Having firmly cemented itself in the tea time slot on BBC Two, ever since its inception, Eggheads has gained a reputation for being an absolutely rock solid quiz. Pitting a team of ordinary people against a side of "superstar" quiz players and general knowledge geniuses, in over a thousand episodes, the Eggheads have only been beaten 86 times. A firm favourite amongst armchair contestants, Eggheads certainly seemed to be a logical candidate for a video game port - and now, you'll be able to take on CJ, Chris, Daphne, and the rest of the team, from the comfort of your own DS.
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Those who've seen the TV show will be familiar with the format here. Taking on a randomly selected team made out of five of the seven Eggheads, you'll face off against the braniacs over a series of five rounds. The first four rounds have a best-of-three format, and pit you head-to-head against an Egghead of your choosing, with a set of multiple choice questions based around a single, randomly chosen category. Get more questions right than your opponent, and they'll be eliminated, which prevents them from taking part in the final round. Should you be tied at the end of a round, you'll go on to sudden death, where you and your opponent will alternately be asked questions, this time without the multiple choice options, until one of you gets an answer wrong. Once you've played through the first four rounds, you'll move into the final, where you'll face off against the remaining Eggheads in a similar format - best-of-three general knowledge first, with sudden death awaiting if there's a need for a tie-break.
And, as you may imagine, as the official game of the TV show, the program's trademark difficulty is well intact. With a choice of nine categories on offer (Food and Drink, Geography, Politics, History, Science, Sport, Arts and Books, Film and Television, and General Knowledge), the questions here pull no punches, and will push your powers of recollection to the limit. The questions are also aimed firmly at the audience the show will attract, with plenty of questions about politics in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, leaving younger players clueless. In a somewhat refreshing change, as it's a UK based show, a lot of the questions in the game are UK and European-centric too, including questions about landmarks, politicians, and history that really, only a person living in this country would even stand a chance of knowing. Luckily, it's not all universally impossible, though. A few of the questions are outright easy, most are middling (and are mostly open to educated guesses), but as you may imagine, there are plenty of absolute stinkers too. As an example, in the Arts and Books category, our two consecutive questions were "Which of these is the lowest woodwind instrument - A Bassoon, Flute, or Clarinet", which we found fairly straightforward (although possibly playing in the school band helped out there), which was followed by the obscure "Which French poet, translator, and critic publisher the 1857 poetry collection 'Les Fleurs du Mal'?". To be in with even a small chance of winning, you'll need a wide ranging knowledge of each category if you hope to take the Egghead down. Or, you'll need to have put in a lot of practice.
Although there are some 2400 questions in the game, and we're sure we haven't got through all of them already, we have spotted the same questions showing up on multiple playthroughs. And while it's not really too much of a problem - if nothing else, it means we stand more of a chance of winning - you would imagine there'd be a system that marked a question as played, in order to give unseen questions
priority. In any game other than Eggheads, this would be a much bigger issue - but as it stands, having the odd question you've seen before rear its head again is the only way you're going to get some of the more obscure questions right. What is slightly more of a problem, however, is the lack of variety sometimes found in the questions it asks you. While the game undoubtedly covers hundreds, if not thousands of topics, we've been asked four questions in a row about American Presidents before, which seems a little bit unfair. A similar thing happened in Geography, where we were asked four questions about rivers. It'd be nice if there were a system in place to stop this happening, because, if American Presidents aren't your speciality, it can sometimes feel somewhat cruel.
Should you not manage to beat the Eggheads to the best of three, you'll head into Sudden Death, which takes away the multiple choice answers, and instead gives you a virtual keyboard, and a number of spaces (so at the very least, you can make a guess based on the number of letters and words). However, this brings with it a few problems of its own. You see, as you may imagine, these Sudden Death rounds are hard enough - but it's actually harder than it would be on TV. Not only do you have to get the right answer, but you have to spell it right too. Miss out a repeated letter, or put an I before an E, and even if you've got the right answer, you'll lose out on the round - which wouldn't happen in "real life". In fact, the rounds seem to go on to sudden death far too often for our liking - and they go on forever, too. Should you happen to get a few questions right, you can pretty much guarantee your Egghead opponent will hold pace with you - and when you've each answered five or six sudden death questions correctly, you start to wonder what it'll take to beat them - and then you'll lose out because you've spelled something wrong. We've come a cropper one too many a time in Sudden Death, especially when trying to spell a foreign word, with several repeated letters.
Luckily, though, in your intellectual war against the Eggheads, you aren't armed with your brain alone. While on the TV show, you'd have your own team of five people to choose from, in the game, you can unlock special hints, and bonuses, that give you a poke in the right direction when you need it the most. Letting you change category, get a new question, or simply eliminating one of the wrong answers, the bonuses can be unlocked by playing a variety of Brain Training style minigames, found under the "Challenge" category on the main menu. Sadly, there's not too much variety here, as the majority of the games are either "True or False" challenges, which take questions from the game, and reword them into true or false choices, helping you brush up on the questions you'll be asked. The only other main type of game are maths ones, which either test your mental maths, or ask you to put the missing symbol into the equation. The sections finished off by a few odd games which ask you to either draw shapes as though they've been reflected in a line, count the number of shapes that fly across the screen, and choose which side of a scale is the heaviest. Each time you attempt one of these minigames, you'll earn a certain number of points, and every 1000 points you earn, you'll be awarded a bonus to be used in the main game. Sadly, only two minigames are available to begin with, and you'll have to earn over 800 points in each challenge to unlock the next two - which can sometimes be a little bit tricky, especially on some of the harder categories of true and false.
Our preferred way of playing, however, does away with any bonuses - instead, we simply round up the family, and draw on their collective knowledge as our own little "team". With no time limit on the questions, (and questions that are so difficult), you're free to ask parents, children, and grandparents alike as you search for that elusive answer. Working as a team certainly makes the game a lot more fun - and gives you more of a chance of winning - and before too long, you'll find you've got a room full of puzzled faces and heads being scratched. It's a great way to get everyone involved - and it works pretty well on long car journeys too.
Overall though, if you're a fan of the TV series, and fancy a shot at the Eggheads yourself, the Eggheads DS game is a decent way of testing your knowledge without the hassle of putting together a team and risking humiliation on national TV. While it would have been nice if it felt a little bit more authentic in places (picking an Egghead with a known weakness doesn't seem to affect their performance at their supposedly weak subjects - perhaps they could have asked the Eggheads the questions in real life before putting them into the game), and it could use some sort of a tracking system that makes sure you don't get asked several questions about the same subject in a row, there's still plenty to keep your grey matter ticking here. For those looking for a challenging trivia game, or something to keep you busy during the quiet parts of the holidays, this could be well worth a look - especially as it's now under £15 on Amazon.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS