Version tested: PlayStation 3
First, the good news: Buzz! is back! A new instalment in the hit series of quiz games has been released just in time for Christmas. It features 5000 new questions, three more round types and three new characters. There has been a host of minor technical improvements which enhance the overall experience to a significant degree.
Now, the bad news: Buzz is back. The eponymous quiz show host is as bouncy, bolshy and full of irritating wisecracks as ever. Once again it will be just minutes before you want to grab him by his silly hair, yank the top of his giant head as far back as it will go, stuff your Buzz! controller into his gaping maw, push it so far down his gullet the flashing red button pops out the other end, stab the sharpened end of a tree branch into each buttock and call him Rudolph. Or perhaps that's just me.
So putting Buzz to one side for now, let's start with those round types. Buzz!: Quiz World features old favourites such as Fastest Finger, Pass the Bomb and Final Countdown but now there are extras like Over the Edge, where every question you get wrong tips you closer to a giant gunge tank. In On the Spot you get to bet your opponents' points on how likely they are to get questions right, which is a good twist.
The least interesting new round is Boiling Point, where you compete to raise the temperature on a thermometer by giving correct answers. The winner is the first person to get five questions right. Without dynamics such as constantly shifting scores or the chance to mess up things for your opponents, there's little tension until the very end.
But if you're not a fan of Boiling Point, or any of the other rounds for that matter, you can give it a miss. Buzz! Quiz World has more options for selecting rounds than any of the previous instalments and you can even build your own custom game. Alternatively you can opt for all "Crazy" or all "Serious" rounds, or play games with a time limit of 15 or 45 minutes. It's about time Buzz! fans had the option to customise their games to this degree so the addition of this extensive range of choices is welcome.
However, it's a shame there still aren't many options when it comes to customising your character. You can't design your own avatar or import one from Home, and instead must play as one of 12 wacky stereotypes featured in the game. New characters include a medieval knight and a bearded yogi, but old friends like the annoying mime artist, slutty cheerleader and porno nurse also make a comeback.
They're all as naff as ever except now they look a bit more dated. There's still no explanation as to why evil alien overlords and old grannies are competing in a television quiz show together. Not that Buzz! is the type of game which requires a sophisticated plotline, but a bit more consistency to the character design would be good. As would the option to play as an avatar who looks like you, which is available in rival quiz game 1 vs. 100. There is some Home integration in Buzz! Quiz World - you can win items for your apartment, such as a bonsai tree - so why not extend that to avatars?
At least the player naming system has been improved. Now Buzz calls players by their names, or rather the names they've picked from an impressively large database. It includes multiple variations and spellings too so you can be Pete or Peter, Jackie, Jacky or Jacqui. Those with more exotic names can choose from a good selection of nicknames - things like Tiger, Fingers, Gramps, Iceman and Hightower.
Buzz also stores up information about how each player performs so he can make yet more snide comments. "Welcome back, Pete! Hello Ellie, last game's tycoon of trivia has returned!" he might say. "She certainly is the cleverest person in this relationship and should make all the decisions!" he is disappointingly unlikely to add.
Being called by your name really does enhance the Buzz! experience as it makes the whole thing feel more personal, and it's easier than trying to remember which one of you is player 3 or 4 and so on. Buzz's historical comments also add a dash of fun. They're better than his usual one-liners anyway, which are worse than ever in this game.
Some don't even seem to make sense ("With reactions like that, you could rule the world! No, really, you could"). Others are just plain unfunny ("Like the stake in the vampire, we're right at the heart of this round") or odd ("You were quick, but your answer was lamer than a crisp left out in the rain"). Also: "interweb". No.
Speaking of which, the online options have also been spruced up for Buzz! Quiz World. You can now use voice chat to communicate with other players and Sofa vs. Sofa works with eight contestants. There are more than two million additional user-created questions thanks to the MyBuzzQuiz service, all available for free via your PC or PS3. More rounds are compatible with MyBuzz questions this time and it's easier to search for quizzes by category or popularity. This is a welcome enhancement as a great number of them are stupid.
But like so many of the other changes in Buzz! Quiz World, it's a minor tweak rather than a fundamental twist. There are no attempts to head in any bold new directions here. Three new round types, one of which isn't very good, seems a bit stingy, as does the addition of only three new characters. The single-player mode is still weak, offering just two round types to choose from. And the visuals could do with an overhaul - four years on since the first game was released, Buzz! is starting to look dated.
Then there's Buzz. You can't blame Jason Donovan, he's doing the best he can with the script he's been given. Besides he's still traumatised after being lured into Nolan and Katona's terrifying sex dungeon last Christmas with the promise of jumbo tempura prawns and mini blackforest gateaux. But Buzz needs replacing with a character who's fresher, funnier and less likely to induce homicidal fantasies about reindeer. Will Smith, perhaps? Zac Efron? Ben Fogle? Failing that, an option to turn Buzz's endless wisecracks off would be good.
But some people do enjoy them, and even I am able to put up with his gurnings in order to play Buzz! That's because it's fundamentally a great game and the best option for console-owning quiz fans. Buzz! Quiz World is not radically different to previous instalments in the series - all you're really getting is 5000 new questions in a slightly slicker package. But with an RRP of 25 quid (or nearer to £20 if you shop around a bit), that's not a bad deal. If you've never played Buzz! before, and you fancy a bit of family fun round the PS3 this Christmas, it's well worth investing in Quiz World and a set of buzzers. Or, for those on a budget, perhaps just one buzzer and a couple of tree branches.
8 / 10