While Microsoft is quite capable of being innovative and exciting, there are those who would argue that it has built a lot of its success on taking what somebody else is doing, creating its own version and then bludgeoning them to death with marketing and longevity. Well, if that's the plan with "Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action", then it's got its work cut out, because families bought a lot of PS2s, and a lot of copies of Buzz, which is almost completely the same thing, and even Microsoft can't convince anyone that families buy Xbox 360.
Not yet, anyway, which is the point of Scene It. It is the chicken. And it's quite a handsome one. Like Buzz, it's a four-player quiz aimed at getting people to sit around the TV together. Like Buzz, it comes with four "buzzer" controllers built into the price of the game. Like Buzz, it has various rounds that - based on Scene It's premise as a film-trivia DVD game - call upon audio and video clips and quiz questions in several formats. Like Buzz, it has a wacky presenter, who says, "You're like a bus-driver, yellow team! You're taking everyone to school!" And, "Round 2, or as I like to call it, Son of Round 1."
Unlike Buzz though, the controllers are wireless. They have a big buzzer that also wobbles in four d-pad directions for navigating menus, with the four traditional face-buttons of an Xbox 360 pad presented in a line beneath them. On-screen options will correspond to the colours. Beneath that, as the fascia slants away from the face-button panel, there's a small Guide button, sat in-between the Back and Start buttons common to Xbox users. It's not very heavy, with most of the weight stemming from the batteries it runs off. According to the man who presents the game to us, they should last for ages - "we're guessing a year-and-a-half or two years before you'll need to change them". The pads themselves aren't finished though. "They're probably 80 percent complete. Pretty close, though. Weight's final."
The game they buzz through has 1800 new questions in it, with images, audio and high-definition movie clips sprinkled throughout its 21 rounds in an attempt to keep things interesting. There's a full-play mode, a short-play mode and a party-play mode that puts trivia questions on rotation and allows anyone to jump in - or at least that's how it was described. Perhaps surprisingly though, it's "local gameplay only", which is to say that Xbox Live is nowhere to be seen. No online multiplayer, no Vision camera; nowt. This is because it's "aimed at families", obviously.
Onto the game itself and we get to sample five puzzle types in our little group. It's me versus a pair of Mexicans and a hot but sadly foreign-language TV correspondent, who giggles rather a lot. She also isn't very good. In the first puzzle type, we're shown a still from a film and asked to choose what's "missing" from the scene from a list. The quicker you answer, the more points you get. It takes three questions and a lot of confused translation before she grasps that you're not allowed to buzz immediately and then sit there staring at the answers for half a minute before choosing one. Once things settle down, everyone gets into the habit of spotting what's missing at around the same time and jamming the buzzers simultaneously. There are no obvious hiccups with the wireless response from the console, which sorts us into a fair order.
Next up we're shown a group of pictures in a split-screen sequence. The idea is that each corresponds to a syllable or section of an actor's name or film's name, so you might see a spider and a man for "Spider-Man" or, you know, something witty and hard to guess. TV lady is better at this one, and I'm absolutely rubbish. Fortunately though I am able to redeem myself in the next round, where we're shown a clip of a film - about a minute long - and then asked questions about it. In this case it's a clip from Office Space, which I've never seen, but that doesn't matter because the questions aren't about the film - they're about the contents of the clip. "How many cups are shown?" and things like that. They become very obscure very quickly. The next round involves completing famous quotes from films. One chap dominates this completely, stranding me in third. "Hey yellow team! Just remember the people who helped you on your way to the top! Me, for example!" Quiet, Buzz man.
Finally we're asked to watch as key scenes from famous films are drawn on-screen in a cartoon style. Once they've reached a certain stage it usually becomes apparent what you're looking at - like a kiddy version of Psycho's shower scene - and you buzz in and pick from a list. It's not enough to save me, although I do better here and scramble into second. Dignity is mine! Scene It, meanwhile, is the hard work of Screenlife Games and WXP, and while they've undoubtedly created something entertaining and accessible, the fact the controllers are wireless will struggle to overcome the opposing fact that PS2 is cheaper and Buzz is available in several volumes when it comes to market this Christmas with expectation heaped upon it. For those without PS2s though, and a desire to keep people happy on Boxing Day, it looks like it'll do as it's meant.
Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action is due out exclusively for Xbox 360 this Christmas.