My friends and I have always enjoyed playing Buzz on PS2. Not only is it a great party game (easily outclassing Scene It), but it's one of the few entries in our collective game library that everyone's wife and/or girlfriend seems eager to play. This usually translates into a drunken exchange of casually offensive insults, allegations of errors in controller functioning, and the glorious sense of triumph associated with knowing more useless information than anyone else in the room. Or, to put it simply, playing Buzz with my friends is always a lot of fun.
I was puzzled when I received a PSP version my favorite party game. Buzz was great with all of my friends, but why would I want to play it by myself? Furthermore, if four of us manage to be within thirty feet of one another, and we all have PSPs, wouldn't we logically be within similar proximity to a console version of the game? Mind racing, I couldn't think of a contextually appropriate situation where playing a game of Buzz on our collective PSPs match atmosphere of the traditional party setting. To put it blatantly, Buzz on PSP seemed unnecessary.
Still, I had faith that the good folks at Relentless would have plenty of ammo ready for my admittedly pessimistic suppositions. Their first shot arrived in the form of, much to my amazement, a reasonably engaging offering of single player, skill tree-like trek through trivia based minigames. Top Rank has you ordering four different objects based on random criteria, with predictable questions such as biggest to smallest, but also some context sensitive ranking, such as the order in which the objects were invented. Then there is Snapshot, which asks you a bit of trivia and, if you answer correctly, allows you the chance to reveal a small block from a larger picture. Eventually guessing the full picture yields a healthy amount of points.
Of particular interest was the Virus challenge. Though it's timed like some of the other modes, you can actually lose points or get into negative territory if you take too long to answer a question. This was really the only section of the game that, despite a brain full of useless information, I failed more than once. The timer kind of cheats and runs before slightly you can select an answer, but the challenge is appreciated and it's still a good deal of fun.
There are a few more variants on the single player quizzes, such as substituting celebrity "knowledge" in for movie trivia, but the deviation in game modes isn't especially diverse. A more traditional, timer based random assault of trivia is also present for those who may enjoy a cornucopia of questions, but lacks the cohesion of the more thematic modes. Scoring in most of the games is usually based on how many of the set amount of questions you answered correctly or points you can rack up in the allotted time. This implies only competition is beating your previous best, but answering random trivia is still a decent way to pass the time.
What if I don’t Want to Play with Myself?
I hoped they wouldn't require four PSPs and four copies of Buzz for functional multiplayer and, thankfully, none of the three multiplayer modes require more than one copy of the game. Two of them don't even require you have more than one PSP. Quiz Host, as the name implies, involves one person holding the PSP and asking questions to (at most) six other people, with the host imputing their answers. A nice feature is that the weight of each question is up to you, so if your wife/daughter nails a question that is traditionally male-specific (like sports icons), you can award them 200 points and everyone else 50. You can also take away points for wrong answers, but that's totally up to you. The usual trivia fare dominates the questions, but some arbitrary questions, like "can you guess what I'm thinking about," show up occasionally.
The other single PSP mode involves passing the unit around, which, even though I forced my friends to play it, went over smoothly. Most of the traditional game modes from the single player version are replicated with varying results. In typical Buzz fashion, this mode also allows more creative thinkers to indirectly sabotage their competitors. This is particularly evident in the Weak Spot portion, where whoever’s holding the PSP gets to pass the next question off on whoever they think is least likely the answer it correctly. Its fun enough, but the structure is a little unwieldy. Last of the multiplayer game modes is a four player game based purely on multiple choice questions. Only one copy of the game is need, which is nice. I wasn't able to test this because I don't know more than two people with PSPs, but its sound in concept if you're in an area with four bored people whom also happen to have PSPs.
English Muppets, Gene Hackman, Salusa Secundus, etc
Like any trivia game, Buzz is only as good as its questions, and thankfully this incarnation stands with its console brethren. Both modern and antiquated (but popular) pop culture questions are present, though it felt like movie/celebrity questions made up a majority of the Buzz pop culture lexicon. I fared well because I've consumed a considerable majority of the trivia pages on IMDB, but I was also disgusted by my surprisingly robust knowledge of intimate celebrity affairs. Anyway the questions cover a wide range of bases and, much to my satisfaction, aren't too kiddy for their own good. There's just as much R-Rated trivia (as in identifying a character from an R-rated film - nothing offensive), as there is for more family oriented films. A healthy amount of real film clips, sound bites, and images are complimenting some of the questions in typical, but still nifty, Buzz fashion.
Unfortunately, Buzz, like any party game that relies on predetermined questions and answers, a time will arrive where the questions start to repeat. A purported 5000 questions is a hefty amount of material to pack in, and it's great while it lasts, but the fun is significantly depleted when you run into a question or a picture you've already seen. A (perfect) $20 price point helps alleviate the ephemeral life span, but it's still an issue that should be noted.
Buzz' presentation makes strides to replicate a traditional game show experience. The absence of the peripheral clickers that come packaged with the console version weakens the atmosphere, but the simple button interface is just as functional. Buzz, the muppet-like host of the fictional show, returns to explain the rules and chime in with snarky comments. Some lag is present when he decides to interject mid-game, but his presence isn't overbearing. Save some occasionally animated backgrounds (specifically in the Virus challenge); Buzz isn't a very flashy game. The impressive quantity of licensed film sound and films clips help make up for the lack of visual pizzazz, but Buzz doesn't really need more than a practical selection interface.