Review: Wheel of Fortune, 2nd Edition
Developer: MacSoft division of WizardWorks at Infogrames, Inc.
Requirements: G3-based Mac with Mac OS 8.6, 64 MB of RAM, thousands of colors at 800x600, 200 MB disk space.
I recall playing an early PC version of Wheel of Fortune. It had really poor graphics (very pixellated), the famous ‘computerized’ Wheel of Fortune tune, and a cartoon Vanna walking from one side of my black screen to uncover the letters. Well, it’s 2002 and Wheel of Fortune has come a long way.
Similar to the first edition, which debuted in 2000, this new edition allows you to play a Classic, Solo, or Tournament-style game. And note: you can’t play a tournament until you qualify; that is, until you’ve won five games or have won at least $50,000. And all three players must be human. Needless to say I didn’t play a tournament. I chose the Normal and Solo options. I like the Solo option simply because I really have no patience for computerized players.
New to the second edition are 2,500 new puzzles, a sample contestant exam (you have five minutes to complete 12 out of 16 fill-in-the-blank puzzles—and it’s not that easy, although the answers are on the back page of the booklet), new bonus rounds, and new fantasy prizes. This is all great in the game world as you can never have enough puzzles to solve, enough prizes to dream about, or enough rounds to win. And what’s even better is you can play it in OS X!
The Contestant Exam
One useful feature is Career Statistics, which keeps track of how much money you’ve won; it is continually updated as you play. You can also play various types of games. If you’re in a rush, try the 10-minute option or, for the serious player, choose the four- or five-round game.
Another good thing I liked about the computer game (unlike the TV show) is that if you aren’t able to solve the puzzle—that is, if you don’t know the answer—when the game is over the answer is not revealed, leaving it for another time you play.
Also new to the second edition is a Behind the Scenes section with video clips of Vanna White, the director, the contestant coordinator, the executive producer, the producer, the puzzle writer, the stage manager, and the announcer Charlie O’Donnell (so that’s what he looks like). These segments let you know a little more about the game show.
A Word from Vanna White
However, despite these positives the quality of the video clips is poor. They look like they’ve been dragged across the pavement (a technique, if I’m not mistaken, one film director used to create old newsreel footage). They’re very grainy and not too clear. If you happen to be interested in the background of the show, these clips contain only brief statements from each person. With an average of three to five statements per person, that rounds out to a less-than-one-minute “interview” with each one of them. Why bother watching them more than once? I mean, how many times do you really need to see and hear Vanna say she does the mom/carpool thing?
As for the overall look of the game, the interface is good and user-friendly. There are lots of nice backgrounds, including a choice of nine different setting for the Wheel of Fortune stage, including New Orleans, Orient Escape, European Vacation, and 70s Retro. These backdrops are very crisp and clear with good graphics. And there are cute little animations that appear when you choose a letter that is not in the puzzle. For example, in Orient Escape a fan slides in from the right of the screen and whisks away the letter.
The New Orleans Backdrop
Playing the game is just the same as in the TV show. Spin (or click the Spin graphic) to animate the spinning wheel, choose a letter, or buy a vowel ($250). To pick a letter, click on the letter from the semicircular display. The consonants are blue; the vowels are red. As usual, if you pick a letter that’s in the puzzle you can spin again, buy a vowel, or choose to solve. Note: if you choose to solve the puzzle, the default response time is 15 seconds. This is not enough, for me anyway. Change this in the Options menu. To start, I’d recommend 25 seconds because you have to get used to typing the letters in the blanks or clicking them into place. I was caught with only 15 seconds response time and missed solving two puzzles because I was too slow.
Although Wheel of Fortune is fun, the price seems a bit steep for a simple hangman game with poor-quality video clips that, personally, I would only watch once. The amount of hard drive space required also seems excessive for such a simple game. Unfortunately, the new features added since the first edition and the celebrity behind the scenes stuff just don’t make up for the high price. However, if you’re a fan, and you can afford to splurge, buy it.
But if you’re watching your pennies, why not try a shareware hangman game. Check out: Bet Your Booty 1.0, hangman with betting ($19.95); or Hang3000 1.03 ($25). You might not get to spin the wheel, but really, it’s all about the letters anyway!