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Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Review
2000-02-18 Staff
Until a few weeks ago, we had never watched "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" We'd seen ten minutes of Greed because Chet thought one of the contestants was hot, and erik saw almost an entire episode of 21 when the remote rolled under the couch.

That has all changed thanks to Marvin.  Last Thursday, he informed us that he had signed a multiyear contract with RivalWorks which grants them the right to print some of our reviews and "do other things too."  His description of the contract was vague, but a few details were clear; we had to actually play the games and the games had to be the type somebody else would actually want to play.  That meant no more Mortyr.

Still, we were excited - erik especially.  He greeted the mailman at the door every day and made a big show of flipping through the letters and saying things like "I wonder if our fifty dollars has arrived.  Internet representatives have dispatched this rather considerable sum of US dollars for our services.  You've heard of the Internet, yes?  See here, postman, how much would a parcel containing fifty dollars weigh and what would be its shape?"   He'd say this all in his "important" voice - more than half of the words are delivered in a cockney accent.  One consequence of erik's ongoing obsession with impressing the mailman by berating him in a British accent is that the mailman throws away most of our mail. 

Luckily, the fifty dollar allowance from Rivalworks made it through and Marvin set off to buy a game.  Would we get every reviewer's wet dream, The Sims, and finally have our chance to add to the vast and still growing library of "Sim abuse diary" articles?  Or maybe he'd buy NOX or the world's spookiest flight simulator, Stephen King's F-13.   It was Christmas in February.

And like Christmas, it quickly became a depressing trial.  Marvin returned with "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" and thirty dollars of leg fetish porn.  As soon as he left the room, erik started typing up a review.  It turned out, Marvin had only made confusing leaving sounds and was still standing directly in front of us.   His list of angry demands included watching the show and playing the game before writing the review.  He then clarified his position by informing us that tossing the box back and forth was playing with the game and didn't count.  We got underwear-only comfortable and dug in.

A game gets to the top of the charts in one of three ways.  One, it can be a quality product that delivers solid gameplay.  Two, it can be based on the movie The Warriors.  Barring options one and two, a successful game can be a piece of crap rushed out to trap the poor as they march up and down the aisles of WalMart by baiting them with a concept they've just recently seen on the television.  To utilize option three, a game must cost less than twenty dollars.  Millionaire is $19.99.

We watched a couple of nights worth of WWTBAM that Marvin had taped.  The questions for the most part seemed easy with the occasional bizarre trivia thrown in to ensure that winning a million dollars is a matter of blind luck.

Supposedly the Millionaire video game is playable by as many as ten people scrunched around one keyboard.  We had no desire to get that close to each other.  Seconds after starting a three player game, Marvin quit.  He said erik was squeezing him out.  He then decided that we would each get the game for a day and the high score would win the prize of not having to play any more WBATM.

How bad is this game?  With no real money on the line, there is zero tension.  We discovered that the feeling you get from not receiving a million dollars because you lost the game is exactly the same as the feeling you get from not receiving a million dollars when you win the game.  The sparse graphics and slow gameplay don't help either.  If for some reason you have to play the game more than once, the one tension adding element is how long it takes to start a new round.  Oh, dear God please don't make me sit through another five minutes of Regis' witty banter just to restart the game.   When the credits roll on television, you can change the channel to see what creepy twin appraisers Leigh and Leslie are up to on Antiques Roadshow and wonder, not if they're gay, because that's nobody's business, but if they're gay with each other, which is clearly immoral.  The designers of WTBWAM maybe didn't know that you can't do this same thing on the computer, because they make you sit through the entire credit sequence.   You can try hitting Alt-Tab, but that somehow switched us over to Mortyr.  So don't do that.

The questions are true to the TV version.  They're mostly simple,  but every so often a bizarre question will pop up such as "in what state is there a city named Mars."  The only worthwhile part of the game is the "phone a friend" lifeline.  On the show, you talk to a friend of yours.  In the game, you talk a friend of Regis'.  He doesn't seem to keep company with his socio-economic peers.  Most of his friends work minimum wage jobs, and all come equipped with completely unrelated stories they use to kill time.  I am sure Regis lords over these people.

The attention to detail is so weak that, in a few phone-in lifelines, Regis' friend talks about what the words look like.  Umm... you can't see them, you're on the phone, remember?   Regis has no reaction if you choose another answer from the one your lifeline was positive about.  In fact, Regis never shows any reaction based on the situation other than some canned, wrong answer, right answer crap.  These phone-in lifelines take up so much space on the CD (one for each question) that there is very little room for much else in the game.

So who won the "Who Wants To Not Have To Play Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" contest?  All of us.  We simply decided not to play it.  Instead, we went back to competing in the classic version in which you ask someone whether they'd eat a piece of poop and when they say no, ask "what about for a million dollars?"

I won a screen displaying an image of an object that represents an imaginary promise to pay me one million dollars!  That's about four levels of abstraction beyond the point where I can still effectively fantasize about being a millionaire.   In other words, this game actually makes it harder to pretend to be rich.

Here's this screen.

If Leigh and Leslie were fighting, maybe over the value of an exquisite Duncan Phyfe table, and you were Commander Spock, it would be difficult to know who to shoot.   Luckily, instead of trading double fisted karate chops, they'd probably be kissing each other, which makes your choice simple: set the phaser to kill, place it in your mouth, and go live with God for a while.

If Chet won a million dollars, he'd buy a hot chick like the one shown in this photograph of a doll.  "No more renting!" says Chet.

erik would purchase this Gallé compote plate.  "Compote is hot!" erik assures us, "When served hot... Fine.  Guess who'll still be eating their compote out of a cereal bowl?  Asshole."

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