What better way to start a review of a movie quiz game than... Wait, we did that a month ago for the review of Buzz! Hollywood. We liked that game, you may recall, but suggested it might be best to see how Microsoft's rival movie quiz game turned out. Well, it's here.
Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action is Buzz! for Xbox 360, in essence. It comes with four Big Button Pads (they're actually called that) and an infra-red dongle which plugs into a 360 USB port and has a nice long cable. There are more than 1800 questions, and the 360 tracks which ones are asked to prevent repetition.
Just like Buzz!, you can choose a short (about 25 minutes) or long (about an hour) game. There's also a party mode where you can keep answering questions indefinitely. If you've got less than four players you have to wait for the clock to tick down even after you've all answered, tediously.
The best thing about party mode is it dispenses with the worst thing about the regular game. If you think Buzz!'s stupid computer-generated Australian is a ****, wait till you meet Mr Scene It. Although you don't exactly get to meet him as he exists only in the form of an irritating voiceover. He claims to be a movie producer. When the game begins he announces, "This is my studio where I make great movies," and the camera swoops around a movie lot that looks like it was drawn in 1997.
The rubbish and entirely unnecessary premise is that Mr Scene It is "always looking for new talent" and somehow wants to evaluate yours by asking you movie trivia questions. During the course of the game you are taken to locations such as the screenwriters' trailer and test screening cinema to be asked said questions.
Mr Scene It pops up between every round to reel out movie-related cliches, trite observations about how the game is progressing and appalling jokes. "I hope you have a good memory because mine's... Ah... What was I just talking about?" No one cares, Mr Scene It.
You'll spend most of your time in the cinema, watching HD movie clips and answering questions on them. The questions are either about the film ("What is the name of John Cusack's character?") or require Krypton Factor-style observation skills ("How many chairs were behind John Cusack?").
Scene It features clips from more obscure films as well as blockbusters and from both old and new movies. The highlight of the entire game is the clip from Working Girl (yes, "I have a head for business and a body for sin." Why Rupert won't allow that to be printed on business cards is anyone's guess).
The movie clip rounds don't quite work. The movie clips feel like they go on too long, especially the ones which are from boring films and/or feature Meryl Streep. Sitting in a room silently with four other people watching 90 seconds of a film is not the most fun in the world, even in high definition. Each time a movie clip round pops up, which happens an awful lot, some momentum from the game is lost.
At least there are plenty of other rounds to be getting on with. Highlights include Drawing Board, where an image representing a film is scribbled, Pictionary-style, on-screen, and you have to buzz in and guess the movie. Then there's the round where you're shown a film poster with the text and main components missing and have to guess what it's for. The audio clip round sees you identifying which films the clips are from.
There are also some boring rounds, like the one where you have to put movies in order of release or answer questions about how many films Nicole Kidman's been in and so on. And some rounds feature a dreadful mechanic where the person who buzzes in first is given the remaining time on the clock to pick their answer, while other players must look on. It quickly descends into a competition to see who's best at pressing the big button rather than who knows most about films.
It's a shame you can't customise the types of rounds in your game, as with Buzz! Hollywood, but at least there's plenty of variation in round types and the game does a decent job of mixing them up.
There's one aspect of Scene It which gives it an advantage or a disadvantage over Buzz! Hollywood depending on your perspective. Buzz! is clearly meant to be a game the whole family can play, and as a result the questions won't tax movie fans even if you've selected the hard option. Scene It is tougher, with harder questions about more obscure movies and actors, and will therefore be enjoyed more by film buffs.
The game does try to balance it out with elements like the observation questions in the movie clip rounds. There's also a fun mechanic which awards extra points at the end of rounds for things like getting three questions in a row right or buzzing in first a certain number of times. This levels the playing field a bit, but not enough to prevent the buffs winning hands-down in the end.
Spot the difference
So, what's better, Buzz! Hollywood or Scene It? Well, they have plenty in common. In each game there's too much mucking about between rounds. Buzz! is hosted by an irritating, unfunny Australian; Scene It is hosted by an irritating, unfunny American.
Buzz! looks a bit naff and nineties, but so does Scene It. We were hoping for something a bit SingStar in style, all sharp colours and clean lines. We got a silly premise, horrible visuals and a jarring rock-jazz-lift muzak soundtrack that makes the Pearl and Dean theme sound like it was written by Elgar. Buzz! has 3200 more questions than Scene It, but Scene It has wireless controllers.
We're going to cop out and give Scene It the same score we gave Buzz! Hollywood because they both have plus and minus points. The big difference is one is for film buffs, one is for the average moviegoer. For drinking fun with people who are in their twenties and know who Parker Posey is, pick Scene It. For family fun with people who are either too young or too old to drive and think Truffaut is a special kind of Ferrero Rocher, pick Buzz! Hollywood.
Or save yourself a bit of money, lower your expectations and buy Cheggers' Party Quiz. It has no buzzers and it looks rubbish. But it has Keith Chegwin, and we'd take him over Buzz! the **** or Mr ******* Scene It any day. Yes, even like that.