Previews// Smarty Pants

Posted 13 Aug 2007 15:10 by
One of the surprise games I was treated to at EA’s HQ recently was a Wii trivia game tentatively called Smarty Pants. The company is calling it the first “trans-generational game for the Wii”, which appears to be a high-falutin' way of saying: "Family Fun".

The Nintendo Wii hasn’t exactly been starved of mini-games and family entertainment as of late. EA’s newfound commitment to Nintendo’s white box includes titles such as EA Playground and MySims, so it seems appropriate that Smarty Pants at least follows that trend of good wholesome fun.

The game is played with an on-screen spinner device, with each player taking turns to ‘crank’ the spinner one direction using the Wii Remote. Once spun, you let go of a button on the Wii Remote to send the device spinning the opposite way.

Whatever panel the needle points to when it stops is the category from which your questions are picked – yes, sort of like Wheel of Fortune. Categories include: The World, Science & Technology, Food and even, thank gods, Video Games (the latter category I completely spanked the competition on, which was just as well really considering it’s our job and all). Unfortunately I appear to be as fashionable as your Great Uncle Frank as I didn’t fare well with the Fashion and Design category at all.

The answers themselves usually take the form of multiple-choice; each player will see the question itself slowly being typed out, and a few seconds are given for anyone to jump in and grab some points. To answer, you simply hold the [A] Button on the Wii Remote and raise your hand. The multiple choice options will then appear and it’s then up to you to get it right or wrong. In some cases, you’ll be presented with a selection of different words, and you have to drag them into a field correctly to spell out the answer.

It’s in the logging of player abilities and dynamic challenges to each different user where our eyebrows are collectively raised. In this early version, we could only select profiles with bespoke EA-created cartoon characters, but the final version will allow you to import your Miis from the console in much the same way as Wii Sports does. Creating a profile will then serve to log your age and track the skill in which you answer questions.

Let’s say our 7-year-old friend here, called Timmy, was playing the game. Timmy will be given specific questions aimed at his curriculum level – should he do well with the standard 7-year-old questions, he’ll be given questions from a harder tier in the same age group. If Timmy ends up being some sort of whiz kid from Mensa or something then he’ll be asked questions usually reserved for 8 or 9 year-olds, and so on.

EA hopes that with this method, young and older players can engage in the same Smartypants game without the old folks being patronised by simple questions, while the little ones won’t get lost and bored with questions about fine wines and Boy George.
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