Genre: Game Show Developer: Sony Imagesoft Publisher: Sony Imagesoft Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
I’ll admit to everyone: I have been in quite a funk the last few months. I have come upon a “Genesis block” the last few weeks. I’m in the middle of writing my gaming autobiography, and I get through some of it just to get the feeling that no one wants to read it. Every time I find a game that would be sweet to review, I find that someone already has done it. I haven’t been on the forums in an eon, and my gaming basement has been in shambles since August when our washing machine backed up, and I stormed downstairs to save everything from being zapped.
But, alas! I finally sauntered downstairs when my forum mate Doug Jackson mailed me Slam City with Scottie Pippen, and I forgot that I had Wheel of Fortune sitting on the mountain of Sega CD games. Oh my gosh, let me tell you it was like a rush of feeling returning to my frostbitten bones as a rescue team finds me destitute on the barren peak of Mount Everest! If there’s any game that is ripe for reviewing, it’s a good old Wheel of Fortune game (read my Genesis version review). God knows there aren’t enough of those (they just released a Wii version!), and somehow, someway, the Sega CD got a release! I’m cracking my knuckles and getting my typewriter out!
Usually, every game show video game release in the 16- bit era was done by GameTek. If you’ve ever read ANY of my reviews, you’ve seen how much I just loathe the word GameTek. However, the slightly more reputable Sony Imagesoft, who gave us the ESPN series of sports games in the early ’90s, did this release. So, naturally, I was a little more excited to get my nose to the grindstone for this one. Well, wow. Just let me tell you, this is by far THE worst version of Wheel of Fortune that I have ever played, and I have played every version in the 8 and 16-bit eras.
It begins with the stereotypical grainy video hastily framed by something that makes it look familiar and less awful – this time the puzzle board framing around what I assume and believe is the mid ’90s introduction to the show that all of our mothers love very dearly. Then, Vanna White walks out on screen with what seems to be a harbinger for the rest of the game – a hastily made, grainy video done on a green screen pasted over a background clearly made by the graphics engine on the Genesis. I mean, look at the wheel! It looks like someone spilled that little paint tray that we all used to get in art class in elementary school on the screen!
Woof. I can tell. You play enough Genesis over the years and you just know when the game is going to be bad. Imagine paying fifty bucks for this garbage! Anyway, after the intro, a blank stage is presented to you with text above it allowing you to choose a new game, or continue an old game (if you have the memory attached – I do because I have an X’Eye) from three slots. Okay, basic but nothing worth griping about too much. Trust me.
Okay, once you get started, you can play with one to three players who are either controlled by you or by the computer. It’s kind of hard to figure out how to choose who’s controlled by the computer and every stock character you can choose from is exactly that. Stock. More like schlock. At least give me the sports guys from the Jeopardy: Sports Edition! Well, if you’re going to give me stock crappy characters to choose from, I’m going to give them stupid names like Boob, Butt and Idiot.
Once you select your characters, the game FINALLY begins. And you get another weird conglomoration (I made up a word!) of Sega CD vidcaps and Genesis graphics with the main selection screen where the puzzle board (the old one, of course!), the letters you choose from, the “spin, vowel, solve” selection, and your score are all on the screen at one time. In fact, you rarely see your character at all throughout gameplay, only when you solve a puzzle or get a bankrupt of lose your turn. And of course, Pat Sajak is nowhere to be found. Five million bonus points if you can find a Wheel game with Pat Sajak in it.
Well, the biggest fault I find with this game is that it’s insanely slow and boring. Everything has to load. Selecting a letter takes a second and nothing is fluid besides moving your cursor between letters. Another horrible facet, almost hilarious in nature, is the way that Vanna reveals the letters. She just walks across the board. No matter how many letters you get, no matter where, she just strolls across the board, making no arm motions towards turning the letters over. That’s hilarious. After getting a letter correct, and having Vanna saunter across the screen, we have to wait a little longer for a video to load waiting for her to congratulate you.
Thus comes the ONLY time in the game where there is applause. They try to add awkward applause when you solve the puzzle, and it cuts it off just as oddly when they announce who’s leading with just another crazy, stupid short music cut. The game is SO silent besides hearing Vanna’s almost The Shining-like voice. Imagine sitting in your cold basement in the dead of January, and only hearing Vanna’s “good job!” when you let it sit for a minute and have it ask you whether you want to spin, solve or buy a vowel. It’s annoying! The only thing that would make it great is if a giant Monty Python foot or if Vanna’s head split off from her neck seeing people come out of there ala Python.
This game is a sad effort, and it only has one thing going for it in my book. It’s the only Wheel game of the era to have an accurate rendition… of the wheel. It actually looks like the wheel! Too bad it doesn’t sound or act the wheel. This game’s spinning motion is so odd, you can basically place it wherever you want before you power up the meter to spin. You can lightly tap A and the wheel will slowly go along, but then when the meter goes back down, you can spin at full power. So, if you wanted to, you could cheat your way through this version of Wheel of Fortune if you can figure it out. I guess they wanted to simulate dragging your arm across the wheel to spin it, but no one thought that you could by dragging the wheel along at a snails pace, theoretically put the wheel wherever you wanted. I often spin the wheel and then wait for it to just sit there, and nothing happens when I finally remember I didn’t spin the meter hard enough and do it again. It’s stupid!
Whatever, this version is garbage anyway. It’s much less fun than the GameTek version (I can’t believe I’m saying that), and it sets no time limit, unlike the real TV show. It’s no fun to watch – again, unlike the TV show – and it’s no fun to play. The prizes, when revealed, are hilariously bad. It’s gold text of what the prize is, complimented by a picture of something in the back with terrible colored sepia added. It’s a joke! Seriously, one of the prizes I received was a savings bond for how much? I don’t even remember. I couldn’t stop shaking my head in disgust. The game takes forever to play all the way through, much longer than the TV show and feels much more tedious than sitting through all afternoon being deathly sick with the soap operas on and no remote. One thing that actually is hilarious is the character positive or negative reaction.
Nothing about Wheel of Fortune CD is redeeming, other than the poster that comes with it (it looks exactly the same as the cover) that lets you look at the games that were about to come out. The only way I can recommend this version is if you must have a complete collection of Sega CD games, or if you’re such an addict that you need to play Wheel with its relatively short-lived returning champions format. I hate this game, almost on a Pro Quarterback level. But, it feels so good to bash a game I hate, and it feels so good to be back in the swing of things.