The core of Quiz Game Land is in Story Mode, which opens with the choice between a male or female character (leaving the other quite dejected). Both male and female are sunshiney and fresh-faced, with toothy grins that make them look as though they have milk mustaches. The young lass I chose sifts through the stacks of her games collection, and chances upon an unfamiliar title. When she begins to play it, she is cast into a deep and mysterious sleep, waking up to find herself in none other than Quiz Game Land. There, Joystick Man tells her that only the Game Master can return her home, and to find him she must travel through multiple worlds and defeat various enemies with a broad repertoire of gaming knowledge.
The tale is told screen by screen, storybook style, with a theatrical curtain to boot. There are eight worlds to travel through, and you can take a different combination to the Game Master as well as choose different paths within each stage. Each level is a board game, and a roll of the dice allows you to progress along the tiles. Most of the board spaces will have you pitted against one of fifty-seven characters, and to defeat the enemy and continue onward you must correctly answer however many questions are indicated on that particular board space before you run out of health. Later you can view all defeated enemies in the game’s Bestiary, from the Slimes to Nerdy Nerd to the evil plant Mac Plantor.
Questions are multiple choice with four possible answers, and the timer bar refreshes for each question (at the end of a battle, the total time is given but it does not seem to have bearing on your score). In addition to having “health” that allows for some error, you also have cards that allow you to skip a question in a battle, or boost the time remaining to answer, or reduce the available answers by half. Mini-games dot the board, and give you a chance to win extras of both health and these playable bonuses. Mini-games can be skipped, however, since a lost round of rock, paper, scissors can cost you a health. Some games just require reflexes, like whack-a-mole and slot machines, and once you unlock a mini-game in the Story Mode you can revisit it at your leisure from the Mini-Games menu option.
Points are awarded for questions answered correctly, so while landing on a tile granting you a free roll of the dice may spare you some recall toil, it won’t net you any profit for the leaderboards. The board also has a warp tile, that will send you elsewhere in the level, usually a good ways away. Checkpoints throughout the level allow you to quit and return to that place later. Should you tire of the journey, you can always just play around with the mini-games or in the Millionaire Mode, which plays like a simple Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
There are multiple difficulty levels: Easy, Experienced, Hard and Nightmare. I suspect casual gamers will be both challenged by the Easy level and delight in discovering how much they already know about gaming and gaming technology. Not all of the trivia is nostalgia driven, with questions about current generation consoles and games as well as questions about games hardware, technology and even what actors play characters in game-inspired films. Experienced Mode seems to share a lot of overlap with Easy, with similar questions about which console debuted first, and what kind of animal “Spyro” is.
Hard mode is described as “suitable for hardcore gamers with expert knowledge, who’d stay at home playing rather than go out on a date”. However, I could hold my own on Hard mode, even though I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore font of information. Sure, there were gimmes like “What does RPG stand for” snuck in, but there was plenty of trivia that I was not confident in answering. Honestly, one of the most fun things about the game is not necessarily proving how much you already know (though there’s a thrill in that) but familiarizing yourself with even more geek trivia.
There are eight themes, though I’m most fond of the “pow pow pow” sounds when you defeat an enemy. Pixelated art and two dimensions are the order of the day here, and I appreciate its style without really thinking it’s all that good-looking. It all comes down to chroma choice, and the heavily browned out tones are a part of the past I’m not so nostalgic about. Online leaderboards are a modern touch in this retro styled game, and in a nice little feature in the local leaderboards tracks which paths you take to victory. In old school style, the leaderboards will let you upload as many scores as you generate, which means top-scoring individuals can dominate a screen – and I much prefer the modern “only your best counts” approach. I also would have liked to see my score tracked on the game board, as this is as much a mark of success in the game as tile-based progress through a level.
Escaping from Quiz Game Land is likely a journey you’ll want to prolong and revisit as you out-trivia your way through the worlds. Exhibiting extensive knowledge of gaming history and culture along the way, the questions range from long past to very current, from games themselves to their surrounding tech, making Quiz Game Land more than a trivia title – this is a game to enhance your geekery!