As sat there unwrapping Buzz! Master Quiz I only had one thought: How are they ever going to turn this crazy four-player party game into a PSP game? I've played and enjoyed buzz (I even reviewed Buzz! The Hollywood Quiz
a few months ago), but the idea of bringing this franchise to the portable market seemed ridiculous to me. But while I was more than a little worried about what I was getting myself into, I also was excited to see if Sony could pull off what felt like an impossible feat.
Now that I've played through both the single and multiplayer modes of Buzz! Master Quiz I'm here to say that Sony managed to make me a believer. The problem is, while I fully believe that this kind of game is possible on the PSP, I'm not a fan of this hastily thrown together quiz game. It's not the worst thing Sony has unloaded on their handheld, but it's also completely forgettable and hard to recommend.
For the few people that haven't been keeping up with recent PlayStation 2 franchises, Buzz! is a series of game shows that allow you to compete with other players to see who knows more about movies, general knowledge and more. On the PlayStation 2 the series featured four buzzer controls, which sort of gave you the feeling of being part of a real game show. Of course, you didn't win any real prizes for your participation (not even a year supply of Slim Jims), but when you won you could rub it in the face of all of your friends and family members. The game was the perfect party game, even if that meant only bringing it out a few times a year.
Unfortunately there were some obvious changes that had to be made when porting it to the PlayStation Portable. Gone is the party atmosphere. Gone is the sense of competition. And worst of all, gone are the game show-inspired buzzer controls. Instead of being the kind of game that everybody can pick up and enjoy, Buzz! Master Quiz becomes a fundamentally broken game with multiplayer modes that require quite a bit of explanation. Who knew the kind of damage it would do to simply take away the cool buzzer controllers.
Buzz! Master Quiz is split up into two completely different sections, one for multiplayer and one for single players. Considering that most people will probably find themselves playing this solo most of the time, we might as well just start there. Sadly, there really isn't much to say about the single-player mode. For starters, you are given a map with 16 different quizzes on it, your job is to go through each one and earn a medal (be it bronze, silver or gold). The nice thing is that these different quizzes are varied, so in one you may be answering as many questions as you possibly can in a minute, while in another mode you will trying to solve a puzzle by answering a series of questions correctly. Either way, the quizzes don't take more than three or four minutes, which means that it won't take you more than an hour to complete these tests.
Thankfully the various multiplayer modes are more interesting, though even they seem to lack some of the charm and excitement of the original PlayStation 2 game. The good news is that two of the three multiplayer modes don't require more than one PSP, while the other can be played with only one disc (and four PSPs). The most fun multiplayer mode is the one where you pass your PSP around. The concept is simple enough; each player takes turns answering questions. What's cool about this mode is that there are a lot of different kinds of questions. Even better is that players will be able to sabotage their opponents (take points, etc.), much like the PlayStation 2 original.
The other single-PSP mode involves somebody being the quiz master and a bunch of other people answering questions. In theory this is a pretty cool mode, since you get to act like Alex Trebek and quiz your friends. However, in order for this to work you will need a group of people that actually want to play, which may be a challenge all on its own. The concept is strong and my friends got a kick out of answering questions and playing along with the computer.
The final multiplayer mode involves you sharing the game with other PSP owners. This works with up to four players, however in order to make this work Sony had to cut some of the best Buzz modes. This mode essentially gives you question after question, but they don't seem to include any of the fun multimedia quizzes. It's a shame, too, because those modes are among the strongest quizzes in Buzz. Oddly enough, the game does not offer a true UMD to UMD ad hoc mode. For whatever reason if everybody has the game you can't play a multiplayer mode together, which would have eliminated the multimedia problems found in the game sharing mode. This seems like an awfully strange thing to omit, especially for a party game like this one.
Unfortunately in order to make this PSP game work Sony had to excise a lot of the trappings of the game show. For example, you won't be performing on stage in front of a live (virtual) audience. Heck, you won't even be able to see your character most of the time. Instead of seeing your character hoot and hollow when he/she gets a question right, all you see is their head in a small box. Worst of all, the "glamorous" co-host is nowhere to be found. Where did she go? Instead we get a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of Buzz. If you find Buzz funny then you're going to be in heaven, unfortunately I find him to be insanely annoying, so hearing him prattle on endlessly proved to be more than I could handle at times.
There are some good ideas to be found in Buzz! Master Quiz, but I'm not so sure the game's developers completely understood how to get the most out of the portable console. It would have been nice to see more emphasis placed on the single-player mode and the ability to have a more fully realized multiplayer mode. Buzz is a good first attempt, but it's probably not worth picking up unless you absolutely must have a portable quiz game for your PSP.
The $64,000 question for this game show-inspired video game is whether or not it makes for a good portable game, and unfortunately I have to say that it doesn't. I definitely enjoyed answering questions on the go, but clearly this isn't the way it to put it all together. That's not to say that Buzz can't eventually be a great portable game, but it needs a lot of work to get to that point!