addition to playing against the computer, nearby players can join up over Wi-Fi, or you can look for games on the Internet. However, at press time the online participation seems minimal, and games are hard to come by. Once you have your opponents in line, you are fed a series of questions according to three difficulty levels–hard, medium and easy. The questions’ worth increases as you go through the rounds, and the order in which you answer also effects your point total. A $500 question, for instance, will award $500, $375, $250, and $125 from quickest to slowest. The timer gives you plenty of opportunity to answer, and you can switch your answer up until it hits zero.
There’s also a few bonus questions sprinkled in, worth much more than the regular questions. These occur once every seven-question round. Then, the infamous wheel comes into the picture. We alternately love and loathe the wheel, which can get you back in the game or lose the whole thing for you. It’s arranged Wheel of Fortune style, except labelled with designations like “Gain $10,000″ or “Take $2,500 (from another player).” This is all well and good… except when your opponent lands on the “Swap Money” and chooses you, knocking you down $75,000 and eliminating you from the final showdown. That’s all standard game show fare, though, so we can’t complain too much.
We can definitely kvetch about certain elements of the presentation, though. The characters are brightly drawn and completely customizable, like Nintendo’s Wiis, but they’re also jerkily animated, so it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss. The cut scenes get rather repetitive, and there’s no variation with any of the interludes you’ll have several times a game. That gets old fast; luckily, it’s skippable. And, since this is small iDevice game, you’ll see some repeats among questions before too long. On the other hand, the voice acting and music is pretty excellent.
All things considered, we recommend TV Show King to gamers who don’t insist on playing a branded quiz game. The difficulty levels are suitably distinct, offering a nice variety of questions for all three settings; winning is good fun, though we would have liked a better celebratory screen; and the experience is fast and streamlined. Should the online multiplayer ever pick up, that will be a big plus, too. There are definitely worse ways to spend $4.99 in the App store these days, and while that might sound like damning with faint praise, we’ve played enough games to mean it.