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SummaryI’d like to solve the puzzle, please. Is it “Poop Mandible”?
The GoodI don’t watch much Television anymore, but I used to, so I’ve seen Wheel of Fortune a few times. I always preferred Family Feud or The Price is Right, but the Wheel was fun to play along with. So I ended up with the NES version through one of those yard sales where the person is selling all their NES games for, like, five dollars. I really only wanted Batman or something, but I had to take them all because I thought, enh, review fodder.
Out of boredom, I popped in Wheel of Fortune and what do I find? The damned thing was made by friggin’ Rare. Rare, who brought us Battletoads and R.C. Pro-Am. That heightened my expectations, but I figured I’d best keep them in check because in the end, I’m still playing Wheel of Fortune (by myself, no less). It’s like finding out Jesus made an Atari 2600 version of Battleship. It might be a holy relic and a good electronic version of Battleship but it’s still Battleship!
Seriously though, it IS a decent version of Wheel of Fortune. After starting up the game you’re treated to a fairly clear (for the NES) digitized crowd screaming “Wheel! Of! Fortune!” The game allows for three players (through controller sharing) but if you have no one to play against, you can play against the CPU at three difficulty settings. The computer difficulty ranges from completely daft to cheating psychic-soldier. There are quite a lot of puzzles as well, so as long as you don’t play obsessively, there’s a good chance you won’t see the same one twice.
Everything you’d expect in a game based off Wheel of Fortune is present. There’s a wheel that spins, puzzles for you to solve, and Vanna White. Actually, I’m not sure if that is Vanna White, since there is another NES version of Wheel of Fortune with the subtitle “Featuring Vanna White”. So it may be just some generic co-host in a dress. Pat Sajak is completely absent, in fact, there’s no host whatsoever. There are also a number of real world prizes you can choose from if you make it to the final round, though obviously you don’t actually win these prizes.
The BadWheel of Fortune’s biggest problem is that it’s severely out of date. Who the hell is Angie Dickinson? Do people still even have mortgage burning parties? I feel like I’m playing at a handicap because I was only barely around for the 80’s and I sure as hell don’t remember them. Other puzzles are completely obtuse. “Executive bathroom?” Who, besides level three computer players, would ever guess that? The questions also tend to be skewed towards an American audience, which makes sense since it’s an American game show, but it makes it a lot more difficult for a Canadian like me, let alone someone who isn’t even from North America.
The AI settings are a little wonky. If you set it to three, the AI pretty much cheats. I had an instance where one of them was on the final round. He picked all his letters and only one appeared on the board, a T. So, I laughed to myself because there’s no way he could guess the puzzle, but guess what? He spells out “I did it my way” and wins the damned game. What the hell is with that!? On the other hand, if you set the AI to one, they’re practically brain dead. I’ve had a few instances where one of them would pick a Q despite there being no u’s in the puzzle. Once, there were three letters left blank and they were all vowels, yet they still couldn’t solve it! My advice: never set them at anything but two.
Wheel of Fortune is certainly a slow game. I mean, it’s a slow game to begin with, but the NES version just makes things slower. Firstly, you have to watch the computer players take their turns. There’s absolutely no way to skip it or hurry them along. That’s not so bad, because you’ll want to see what they spin and what letter they pick. However, for some reason they included a strength meter for your spins. If you try to fill the meter when you spin, you’ll wind up watching that wheel spin for way too long. Also, the computer players have a habit of letting it hit the end of the bar, then waiting until it comes back to pick their speed.
A problem that almost every game show conversion is the total lack of excitement, and Wheel of Fortune is a huge offender. There’s no feedback whatsoever, even from Vanna White or whoever she is. There is no roar of the crowd, you never see the contestants so there’s no feedback from them, there’s nothing to get you excited. If you have a couple of friends to play this with, this complaint is meaningless since you’ll be getting feedback from them. Otherwise, it’s a very dry experience.
The graphics are decent, though they’re very basic. Get used to seeing Vanna White, because other than the wheel, that’s all you’ll ever see. Her sprite is pretty big, but she lacks a lot of colour and detail. He skin and hair are both a similar colour, so they blend together into a blob. She has a lot of frames of animation, but that doesn’t help the fact that she looks like a sea sponge wearing a dress. For that matter, she never changes her dress either. Since the graphics are so minimalistic, is it too much to ask to have her change her outfit for variety’s sake? Aw, I’m nitpicking.