Version tested: Xbox 360
Without the benefit of copious downloadable content, quiz games have a finite shelf life. It's just a matter of how long you can play before you run out of questions you've not seen before. The most pressing issue, therefore, is how many times you can expect to play any new quiz game before you start seeing repeated questions.
In the case of Box Office Smash, the answer is less than five. Play more than ten, and you'll be getting serious déjà vu every round.
In many respects, this sequel to last year's buzzer bonanza is a marked improvement. The game moves faster, there are more open rounds where everyone gets a chance to score and there's a greater variety of round types - twenty-one in all. The long-winded banter between rounds has been trimmed, and while the new voiceover is every bit as unfunny as before, it's brief. There's even online play, an extremely welcome addition for film nerds desperate to escape the monotony of thrashing family and friends every time, and a much-needed option following the robust network options in rival quiz goliath, Buzz!, in its PS3 debut.
Although it lacks the option to create your own quiz, Box Office Smash does contain some decent options tucked away in the Custom Game menu. You can set the game to subtract points for incorrect answers, for example. There's also a Continuous Mode designed for party amusement, where the game fires a constant stream of trivia questions at the screen with no interruptions. If you're all on your own, there's a dedicated Solo Mode that uses an escalating multiplier system to create a reasonably compelling high-score game.
Unlike Buzz, online play is exactly the same as offline, with short and long modes available. As the game shuffles the rounds randomly it also keeps things more interesting during a long session than Buzz's fixed round order. You can't use your Avatar offline, though, which seems very strange. If your console isn't connected to Xbox Live, you can only pick from a pre-rendered Avatar - or ask the game to randomise one for you.
The questions are generally well-chosen, and skew the game in favour of reasonably well-informed film fans. Many of the incorrect multiple-choice answers have been specifically chosen to trip up those taking an educated guess and, as with the previous edition, it draws from a commendably eclectic selection of films across all genres and decades.
There's just no getting away from the repetition, though, and it seems especially obvious alternating between offline and online play, as if the mechanism that tracks the questions you've seen isn't used for Live games. Within four games you get the same clips and questions, and after ten it's almost guaranteed that at least a quarter of the content will be familiar. On one occasion I got the same anagram question twice in the same round during an online game.