Review by Suprak the Stud
It Seems Scene It Has Discovered the Hollywood Tradition of Just Rehashing Old Content
If you happened to check my contributor page before reading this review, you probably were wondering if I suffer from short-term memory loss or perhaps suffer from a case of inexplicable optimism. I've already played the previous two Scene It? games for the Xbox and both times came to the conclusion that the games weren't that good and the format was better for the board game version that rewards actual movie trivia skills and not the ability to buzz in and immediately eliminate the other obviously wrong choices without actually knowing the answer to the question. So after playing through two games that were essentially the same and complaining about how the board game was more enjoyable, why would I go back and play the third unless Im terrible at pattern recognition or Im so full of hatred and bile that I would rather play a bad game to write a negative review than play a good game to just enjoy it because if I dont find some way to vent my antipathy I will overheat and explode in the same way as a nuclear reactor. The actual reason is far more simple (and less cool), and that is that my fiancee and family both enjoy the games, so I play along as Im not such a disgruntled sod that I will go out of my way to ruin an evening by complaining about something that everyone else is enjoying doing. And thus the target audience for Scene It? Bright Lights! Big Screen! becomes clear: casual gamers and their disgruntled partners. For some quick and mindless trivia gameplay, the Scene It? series is probably the way to go, but that doesn't make it a good game. The game doesnt introduce anything new or even expand upon the concepts of the first two games. I feel like I could just copy and paste my review for the last title in the series, change the title, submit it again and call it a night. While this might seem lazy, it would be fitting as that is exactly what Scene It? did, so for the sake of fairness I should be allowed to do the same. Still, while this is a very average trivia game that lacks the depth of even the other games in the series, it will be enjoyable for a couple of rounds with a group of friends or family. Unfortunately, that is pretty much all the excitement you will be able to squeeze out of this title.
My main problem with Bright Lights! Big Screen! is the same problem I had with the previous two Scene It? games, which shouldn't come as they are essentially all the same game with different box art and slightly updated questions. It appears as if they are trying as hard as possible to just keep on releasing the same game, only changing the graphics and hoping nobody will notice. The problem with almost all video games focusing on trivia is that they tend to make all of the answers multiple choice. I know that having to manually enter the answer would slow down gameplay, but at least then itd still be a trivia game. Now I feel like Im playing a multiple choice test where theres one right answer to guess and three unbelievably stupid ones. The game developers seem to have a hard time thinking of fake answers and instead put in the first things that popped into their head. This is a problem in all categories, but it is painfully apparent in the quotables category, where they provide you with a quote, removing a certain number of words and replacing them with blanks that you must then fill in. Fine in premise, but when all of the answer selections do not have the same amount of word choices as the number of blanks shown, it makes me believe that they just werent trying or somehow didn't understand the concept that people with a fully functioning nervous system will figure out that you cant cram three words into a single blank. Not all wrong answers are immediately that obvious and a couple of the categories will actually require you to be familiar with the film or actor, but too many times the correct answer can be figured out simply by good guessing, which kind of defeats the point of a trivia competition. You can turn negative points on and off for incorrect answers, which mitigates this problem somewhat but doesnt change the fact that multiple choice really isnt the preferred format for anything other than math tests.
Like the past games, you play through a series of categories that range in appeal from moderate to none at all. There are a couple of fun ones, like identifying a movie from a soundclip or a NES style pixel rendered imitation of a scene from it, but too many of the categories are lacking in creativity and content. A lot of the categories seem like they have a stock of twenty or so questions, which means you start seeing repeats within a couple of times of playing. While this might be a way to impress your friends, the game starts to lose its appeal after you can identify the sketch from the first couple of lines drawn because youve seen it so many times already. The movie clip category is well stocked, and youll have to play a lot before you start pulling repeat questions, but this seems to be the exception rather than the norm and the content for too many of these categories seemed like they were crammed in just a couple of days before the game was released. The back of the box boasts a lot of questions, but it doesnt seem like they were spread out very well, and has the feel of jam spread out on toast by someone with a nervous twitch, and some sections have a giant glob of content while others are barely covered. And then theres the fact that some of the categories just aren't any fun, and unscrambling letters to reveal the name of a movie or putting four films in chronological order really aren't ways that I want to pass my time.
