Thursday, March 2, 2006

Outburst (1998)

by Hasbro Interactive and CyberDice
for the PC

I'm a huge game show fan. Huge. And a fan of games in the vain of game shows. So when I saw a CD-ROM version of "Outburst" (a stellar board game) meant to play like a game show, I was there. Only I was a year or two away from my own PC, and being a kid in elementary school, had no such $30 to plunk on a disc I couldn't use. By the time I had my first computer, the game was long since out of print and no longer located in the clearance bin. To my shock and surprise, Hasbro apparently had a massive stock clean-out a few years later and released a bunch of old games in two packs. One such pack included "Outburst" and a game I'll review later called "Super Scattergories." I'm in! So let's review.

The game was basically created to cash in on the success of "You Don't Know Jack," which is something else I should cover here. Or not. In short, "Jack" was a hugely successful and hugely sarcastic PC title that spawned a million sequels. The idea? A smarmy host asked you multiple choice questions. Mundane concept, perfect execution meant huge dollars. So they tried it here.

Your host is then-popular and now-perhaps-not Timothy Stack, late of "Nightstand" and "Son of the Beach." The game is based around the main concept of the board game. Teams compete to name the ten target answers listed under a given subject. (e.g. "Brands of Soda Pop" or "Other Words for Naked") There is no criteria to what gives you points - only that the writers of the game listed them there. If you're very unfamiliar with games and game shows, this may seem unfair, but it's superfluous to what makes the game fun.

Two teams of any size compete. Just as in "Jack," if you can't pick a name, the host will razz you and give you something stupid. In the first two main rounds, teams play the classic game described above against a 60 second clock. To make things easier, for this and all of the rounds, you're only responsible for the first three letters of an answer - if they match something on the board, it'll come up and you'll get a point. After time expires, a light bounces around the board. If you stop it on answer you revealed, you get anywhere from 1 to 3 bonus points.

Round three is called "Reverse Burst." Answers are read to you, and you have to guess the topic they fit in. It's worth 5 points to start, depreciating by 1 as time goes on. Each team gets five topics.

Round four takes two different forms, alternating with each game. In "Challenge Clock" each team plays a topic, trying to get 5 answers in the fastest time. If a team goes the whole 60 seconds, then the number of answers is the score to beat. Winner here gets 5 points. In "Sloppy Seconds," one team tackles a regular issue topic for 30 seconds. Any answers they leave behind are up for the other team to steal, at a value of 2 points apiece.

After a quick commercial, it's round five, and another regular topic. Round six is called "Shout Burst." Each team gets 10 multiple choice questions with 2 points for every correct answer.

The final round (yeesh, seven rounds!) is called "Mondo Burst" where a team is given a topic with more than 10 answers. Examples include "Elements on the Periodic Table," "Presidents," etc. Each answer is worth a point, and the team with the most wins a (fake) prize package. (i.e. presidential kneepads, etc.)

That's it. All throughout there's crass humor and lots of sarcasm. The commercial break consists of joke items such as the "Pompiel Pocket Proctologist" that are usually pretty funny. The host will sometimes fake you out with a false topic such as "Czecholoslovakian Wrestling Champions" and watch you squirm a bit before showing you the real category. And all throughout there's a fun game going on. The only problem is this humor and this game doesn't seem to resonate with everybody. People get very frustrated when they score low on topics or get an unlucky topic they don't know about.


...out of five. Everything looks wonderful and it plays just fine. There's even a LAN and internet option for long-distance play. I'm taking points off for actual game items. The final round is rarely exciting. It should decide the game, but usually it's well over by that point. Especially when one team gets "Words in the Pledge of Allegiance" and the other gets "Brands of Soap." Also, the board game featured a pass option which would've alleviated some of the anger, but alas could likely not be added to an already chock-full game. If you see the two pack featuring this game, take it, because while "Outburst" may not hit with everybody, "Scattergories" will.

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