Who Wants To Be A Millionaire DVD Game Review

The success of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is quite hard to grasp. While the attraction of seeing someone win a million pounds may explain its initial popularity, the fact that people tune in week after week to watch a show which is, despite the prizes, pretty low-budget has to be based on something deeper. Perhaps it’s the ‘could be me next time’ factor or the attraction of seeing someone completely thick just about scrape the £1000 mark before confidently announcing that Clark Kent starred in Gone With The Wind. Maybe it’s because we see the answers on screen and can make an educated guess at some of the more obscure posers, thus making ourselves feel jolly clever if we happen to chance on the correct choice. It could even be the atmosphere of cheap suspense ladled on by Chris Tarrant which gets you excited even though you really couldn’t care less. I think, personally, that it’s the multiple choice format that is so intriguing. On Mastermind, you can only win if you’re pretty well up on a special subject and have a solid grasp of general knowledge. On Millionaire, any schmoe has a chance of winning if they’ve got a bit of luck, manage to keep their life lines and have at least one friend who knows their arse from their elbow.

If, like me, you’ve phoned many times and still failed to be picked as a contestant, then this new DVD version of the show may well be for you. Perhaps I should say Deee-Veee-Deee, thus echoing Chris Tarrant’s bizarre elocution in the introductory section. Tarrant appears at the start and is a constant presence; like Banquo’s ghost, he may sometimes vanish but you just know that he’s bound to turn up again when you really don’t want to see him. I’ve nothing against Chris Tarrant and I happen to think that, as one of the masterminds behind the marvellous “TISWAS” and the revolutionary “OTT”, he deserves a good measure of credit for the development of ‘alternative’ comedy in the early 1980s. But as he’s got older, he’s somehow tried to develop a serious screen persona which comes across as completely bogus. He looks like an intelligent man who is pretending to be interested in banalities, rather than the usual quiz show host; a banal man trying to look intelligent. One has to hand it to him though, he knows how to get you on the edge of your seat, even if it’s only with the desire to wring his neck. Those catchphrases – “Is that your final answer ?”, “Sure ?”, “But we don’t wanna give you that… - appear on this DVD version with the mind-numbing inevitability of a Tory leadership crisis.

However, the game itself, once you’ve got used to Tarrant staring at you balefully during the numerous pauses for layer changes, is pretty good fun. The opening quickfire round has been scrapped – unlike in the very annoying pub quiz machine version, the one with the touch-screen that didn’t work because it was matted with lager stains – and we start with the £100 question and all three lifelines. For anyone who has been in a maximum security unit with no television access during the last five years, these lifelines are as follows; Ask The Audience, which triggers a vote amongst the studio audience as to which answer is most correct; 50/50 which takes away two answers out of the four possible; and Phone A Friend, which allows you to phone someone to see if they know the answer. All of these are replicated on the DVD game version. I rather liked the Phone a Friend option, which gives you the choice of three friends to get in touch with, each of them having a different range of interests. It’s fairly easy to choose the right one but it adds a bit of variation to an otherwise rather static format.

There are allegedly over 1000 questions on the DVD but I have to say that over the course of ten games I got an awful lot of duplicates. However, these tended to be the easier questions so maybe if I got further then the variation would be more obvious. The layer changes seemed a bit slow but that’s probably machine specific rather than a general problem with the disc. The quality of the questions is roughly similar to that in the TV show and there is a good range of subjects.

I enjoyed playing Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and I can imagine that it will make for a fun family evening. My main gripes are with the excess of Tarrant, something which may not affect other players, and with the recurrence of questions. The fullscreen picture quality is generally excellent – not that it’s the kind of title which offers scope for many potential problems - and the Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack is admirably clear. There are no extras but Tarrant does promise in the opening that if you win a million then you have the chance of some real prizes. As a gentleman, I haven’t cheated to find this out for myself yet but as the questions have no time limit you could quite easily get a few reference books stashed beside you and see what you get when you win. I did get to £500,000 twice but was tripped up by guessing on both occasions. Still, as Esther used to say, that’s life. Can’t help thinking though, that an interactive “TISWAS” game would be even more fun, giving the viewer the opportunity to get covered in gunge, gaze at Sally James in a wet t-shirt, and have the great and the good targeted by the Phantom Phlan Phlinger. I’ll be writing to Celador to offer them this idea and don’t forget, you heard it here first.

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