Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Super Scattergories (1999)

by Hasbro Interactive and CyberDice
for the PC

“Scattergories” is the relatively popular board game where players write down answers that fit a topic and a certain “target letter.” After three minutes, players compare lists, with any unique answers not written by anyone else worth a point.

“Super Scattergories” takes this concept, tweaks it, and uses it to build a big bad CD-ROM title around. As in its sister game with which it's packaged in stores now “Outburst,” two individuals or teams play against each other. Younger teams can choose to get hints towards possible answers for an easier game. The manual likes to call it “more equally competitive.” Whatever. One cool feature is the number of male and female first names programmed into the game. Mine is in there, so after a good round, I may here “perfect round, Jason!”

In the first two rounds teams play “Classic Scattergories.” A light bounces around the 26 letters in the alphabet and the player/team stops it on one (and if you’ve never seen “Press Your Luck” this will make little sense). That becomes their “target letter.” In 60 seconds, up to twelve categories are presented one at a time. Naming something that fits that category and starts with the target letter merits one point. In this round, and the rest of the game, you’ll only be responsible for the first three letters. And if you get stuck on a topic, you can pass and come back later. After each team has played twice in this manner, the next round begins.

Round three, perhaps the best one, is called “Scrutineyes.” Teams again determine a target letter, then see a cartoony picture for 60 seconds. Each item in the picture they name that starts with the target letter earns them two points. If you play this game a few times, you’ll notice their slipshod way of naming items – they might qualify “horizon” as an item in one picture and “sky” in another, and in other pictures not allow it. This doesn’t happen often enough to ruin this round, though. There are 12 items worth points in every picture.

Round four is called “Scatter Brain.” Same deal, twelve chances to score, target letter…only this time players are trying to solve riddles. For example, the letter W, and the clue “a pain in the neck” – the answer is whiplash. The letter C, the clue “upside down, pound and chocolate” – the answer is cake. Each riddle you solve is worth two points.

Round five is called “Scattered Categories.” Twelve answers are thrown up on the board to start. When players find two related items in a category that starts with the target letter, they score two points, and two new answers come on the board. (i.e., the letter is D, the match is Tide and Gain – “Detergents”) This continues for 90 seconds or until teams find all twelve matches.

The final round is called “Scattergories Knockout.” You are given twelve letters up front and 75 seconds. A category is revealed, and you are allowed to name an item that starts with any of the key letters. Once you use it though, it’s “knocked out.” You get 1 point for the first knockout, 2 points for the second, 3 for the third and so on. It’s a huge (78 point) chance to come back. Team with the most points after this wins.

Like “Outburst,” this game has lots of rounds, but that’s not a positive or a negative. The engine is clean, sounds and graphics are good (dig that big band theme song!), et al.

I do have a few gripes however. A number of rounds in “Outburst,” especially the final round with no limit to the answers, can sometimes have responses that don’t match what you were trying to type in. Sometimes your very correct answer is missing. So they threw in an “adjust score” option where you can add points as necessary. Now why did the company who made that very same game not include that feature here? “Scattergories,” if you know the board game, is notorious for disputed answers. In the case of this game, if your answer isn’t in the database, you’re screwed. Adjust score was a necessary feature here, yet not included.

“Scattered Categories” requires perhaps too much finesse with the mouse. Usually when we play, I have to man the mouse, as the older or the very young set can’t work it as well. Weird for us as computer geeks, I know, but this disparity came up way too much for my liking. When I did let people facing me/my team do their own clicking, their score suffered.

Perhaps most annoying about “Super Scattergories” is its tone. It is snappy, but appeals towards a set that likes booger jokes. It’s incredibly kiddish and insulting.


It is fun to play – very fun, in fact. I just wish my friends and family didn’t ask for it again and again and again, as the more sarcastic “Outburst” was my speed. As it stands, the Scatt/Burst tag team is well worth the price I paid - $13. This game really attracts players and viewers alike when I bring it to parties.

No comments: