Wheel of Fortune Wii
Published by: THQ
Developed by: Pipeworks Software
Wheel of Fortune is a virtual representation of the American version of the game show. The back of the box asks you to join Pat Sajak and Vanna White and I have absolutely no idea who they are. There are also problems with the game having American spellings and questions that are tailored to an American audience which might make the whole thing rather more of a challenge for a British audience than it should be. With all these problems you might think I don’t like the game. In fact there’s a lot to like about the game and it has be to one of the best virtual quiz shows that I’ve played to date. I just wish it had been subtitled.
Wheel of Fortune supports up to three players, each of which must have their own Wii remote and AI players can be chosen to fill in the spaces if so desired. The game includes mini-games but you can choose to leave them out completely but I have to say that the mini-games do actually fit into the context of the game and don't feel like needless additions like they often do in so many other Wii titles. You'll even have a choice of stages to play on. There's the Classic stage in addition to Hawaii, Las Vegas, Washington DC and New York City. The game has three difficulty modes which affect the intelligence of your AI opponents. On the easiest setting they will struggle to see a fairly obvious answer whilst on the most difficult setting you'll have to be on your toes and not take too long to realise what the answer should be.
Although the game is squarely targeted for an American audience I have to say that it does manage to create the game show feel more accurately than most. You do have to wonder what the point of winning virtual holidays and cars is but I suppose they are trying to simply mirror the real TV show. The game is fairly simple in that you are given a name of a real person, TV shows, meals etc. with each of the letters being hidden. On your turn, in a normal round, you'll have to spin the wheel of fortune to see what prize money you'll earn for a correct answer and then pick a consonant (or purchase a vowel) to attempt to find letters that will appear in the answer. Pick a consonant or vowel that's in the answer and you'll get another go. If you get it wrong the next player will take their turn. This continues until someone figures out what the answer is. There are some other rounds here which differ a little from this pattern but essentially you're always trying to figure out what the word or phrase is. There are over 8,000 questions in total and during my time with the game I haven’t seen a single question repeat, which is very impressive.
The game controls are intuitive and work well. You'll simply use the Wii remote to select what consonants or vowels you want. Support is provided to input your selections via voice (which may be problematic for deaf gamers of course). To spin the wheel of fortune you'll simply hold down the B button and swing the Wii remote.
The game allows you to use your favourite Mii character, and there's a selection of clothes to dress them in, to act as your avatar during the game. The graphical quality of the AI opponents and the virtual audience is on a par with the graphical quality of the Mii characters (in other words they are very simplistic). The presenters are slightly more detailed but even so they are still simplistic. However, despite the simplicity of the visuals it has to be said that they are more than good enough for a game of this nature.
Wheel of Fortune isn't as good as it could have been for deaf gamers. The tutorial messages that describe each of the wedges on the wheel of fortune are in text which is certainly welcome. Likewise there are text tutorial messages to explain the general gameplay and mini-games as well as the use of the Wii Speak peripheral. So far so good then but it all comes crashing down when you realise that none of the presentation is subtitled. Sajak's and White's comments are not subtitled. The game isn't impossible for deaf gamers but it can be unclear at times what is going on and as a result it's not a game that can be considered accessible in any way.
It's a real shame that the developers didn't take the time to include subtitles as Wheel of Fortune is actually a pretty solid virtual game show. Yes there are problems with the game being designed for an American audience (although if you're from the US this complaint is irrelevant) but the bigger issue here is the lack of provision for deaf gamers. Some may take issue with the brevity of the game as you can play through a show fairly quickly but personally I think this is far more pleasant than those games which take far too long to play and become tedious long before the finish. If you're a hearing person and have a soft spot for the series then this could represent a solid purchase but deaf gamers should be aware that no effort has been made to make this an accessible game for them.