Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 3 / MARCH 1985 / PAGE 111

Trivia mania; a look at the latest craze in computer entertainment - trivia games. (evaluation) Russ Lockwood.

Trivial Pursuit, the original trivia board game, excites a diverse array of passions at Creative Computing. From trivia fiend to trivia foe, it is a game we love to hate, and our editorial meetings sooner or later degenerate into trivia slinging matches. We cheer the home team, heckle the opponents, and emit gasps of amazement and groans of incredulity.

As usual, when a manufacturer introduces good product, a pack of clones follow, sometimes improving on the idea, sometimes not. Trivial Pursuit has spawned a host of imitators, and they have spilled over into the computer marketplace.

Computer trivia games represent a real upscale side of the trivia market, and many manufacturers are trying to grab a share of that market. One manufacturer swears trivia is a $1 billion a year industry--if correct, certainly not a trivial sum.

However, we worry less about marketing and more about quality. We do not want to see a rerun of the maze game craze, when manufacturers rushed out program after program--all modeled on the popular Pac-Man. Some were entertaining and imaginative adaptations; others were not.

Fortunately, most manufacturers are delivering quality computer trivia games. The typographical errors are few and far between, and the facts seem correct. The following reviews will help you choose the trivia game that is right for you. CompuTrivia

CompuTrivia, from Extek, contains more than 1300 questions divided into eight categories--Arts, Odds and Ends, Business and Politics, Sports, Entertainment, Geography, Science and Nature, and History. From two to six players or teams can play at once.

All functions of the game are controlled with the spacebar on the keyboard or the fire button on a joystick. CompuTrivia picks a category for you randomly or lets you choose your favorite from a menu. The game displays the question on the screen, and you answer the question aloud. You press the spacebar or fire button to see the correct answer, and again to add points to your score if your answer is correct. An error menu allows you to rectify mistakes.

So far, CompuTrivia sounds like computerized Trivial Pursuit. Well, the similarities end quickly. You must alternate answering questions with the other players or teams. We cutthroat trivia fans want to continue answering questions. It is a reward for our mental travail. Alas, no reward in CompuTrivia.

Correct answers elicit "witty" rhymes and sayings which range from mediocre to awful. Mercifully, a menu option allows you to shut this feature off.

The graphics and sound routines of the game are adequate but nothing special. An unnecessary graphics routine--guiding a "+" through a maze--ends the game. Factactics

This interesting two-player game from Daystar contains more than 2000 questions in seven categories--Movies, Music Potpourri, Rock and Roll, Sports, Television, Americana, and The Big Mix. The game is played on a game board with 58 squares, and you race the clock to come up with the answers. The more time you take, the fewer points you score. The more times you circle the board, the more points you score per question.

Both players use the keyboard. The first to press a key when a question appears on the screen gets to answer the question. An incorrect response gives the other player a chance to answer the question. If time expires before either player tries to answer, Factactics provides a clue by scrambling the letters of the answer.

Although some of the questions are multiple choice and true and false, most are fill-in-the-blanks, and the game provides the number of characters in the answer. According to the manual, "minor typos may be forgiven." Indeed, occasional major typos were forgiven during our testing.

The graphics and sound routines of the game are a cut above average. The board features three special squares: bonus, which allows you to increase your score; flip-flop, which lets you exchange places with another player and increases your points in doing so; and freeze, which halts the advance of a computer-controlled character called the Wise Guy.

Playing Factactics is fast, fun, competitive, and exciting. The board on the screen offers a visual thrill lacking in text only games. Just about everything is adjustable--the timer, the special squares, the Wise Guy--and the game contains the right mix of easy, medium, and difficult questions. High scores are saved to disk, which is a nice touch for trivia egos. Fax

Fax, from Epyx, contains more than 3700 questions divided into four categories--Entertainment, History, Sports, and Grab Bag. For one or two players, it has three skill levels which automatically change as you answer more and more questions.

Fax uses two timers. The first gives you a set amount of time to answer the question. The faster you do so, the more points you score. However, the time zooms by with amazing speed.

