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Review by: Josh Horowitz
Published: August 1, 2001
My brother is a certified sports fanatic. A few years back, he spent three months traveling with a buddy across North America, attending a baseball game at every single major league ballpark in the U.S. and Canada. He’s not the first to show this act of reverence to the sports gods, nor will he be the last. Millions of sports fans attend games every year, many swapping stories of victories and defeats while remembering obscure stats and other trivia. One popular topic of sports discussion deals with referees and play calls, the context of which usually casts aspersions on the mental and visual capacities of various officials. In an attempt to cater to these loyal followers of bat and glove, hoop and net, club and tee, and helmet and gridiron, Random Games has developed a quiz title where players fill the role of the official as they try to interpret the Rules of the Game.
Based on the Hasbro board game designed by Robert Poole, Rules of the Game pits up to four players on the same computer, local area network, or the Internet in a test of sports trivia gleaned from the pages of official collegiate and professional rule books. Most questions focus on a contestant’s knowledge of rules in a variety of sports, while some fall under more general topics. There are seven categories total, covering baseball, pro and college basketball, pro and college football, golf, and a miscellaneous category that covers the wide world of sports. In addition, every correct answer yields a bonus question in six sub-topics, giving players even more of a chance to demonstrate their sports savvy. Games are broken down into three rounds, with a possible 12 questions per person. Whichever contestant has the most points at the end of three rounds is declared the winner, and can gloat as their name is added to the high score list.
Hosting this computer game show is the most eccentric CG character to arrive on the scene since Jar Jar Binks — Joe Banks. Joe, with his Jay Leno-esque chin and corny humor, provides the color commentary while the off-screen announcer, Spike, interjects with deadpan lines and asks the actual trivia questions. Joe is fully animated, and he gestures wildly and excitedly during his monologues. Players enraptured by Joe’s charm can even learn more about his life story from the main menu screen.
There are several options you can set before trying to tackle the Rules of the Game. To understand the program’s controls and interface, players can walk through a guided tutorial known as the “Rules of the Rules,” led by the omnipresent Joe Banks. Later, in the pre-game options screen, players unfamiliar with a particular sport have the chance to limit the categories to whatever they feel they can handle. If certain participants also find that the time limit for questions is too stressful, that feature can be disabled. Another feature that aims to increase the title’s playability is the option to prevent revealing the correct answer each time. Finally, trivia buffs who just want to play a quick match can turn off lovable Joe, leaving just Spike the announcer to ask the questions.
Like other popular party trivia titles, Rules of the Game tries to appeal to the greatest possible audience through a mix of simple controls, humor, and entertaining questions. After launching the program and being greeted by the larger-than-life Joe Banks, participants choose a number of players, select cartoon characters to represent them, and begin the contest. During the game, contestants take turns answering questions, so no one has to worry about racing to beat a buzzer. There are three rounds, and in each round, question values increase while the time to answer them decreases. Pressing a button spins the category selector, which randomly chooses a topic; after a question is displayed, a timer counts down, taking the point value down with it. Questions answered correctly in the shortest time get the most points, while incorrect responses score absolutely nothing. As the contest proceeds, Joe Banks will berate or praise players during appropriate times.
Based on a player’s performance and the number of players, more game modes can become available. Correct answers trigger bonus questions that fall under such topics as “Hey, Watch Those Hands,” “Amazing and True,” and “What Did He Say?” Bonus questions do not cover any specific sport; instead they focus on players, stories, and officiating. Additionally, when playing with two or more people, an extra category called Challenge Mode becomes unlocked. Challenge questions, which are worth twice as much as normal ones, can either be answered by the person who spun the Challenge Mode category or passed to an opponent. Lucky players can also choose to receive a Safe card during Challenge Mode to avoid being challenged by an opponent later in the game.
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