It’s time to give up hope that quiz-show games will ever match the free-associating, pop-culture-obsessed brilliance of the 1990s’ You Don’t Know Jack CD-ROMs, but the Buzz! games are the closest anyone has come. The main difference between the two series is that Jack thrived by virtue of its writing, while Buzz! is fun because of its quick, varied format. So while Buzz! Quiz World offers a litany of mostly inoffensive tweaks, the best thing about the new version is that it doesn’t mess with the underlying design honed by its predecessors.
Buzz, the Guy Smiley/Greg Proops lovechild who is the face of the series, remains a charming MC, thanks to the enthusiasm that voice actor Jason Donovan brings to the character. That’s fortunate, because Buzz’s screen time appears to be on the rise. What would have been a quick one-liner in last year’s Buzz! Quiz TV creeps toward a monologue in Quiz World. Buzz is getting awfully friendly, too, since he can now address you by name—as long as it’s on the list of pre-recorded names included in the game. Like the rack of custom keychains in a museum gift shop, it’s an effort that’s destined to fall short and irritate your friend Bort.
One of the new rounds added to the game is a competition to see which player can be the first to get six questions right. Yes, that sounds boring, which is why Buzz! makes it the “Boiling Point” round, placing each contestant on a glowing podium warming its way to a white-hot inferno of trivia glory. That’s the strength of this series: using clever production to make a straightforward Q&A session exciting. The questions could stand to be more difficult, and the same answer (though not exactly the same question) will occasionally appear twice in one round. In general, though, the quizzes manage to please a broad range of audiences without stooping to a Jeopardy! Kids Week level of inanity.
The online modes have been touched up. You can now voice chat with online opponents, an omission from last year’s edition. And you can download more than 30,000 question sets from MyBuzzQuiz.com, where the trolls and illiterates of the quiz-writing world ply their trade.
But the online features, all of which relegate you to a stripped-down version of the game, are beside the point. Buzz! is still about gathering friends in the same room and making everyone prove their worth by smacking buttons on a glowing red buzzer. In spite of its high-definition, high-decibel wackiness, Buzz! does manage to keep its simple play front and center. The developers understand the implicit marriage of a party game: They supply the game, and the players provide the party.