The second timer is called the game clock. When it reaches zero, the game ends. You earn bonus time by reaching a certain score. However, as your point total increases, so does the skill level. Thus novice-level questions appear first, then expert-level questions, and then genius-level questions.

All questions are presented in multiple-choice format. With two players, the game awards points to the first player to answer the question correctly.

With that quick timer, Fax really piles on the pressure. However, one trick to boost your score is to answer the question immediately, picking any choice just to stop the timer. Fax does not subtract points for wrong answers, and you save valuable time on the game clock.

We like Fax, but caution that it is an intense trivia game. Total concentration is required, and you must be fast--very fast--to answer the questions. A sweaty brow is definitely not optional. OlymPicks

The 1984 Olympics are but a fond memory, but the spirit of athletic accomplishment lives on in OlymPicks, a combination trivia game and database by Edupro. The one-or two-player game contains 800 questions in ten categories--1980 Gold, 1976 Gold, Olympic Records, Events, Famous People, Countries, Cultural Geography, Olympic Terms, Olympic History, and Freestyle. It also holds 6820 Summer Olympic records from 1896 to 1980.

OlymPicks displays mutliple choice questions, although the number of choices depends on your score. You start off with three per question, but as your score increases, you pick from four, and finally five choices.

The game consists of ten rounds, each of which consists of three questions from one category.

A timer starts at 50 and counts down to zero (about 20 seconds or so). Your score depends on the amount of time remaining and how often you have chosen questions from a given category. The more times you pick a category, the lower your possible score per round.

OlymPicks also has an extensive database containing statistics on event medalists. Edupro is updating the database with 1984 statistics.

Olympic buffs cannot go wrong with OlymPicks. It is not only a game, but a reference tool too. OlymPicks gets the gold for Olympic trivia. PQ The Party Quiz Game

Suncom knew that other computer trivia games used joysticks to free players from crowding around the keyboard. But passing around a joystick can turn out to be just as inconvenient. Suncom solves the problem by including four "quick response controllers" with its trivia game PQ The Party Quiz Game.

The controllers have four large buttons to answer questions, check scores, and otherwise control the game. All four plug into an interface box via modular telephone jacks. A cable from the box plugs into the two joystick ports on the computer.

In short, this modification of paddles is a stroke of genius. Up to four players (only two with the Apple IIc) can gather around the computer, each with his own controller. It makes playing the game much easier and gives you a feeling of controlling your own destiny.

Now that we have raved about the hardware, what about the software? We are pleased to say that PQ is an exciting game, with or without the clever controllers.

PQ poses multiple choice questions. a timer ticks off the seconds. Two different games are available: competitive and social. In the competitive game, the first player to choose the correct answer stops the timer and receives points equal to the time remaining on the timer. In the social game, all players can answer the question and each one who answers correctly receives points equal to the time remaining on the timer. Nice touch, Suncom.

A game lasts from five to 20 rounds, with each round containing ten questions. Certain rounds are called Lightning Bonus Rounds, in which each player has approximately 20 seconds to answer up to ten questions. These rounds are fast and furious, and the program does not take the time to display the correct answers as it normally does.

The questions in PQ are abbreviated, rarely exceeding four or five words--much shorter than the other trivia games. We learned to appreciate this. You can read and comprehend questions quickly, and the game really zips along. PQ saves high scores to disk. Quizagon

Quizagon, by Counterpoint Software, is probably the most esoteric of all the trivia games we evaluated. With more than 6000 questions in four categories and Geology, Entertainment and Arts, Sports and Games, and Potpourri--it certainly seems like your basic trivia game, but the playing board and sound effects make it quite different.

The oval playing board contains 26 hexagons, each of which holds a different category. Four of these blink and are called quizards. Answering a question while on a quizard is akin to receiving a wedge in Trivial Pursuit. Only trouble is, the quizards keep moving across the screen. Trying to land on one is like trying to catch a will-o'-the-wisp.

If you succeed in landing on the four quizards and answering the questions, you travel through what looks like a space warp to the Grand Quizard (a big hexagon).

