Let me open this review by stating that I am old enough to admit that board gamers were a part of my childhood. They were and are still a fun and exciting form of entertainment. Thanks to the advancements in technology, many of the classic board games have made the jump to the realm of video games. Some having done so during the days of the 8-bit systems of yesteryear, others have managed to evolve along with the consoles, and finally some having made their debut more recently. Despite its history, board games as interpreted through video games have often been a tough sell. For one, many board games are methodical, turn based, plodding, slow paced, and may be hampered by the throwing of a die (or equivalent). This molasses-like approach certainly doesn't take away from the bonding, and good natured ribbing that may occur amongst your peers when you are playing the actual board game. On a console however where gamers are subject to things at paces much quicker and more chaotic, watching an animated die role across your television screen leaves much to be desired. Add to this the idea that the video game rendition could cost twice as much as the board game itself may result in the cartridges (or CDs and DVDs for the younger gamers out there) collecting dust on your shelves.
Scene It has been around for awhile, and age-old trivia around for even longer. The interactive SI games take the best of both worlds in regards to trivia and board gamers. You roll a die, which dictates how many spaces your game piece moves. You then might be asked a trivia question, have to pick up a card, or perhaps the calling card of all the Scene It games, watch a video clip and then answer a responding question. For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of the Scene It board game, a player could ultimately make their way from the beginning of the board to the end (the Final Cut) with ease. Presuming they either know their trivia (or perhaps have super human powers to read people's minds as they ask the questions) since the game allows a player to continue rolling the die for every correct response. Scene It on the Xbox 360 removes this nuisance by making the trivia interactive amongst all the participants thus removing the tedium that is "rolling the die". This alone puts SIBOS in good shape; throw in the numerous categories of questions, online play, clever customization options and the remarkably easy setup for getting a game going and you have yourself a template of trivia done right on a gaming console.
Right out of the box, SIBOS gives you four fully functional controllers to utilize. A big colour-coded button at the top represents your buzzer while the four familiar looking buttons beneath it are used to make a corresponding selection. The controllers work great and are expectedly responsive. That is of course you have them clicking in the direction of the accompanying sensor which attaches to your console via a USB port. The sensor itself I found seldom sat comfortably on any flat surface I placed it on but for what it's worth, it is just one of a few nitpickings I have with the title.
Once you get past the cute, yet over the top introduction with your hosts "the crazy movie voice over guys", you can get a game going quickly. Firstly you choose the type of game; a short game consists of 3 rounds with 3 categories per round, a long game has 5 categories in 3 rounds. Both games conclude with the Final Cut which much like the board game has all the players watching a clip followed by a set of questions. The other option, the custom game provides a few interesting tweaks to enhance your trivia experience; this includes being able to lose points for incorrect answers, allowing one player to play the game by themselves (by including multipliers for every correct response) and there's even one extra mode for multiple players, the continuous mode where every question is of the all-play variety which negates the use of buzzing in to respond.
Once you have your game set up, you (and up to 3 others) select from a handful of avatars (sadly not like the ones on your Xbox 360 dashboard) to represent you. From there the movie voice over guys will get you going by starting the round along with a mostly nonsensical exchange while you watch as the couch your avatars are sitting on comes to life and flies away. Anyone who thinks that this doesn't sound as entertaining as the actual board game should read no further.
Each question block is introduced with a brief montage of sorts with your hosts announcing which category you shall engage in. These categories are broken down into two types; buzz-in and all play. The former allowing the gamer who buzzes in a chance to answer the question on their own, while the all play concludes when the final player has made their response (or if there is no time left). Thanks to over twenty different types of categories to challenge you, there is more than enough to keep multiple game plays fresh and entertaining. On top of this, the categories themselves range from neat to ingeneious. Anagrams has you looking at jumbled letters to uncover a particular actor or movie. Child's Play has you looking at a cartoonish drawing depicting a scene from a movie. Crosswords involve guessing a movie title as intersecting clues appear. Some of my personal favourite categories include Pixel Perfect which involves guessing a movie scene as shown through an animated clip and Sketches which requires you to guess the name of a movie title through a drawing that literally depicts the movie title.
Each round is punctuated with the Movie Clips category and Round Highlights. Movie Clips consists of you watching a short clip from a film and then answer the accompanying questions. While some of the questions can be answered from the clips themselves, others require you to actually have some previous knowledge of the film. While you may watch a particular clip twice in one game, don't think you'll be getting the same questions because you won't. Repetition however is not all that uncommon. I did manage to get the same set of questions in 3 consecutive play throughs (with system resets) but chances are probable that you'll be getting stumped multiple times anyways, it's just part of the fun of SI. Along the way the movie voice-over guys will both praise and mock your success. They don't necessarily take away from your gaming experience but most of their jokes are flat, and comments irrelevant but what game show hosts doesn't have those characteristics?
Round Highlights occur at the end of each round, bonus points are awarded to players for accomplishing certain distinguishing and dubious achievements, this includes but is not limited to answering all the questions within a certain category and being able to steal a response (by guessing correctly after another player was incorrect). Even gamers who manage to miss the majority of questions are given some "pick me up" points to get themselves back into the game, or at the very least make the end result less of an absolute massacre. On top of this there are fifty Xbox Live achievements to unlock through both online and offline games.
Regardless of whether you play through a short, long, or customizable game; the gameplay is largely the same which is expected when it comes to trivia. I personally don't consider myself a film buff but the majority of the questions within all the categories are not overly difficult. Playing against online opponents can be exciting to a degree presuming you've conquered all of your friends, co-workers, and strangers alike. However there are certain types of gamers you might want to steer clear of with SIBOS. Movie enthusiasts naturally are a given, but the other less likely culprits are speed readers.
This can be a tad problematic in both online and offline games however I found it common place online. Chances are quiet high that you'll run into at least one gamer who has mastered the skill of speed reading. This is most often a nuisance in categories where you have to buzz in. Case in point, once the question is displayed on the screen, one of my opponents would buzz in almost instantly before I could get past reading the first sentence. More often than not, this opportunist would then get the correct response and maximum point value. It is very possible that these speed readers could also have played through the games more times than is medically prescribed, but the unfortunate truth is there is really no way to prevent this outside of playing a game where you lose points for an incorrect answer. All play questions have the same issue although they at least allow everyone the opportunity to key in their response. I may have been king of the world amongst people in my own living room, but out there in the real world I found out the hard way how competitive a SIBOS game can truly get.
Visually, SIBOS is far from a stunner but it certainly doesn't hurt having each category look vibrant and distinctive from one another. The avatars themselves have both personality and charm as they react accordingly to correct and incorrect responses. It is however during the Round Highlights where they really become animated. They will bust out some serious moves depending on how well you are doing, gamers not doing so would be well deserved to incur the wrath of their avatars but even being in the negatives won't faze your on screen player when it's time to continue a new round which is punctuated with your avatars pushing their own controllers to get going, nice touch.
I have found little to critique about in this review and with good cause since SIBOS is really a fantastic game, a great video game rendition of a board game and even better rendition of trivia than the original SI games provide. SIBOS succeeds with its numerous and inventive categories, easy pick up and play mechanics, and the ability to take on anyone, anywhere in the world to name a few. If this is how board gaming in the 21st century is shaping up to be, I think it's safe to say that family time will now revolve around getting you and your loved ones around the welcoming glow of your television set. If that isn't enticing enough just remember, you won't need to worry about misplaced dies or game pieces when playing the game on your respective gaming system. SIBOS truly is console board gaming at its finest.