Buzz!: The Music Quiz
Music to our ears.
Don't you love it when games companies go and make something specifically tailored to your specialist subject? A game so up your street that you already instinctively know you'll be the feared conqueror of all who dare to challenge you? A game that Tom has already conceded defeat on six months before its release. That game is Buzz, Sony's latest in its growing range of family entertainment titles that brings the madness of the 'fingers on the buzzers' quiz show into your living room.
Majestically, Sony has picked the subject of popular music as the first choice for its interactive gameshow that's certain to tax the pop knowledge of everyone from 6 to 65. This debut offering, though, spans six decades and encompasses multiple genres with over 5000 questions including 1000 audio clips to buzz in on.
Buzz Buzz Buzz
Supporting up to four players, Sony has again, following its EyeToy and Singstar exploits, designed bespoke controllers (rectangular buzzers, in this case) to deliver that authentic gameshow experience. In true "fingers on the buzzer style", contestants must buzz in before their opponents by pressing the big red button, and then select their chosen response by pressing one of the four buttons beneath marked A to D. It's so ridiculously simple it makes you wonder why no one else has bothered marketing such a product before.
Hosted by "the super-stylish, super-smooth man with the questions, Buzz", (or Dr Fox if Jim Henson re-imagined him as a Muppet), it's hardly the most difficult game to get your head around - and therein lies its stupefyingly beautiful appeal. Developed by music-based videogame 'specialists' Relentless Software, it has you choose from one of 16 'funky' contestants (from Elvis wannabe to Britpop rocker to raver chick to pop diva) and dive in for quick fix thrills or extended quiz marathons in single or multiplayer modes - although clearly this is another one of those games you really won't get the best out of on your lonesome.
Using the sort of floppy-limbed, caricatured style beloved of Free Radical, once Buzz and his 'sexy sidekick' Rose walk out onto the set amid his signature theme tune, dry ice and canned applause, it's simply a case of grabbing your buzzer and getting on with the show and getting set to rack your brains and test your levels of anal pop trivia.
The king of pop
Eight different rounds make up a game of Buzz, and will test not just your ability to recognise a tune quickly, but the more tricky elements of musical knowledge, like the year a song game came out, the name of the artist, the song title, and all manner of incidental detail that will let others know just how much of a Pop Tart you really are.
Starting off with a nice simple round called Point Builder, you then move onto Snap, where if you see the right answer appear you must Buzz in before your chums. Similarly, Fastest Finger requires lightning reactions, with more points gained the quicker you buzz. Next up is Offloader, and whether you know the answer or not doesn't matter. What's more crucial is who you think doesn't know the answer, as you're given the opportunity to have others answer the questions you don't want to. Pass the Bomb, meanwhile, as the name suggests, tasks you with answering correctly to pass the bomb to the next contestant - the trick being to make sure you're not the one holding it when it goes off.
Next, Point Stealer gives you a chance to exact revenge on a player of your choice (usually the one with the most points, as it happens), while Buzz Stop is a hand-to-eye co-ordination test. Those with a penchant for "inane trivia" are likely to win out. It's a 'pass or play' round, with the aim to buzz in if you want to stop others answering. The final round, Look Before You Leap, is one where you must buzz in as soon as you know the answer, but comes with the added risk of losing points should you mess up. In the event of a draw, the Tie-Breaker kicks in, where "points make prizes!" Just to rub it in, all wins and losses can be saved to memory cards if you ever need to prove who is the king or queen of pop trivia.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. The game ships exclusively on PlayStation 2 this October, and looks like an unlikely candidate to becoming one of the most played games in the run up to Christmas. As for Christmas day itself, I'll be packing some boxing gloves before the traditional family visit. Not that I'm competitive or anything...