From one to four players or teams can play Quizagon at a time. The game displays the questions in the middle of the oval board. You say the answer aloud and press the spacebar to see the correct answer.

Quizagon is actually one of the older computer trivia games around. The copyright says 1983, which means it predates the current trivia craze by about a year. It just shows that quality never goes out of style.

The only disconcerting aspect of Quizagon is changing the disk. The 6000 questions are stored on four disk sides. Whenever questions seem to be repeating, you must change the disk. However, this is a small price to pay for such a large assortment of questions. Roll Call USA

Roll Call USA, from Creative Software, combines United States history and geography in an educational trivia game for children. It contains 200 questions divided into five categories--Capitals, Major Industry, Largest Non-capital City, Statehood Date, and Potpourri. From one to four players may participate.

The game uses graphics effectively. A colorful map of the United States is displayed on the screen and one of the states begins to blink. The screen clears, and the program asks you to name the blinking state. It then poses a question from the category you chose. After answering, the program returns you to the map of the United States, except that state has changed color.

Roll Call USA requires you to type in your answers. Thus, spelling counts. The game gives you three tries to spell an answer correctly--a nice touch.

Roll Call USA will certainly help a child learn a few facts about the United States and prepare for those quizzes that history teachers enjoy giving. Adults will find the game interesting for the first few playings, if only to refresh their memories. All in all, Roll Call USA is a worthwhile package from Creative Software. Sciences Trivia Challenge

Spectrum Softwares is well known to us at Creative Computing. Their "microcourses" in elementary science earned a bronze medal in our Software Olympics (1984 Software Buyer's Guide). We have come to expect excellent programs from Spectrum, and Sciences Trivia Challenge is no exception.

The game caters to students in grades three through eight, although we think the questions might be too easy for children at the upper end of that range. There are 200 multiple choice questions divided into eight categories--Rocks, Lower Animals, Higher Animals, Energy, Plants, Space, Human Body, and Chemistry.

The object of the game is to answer one question from each category. The program selects the categories randomly, and each question has four choices. You are allowed two guesses per question.

Overall, we think the questions are rather thought provoking for the age group, although the choices can be somewhat silly. For example, What is in the center of the Earth? Volcanoes, liquid rock, steam, or gerbils? The least they could have done was substitute tribbles for gerbils. Fortunately, such oddball choices are few and far between.

Science Trivia Challenge is an excellent program. We only wish it included more questions. 3K Trivia

3K Trivia is part of the Personally Developed Software series marketed by IBM and is available either as a stand-alone program or as part of the Family Games Package. By the way, 3K Trivia does not load into 3K RAM. Its name derives from the fact that it contains 3000 questions.

The game reminds us of a television game show called The Joker's Wild. Like a slot machine, the six categories--Science and Nature, Sports, History and Geography, Show Business, True Trivia, and General--whirl within three windows. Once the whirling stops, one category appears in each window.

Your score depends on how many times the same category appears at once. For example, if three different categories appear in the windows, you can score only 50 points. However, if the same category appears in all three windows, you can score 1000 points. The game includes jokers, which function as a "wild" category. If you are truly lucky, jokers appear in all three windows, giving you a shot at 2000 points.

Of course, there is a small obstacle of answering the question correctly. The game displays the number of characters in the answer, and you type in the characters. Hints cost you 50 points, and the program will give you partial credit if 60 percent of the characters in your answer match the real answer.

The game includes a timer, which can be set from 15 seconds to three minutes. The game ends after 25 questions. 3K Trivia accommodates up to six players.

3K Trivia allows you to add up to 100 questions to each category. Each question consists of up to three lines of 21 characters each. Each answer can be one line of 21 characters.

The graphics add a pleasant touch to the game. Seeing the categories spin by induces a sense of anticipation, and, if you manage to see the True Trivia skulls, a sense of doom. Our second favorite graphic is the shadowy actor from Show Business; an eerie contrast in black and white.

We enjoy 3K Trivia. We wish it included some documentation. As it is, the instructions are stored on disk. Trivia

Trivia is the only game of the group designed specifically for the Apple Macintosh. And we can honestly say that of all the programs, it is the easiest to use thanks to the mouse.

