Malcolm Owen On February 16, 2006 at 3:55 pm

Once upon a time, the humble game show was a simple affair of questions and answers presided over by a slightly overenthusiastic host assisted by a beautiful lady keeping the scores up to date. Questions would be asked, contestants would try to answer them, prizes were given and everyone was happy.
Then, things went a bit wrong. Soon, it wasn’t enough to answer questions before other people. You had to say your answer whilst being tortured with electrodes or flung off a building with only an elastic band to keep you company. Get it wrong and you would have to eat a cow’s stomach lining. Game shows used to be about knowledge, but now they are just a vehicle for ritual humiliation and deceitful inter-contestant relationships on an island in the middle of nowhere. The audience has suffered because they have no opportunity to demonstrate their own knowledge by shouting the answer at the TV when the contestants don’t know themselves. The shows of before are now just a fond memory to a few out-of-work TV producers and hosts with a warehouse of consolation prizes to get rid of.

Buzz!: The Music Quiz is a game that is practically designed for those TV Shouters that can’t anymore. It’s a game that follows a generic show format of introductions, round instructions, assorted questions with comments from the host and a fabulous prize at the end of it all. A format that almost anyone that has watched TV can understand straight away, which saves on having to learn what each individual button does or what objectives are. This therefore makes Buzz! a good game to introduce non-gamers into modern day entertainment and away from Survivor 73: Greenland.

The short version of the instructions (and all you really need to know at a bare minimum) is that a question comes up on the in-game video wall, you buzz in if you know and press the corresponding button on your handset. Specialised rounds are introduced with a quick breakdown of rules and scoring, but they can be skipped if you really don’t want to hear them for the seventh time today.
The rounds differ purely in the method the questions or answers are asked and not by actual category, which is a minor shame. I would have loved to see a round where you had to identify people in a band or had to put a photo of the band to the song that’s playing, but sadly this is not the case. Instead, the rounds base themselves on how the scoring and answering methods work, such as the first to get it right gets more points than anyone else, or everyone takes it in turns to nominate another player to answer a question based on a snippet of music that’s playing before the question is revealed.
The questions are formatted in such a way that they can fit into any round available and feature music (but not original recordings by the original artists, as that would be expensive) that you have to recognise quickly then answer the question associated with it (Such as “What is this song called?” and “Which fact is true?”). If there were different categories, things would be a lot more interesting. The nearest thing to categories would be the selection of eras for the quiz, using the options of either “Newer Stuff”, “Older Stuff” or “All of it”, giving a simple way of gearing the quiz towards it’s players.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the game, but the questions seem a bit limited to what they could be. A bit too generic.

And then we come to the show host. It’s not too much of a surprise that his name is “Buzz” to match the show’s title, however the fact that it matches is a clue about him. Being a host that looks like a Muppet crossed with Guybrush Threepwood and dressed in an average off-the-shelf suit from Marks and Spencers, he’s made to look like an amalgamation of every single generic and “happy” host that has ever existed. His incessant need to comment about the responses to the question felt just like a daytime quiz host berating the contestants, and this made me want to smack him in the mouth on many occasions. Sadly there’s no real option to turn him off at all, except if you choose to play the mode that just gives you a pile of questions with very little in the way of distractions.
However, if you feel the need to get annoyed by the guy, you should play the singleplayer game. With a first round that builds time and a second round that you must climb a ladder and “bank” in a Weakest Link way, you just want him to stop speaking. His sudden changes between shouting in a pseudo-excited way and talking in a relaxed manner have no rhyme and reason as to why one should be heard and not the other. It grates too much. Sadly, he’s going to be in the next few editions (A normal quiz version and the expected movie and sports versions too), so let’s hope he’s tuned down a bit for them.

In a similar way to how Sony introduced the webcam and microphones into our lives, Buzz! includes some special handsets to play specially with the game. You get 4 handsets with 5 buttons on them, one of which is a big, red, flashing and bloody obvious buzzer at the top and some other buttons for answer selection.
It does feel like a pathetic gimmick in the beginning and the enforced use of them and not joypads doesn’t help either, but after a while I began to realise why we have to use them.
They’re not for us. They’re for the people that haven’t touched a joypad without fear. They’re for people that don’t want 28 buttons on their controller. They’re for the grandparents, the busy adults that play sports, for Uncle Lou that comes around for Christmas dinner every year, whom can use an electric turkey slicer but can’t set the clock on the VCR. They’re for anyone who wants to have a go without the commitment of having to learn from an instruction manual.

This is where it’s main strength lies. Buzz is a game that isn’t just for Us (gamers) at all. It’s for Them (non-gamers) to play too. A simple to play game that We and They can play together. A game where my mother can play on equal terms with my sister. Where steady hands and quick reactions are not the highest priorities. Where we can all press a big red flashing button. This game is for everyone, and despite it’s shortcomings and a host that deserves a good slap, it should be commended for allowing anyone capable of pressing a button to play with very little knowledge beforehand.


Buzzers are a novelty that work well in a game built for party play.


Visual style is coherent enough to work, but the Muppet host spoils things.


A collection of non-original samples that get repeated a bit early for my liking.


A game built for parties with a good mix of available questions and a mechanic that means almost anyone can play. Not bad for new IP…

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