Looking at the fact that all of the categories are basically lifted from the last game in the series and nothing new was really added, you might want to accuse Bright Lights! Big Screen! as being a carbon copy of past games in the series without any innovation to milk some more money out of the franchise without actually having to hire anyone with creativity to develop anything new. However, this is a completely unfair accusation, and I feel like I must step in to correct this fallacy. To be a carbon copy, it would have to be the same as the previous games in the series, which it isnt as it actually has some stuff removed and thus would be best equated as a hand made copy made by someone who wasn't really paying attention. The online play is cut entirely, in what appears to be an attempt to remove the most enjoyable aspects from the last game. The art style is also a step back, and I would say that the host is the worst in the series but I shut him off halfway through my first game and have no idea if he ever utters anything that isnt annoying.
Bright Lights! Big Screen! is a below average trivia game, but I guess that shouldnt surprise anyone as it looks like they intentionally designed it that way. Everything about it seems like that in the developers mission statement, mediocrity was actually the goal and employees that suggested that maybe the goal should be a little higher were subsequently fired and replaced by high school students with a cursory understanding of programming (and girls). Even the between round graphics looks like something a first year graphics design student slapped together in about an hour after he or she realized there was a project due and they had been busy working on something else that was a bit more worthwhile. I dont know at what point the idea for these animations came together, but the person that decided that two faceless mannequins giggling while the male one lifts the female one up in the air would be a nice thing to illustrate for the between round scenes probably shouldnt be allowed near electronics or heavy machinery in the future. The game looks like a budget title, and while the between round images certainly arent an integral part of the game, if youre going to bother illustrating things you might want to make it look like you didnt do it with your feet to win a bet.
If this review sounded negative, that is because there just aren't many good things to say about Bright Lights! Big Screen!. The game seems to have a youngest child syndrome, where it wants to emulate its older brothers as closely as possible but unfortunately doesn't really know what its doing so it turns out to be a bit of a mess, and the older brothers weren't even doing it that well in the first place. The format issues from the first couple of games in the series are still there, and worse yet the game actually feels like a step back with the complete elimination of the online play mode. Still, this comes with a tepid recommendation if youre looking for a game to play with friends and family for a couple of rounds before the boredom sets in, and as it is trying so hard to be generic it makes sense that it appeals to a casual audience. Trivia fanatics or individuals looking for a good game should still look elsewhere, as Bright Light! Big Screen! is too busy trying to impress your mom to worry about the niche group of gamers looking for things like innovation or creative design. Or fun.
Bright Lights! Big Screen! (THE GOOD):
+A couple of interesting categories that have a decent selection of questions
+Very few viable alternatives for those looking for a trivia video game
+Pretty entertaining your first couple of times through with friends
Dim Light! Small Screen! (THE BAD):
-Format still doesnt suit it too well
-Essentially the same game that was already released just with new questions
-Online play completely eliminated
-Visuals look like they were done in Microsoft Paint
-Too many categories are understocked or just not fun
Terrible Use! Of Punctuation! (THE UGLY): While lights, camera, action and box office smash are both phrases that people commonly associate with movies, Bright lights! Big screen! really isnt something some one ever utters when they think of a movie. Unless youre some sort of caveman that was recently defrosted and are confused by the magical talking images appearing before you, I guess. Maybe then it makes sense to yell this out when you stumble into a movie theater, but I have a hard time believing that was the audience this game was targeting.
THE VERDICT: 4.50/10.00
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Scene It? Bright Lights! Big Screen! (US, 11/17/09)
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