Trivia contains more than 5000 questions divided into five categories--Entertainment, Sports, Geography, History, and Literature. Each category has three levels of difficulty, novice, standard, and expert, which are worth 10, 20, and 30 points respectively. A special Genius section for true trivia fanatics, is worth 60 points.

From one to six players can crowd around the Macintosh at once. You use the mouse to pick a category and level of difficulty and answer the question aloud before the onscreen timer reaches zero. Move the mouse pointer to the section of the screen marked answer to find out if you are right. You keep answering questions until you miss. The first player to reach a predetermined point total wins and receives a certificate.

Trivia prevents you from constantly choosing the same category. The last two categories you picked are always unavailable, thus forcing you to choose one of the other three categories or the special Genius section. Of course, nothing prevents you from choosing the novice level of difficulty.

However, we question the difficulty levels. Sometimes, the expert level questions are easier than the novice level questions. We suspect that keeps you honest about always choosing the novice level of difficulty.

There is no question about the Genius section, however. Those questions are tough. Our first question was "Where was the choke on the Model T?" Egads, it is hard enough to find the choke on a Datsun, much less a Model T.

Trivia is a real winner. If you own a Macintosh and want a computer trivia game, this is it. Trivia Arcade

Trivia Arcade, from Screenplay, is a first class trivia game for one to four players. It is also a better arcade game than half of the alleged arcade games that pass through our disk drives.

It contains more than 3500 questions divided into five categories--Sports, Television, Science, Music, and General Knowledge. Question Pack I adds 4000 more questions. Action is controlled by the keyboard or a joystick.

At first, you see icons bouncing off walls within a shooting arcade. Each icon represents a category; baseball for sports, television set for Television, etc. You must maneuver crosshairs over moving icons and press the fire button on the joystick or the spacebar on the keyboard--before the timer runs out.

This may sound as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, but it is not so. The icons move frantically all over the screen accompanied by equally frenetic music. You can hit an icon, and hence, a category, just about every time, but hitting the one you want is much harder. Several times we could not hit one at all.

The program displays a question from the category you hit. At the beginning of the game, you can choose either multiple choice questions or questions requiring you to type in the answer via the keyboard.

Once you answer a question correctly, the program displays a gameboard of 30 hexagons and four special hexagons. You move one hex per correct answer. As you move, you uncover the letters T, R, I, V, and A. As you might have guessed, you must spell "trivia" and then enter one of the four special hexes.

Once you enter the special hex, you must answer one question from each category. The first player to do so wins.

Trivia Arcade is a marvelous program, as both trivia and arcade game. We recommend this one highly. Trivia Compute

The best aspect about Trivia Compute is the price performance. It gives you a whopping 6000 questions divided into six categories-Science, Literature, History, Geography, Sports, and Entertainment-at a very attractive price. Additional disks containing sports, youth, and children's questions also carry competitive price tags. Up to four players or teams can play.

The version we tested runs on the IBM PC without a graphics adapter-good news for thousands of PC owners. It is also the closest adaptation of Trivial Pursuit we encountered in our extensive evaluation.

The board is roughly circular, and the wedgie squares are evenly spaced along the outer track. However, only four spaces separate the wedgie squares. The computer rolls a die for you and off you move, answering questions aloud, checking to see if your answers are correct, and obtaining wedgies. You continue answering questions until you miss.

If you own an IBM PC without a graphics board, Trivia Compute is for you. Otherwise, try one of the other games first. Trivia Fever

Give Professional Software credit for a superb marketing job. The name trivia Fever has a nice ring to it and the packaging is attractive. The questions are divided into seven categories--History, Famous People, Films and Entertainment, Sports, Nature and Animals, Science and Technology, and Goegraphy--although only five, chosen randomly or by the player, are in play at once.

From one to eight players alternate answering questions as a timer ticks off the seconds. Questions are divided into three levels of difficulty. The harder the question, the more points you score. The game ends after you obtain a predetermined number of points in each category and answer a "category completion question."

Overall, we think Trivia Fever is an interesting trivia game. The questions are intriguing, and the varying levels of difficulty, while not an exclusive idea, are just the solution to even the game for players of varying ability.

As an added Software includes a book listing the questions, three place markers color-coded to the difficulty levels, a category selector spinner, and a score sheet. In effect, Trivia Fever becomes a computer trivia game the does not need the computer. Now that is a clever idea.

On the negative side, we wish it were possible to continue answering questions until you miss. We realize unscrupulous players might choose the easiest level of difficulty every time, but even a trivia expert gets stumped occasionally.

However, all things considered, we like Trivia Fever and look forward to seeing additional question disks as well as the special sports, entertainment, and word-oriented editions. Trivial Compute

The only reason we mention this game is to make our evaluation of computer trivia games as complete as possible.

For the record, we evaluated the World Class Edition, which poses thousands of multiple choice questions about the rich, the famous, and the chic. Trivial Compute also comes in Americana, New York, Texas, and West Coast editions.

True to its intent, Trivial Computer questions divide into three categories--World Travel, Chic Sports, and Common Knowledge. The game is a real name dropper, with movie stars, royalty, musicians, posh restaurants, and faraway lands. With such a popular and certainly interesting subject, how could the Trivial Compute Company go wrong?

Typographical errors. The game is riddled with typos. The Statue of Liberity, Billy Joal, Jacki O, a 530 carot diamond, Conrad Hitlon (hotel), O'Haire Airport, a fictious (fictitious) megalopolis, and many others. We can understand a few, even a handful, but such a deluge is simply inexcusable.

Next, some of the answers seem incorrect. For example, who was the first U.S. President graduated from West Point? U.S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Robert Lee, or T. Roosevelt? Did you pick U.S. Grant? We did. We were wrong, too. The answer, according to the game, is Robert Lee, who never became the Confederate President, much less U.S. President.

It there any reason to buy this game? We think not. Uptown Trivia

Uptown Trivia is the toughest trivia game of the entire group, in part because of the quality of the questions, but mostly because of the method of presenting them. Other games require you to pick from multiple choices, type in the characters, or say the answer aloud. Uptown Trivia displays a question and one potential answer. You decide whether this answer is correct or incorrect. If you think it is incorrect, the game replaces the first potential answer with another, and you decide again. The program gives you four potential answers per question.

Sounds like multiple choice, right? Not quite. You see only one potential answer at a time. Once you decline it, you cannot go back to it. It you accept an answer as the real answer to the question, you do not see the answers that follow. Furthermore--and this is the real kicker--if you choose the wrong answer, the program does not display the correct answer.

Without a doubt, Uptown Trivia has the best graphics of the group we reviewed, edging out Trivia Arcade and 3K Trivia. Each of the six categories-Sports, History, Arst and Literature, Entertainment and Revue, Georgraphy, and Science-sports a colorful, distinctive, screen-filling drawing. We especially like the Parthenon (History), microscope (Science), and the comedy and tragedy masks (Arts).

The game includes 3600 questions, and from one to ten people can play. You keep answering questions until you miss. Three correct answers clear a category. Scoring is based on the percentage of questions you answered correctly. The game ends when all players have cleared all their categories.

We are upbeat about Uptown Trivia. We cannot recommend it for children, but we can give it a wholehearted endorsement for adults. In Pursuit of Trivia

The multitude of computer trivia games on the market indicates the popularity of Trivial Pursuit. The low productivity and high traffic in our editorial offices indicate the popularity of these computer trivia games. We have reviewed as many computer trivia games as we could lay our hands on. We know you can find the one that is right for you.

Products: CompuTrivia (computer program)
Factactics (computer program)
Fax (computer program)
OlymPicks (computer program)
PQ the Party Quiz Game (computer program)
Quizagon (computer program)
Roll Call USA (computer program)
Science Trivia Challenge (computer program)
3K Trivia (computer program)
Trivia (computer program)
Trivia Arcade (computer program)
Trivia Fever (computer program)
Trivial Compute (computer program)
Uptown Trivia (computer program)