Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Music Scene It? (2005)

by ScreenLife, for 2-4 players

“Scene It?” is a recent phenomenon in the world of gaming. It went from an expensive, but cool novelty item, to a popular party game with numerous editions. And I say popular party game with the qualifier “for better or worse.” More often than not, and especially among “serious” gamers, a popular party game is usually a bad thing. Just because it’s well liked and sells a lot of copies does not mean it’s necessarily good. Usually these games are broken in some way – gaps in the rules I could fit a Mack truck through, etc.

This is no exception, but it is neat, and it is fun. The basic gist of the “Scene It?” series is this: you move around the board answering trivia questions and getting help from the DVD. I already did a capsule review of VCR games – DVD games are their natural successor. DVD games have the advantage of true randomization. Unfortunately, the technology came too late for some people, whose older players couldn't handle it. So every title since the first run of DVD games has a “pre-set gameplay” option, which also helps to keep away repeats. I hate repeat questions, so it’s a nice feature.

The Scene It? board is styled to look like a movie reel; although in this music trivia spin-off, it’s a bit out of place. Four heavy-duty metal movers are available, which in this edition are styled like a boombox, a guitar, a piano and a pair of headphones. On your turn, you roll two dies: one for movement, and one for action. Answer your question correctly and you can roll again. The rules state you move the rolled number of spaces before the question. Imagine “Jeopardy!” where the players receive the amount of the answer just for picking it. Makes the game quick for no apparent reason, because it goes fast enough if you employ a house rule where you can move only when you're right. That’s the way most games do it. Why did it have to change here?

The actions on the other cube feature three categories on trivia cards, two ways to play on DVD, and a few other options I’ll revisit later. The “Take Three” card category features three clues towards the identity of an artist or song. The second category is mostly based on lyrics, and the third category is called “pop culture,” with questions about nicknames, TV tie-ins and so on. The card questions are either absurdly easy (“Whose songs include ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘I Walk the Line?’”) or amazingly obscure. These questions usually discuss the 70s through today.

The DVD roll results are either a question to yourself, called a “My Play,” or a question open to a shouting match, called an “All Play.” On a My Play, you’ll typically see a music video for about 20 seconds before a question appears. Sometimes it’ll be tenuously related, other times you’ll be asked for a weird detail like how many times the singer sang the title during the clip. It’s frustrating, especially in a social atmosphere, where you’ll all make fun of the “Take on Me” video and then be asked what color jacket the woman was wearing. Given the source material on these clips, you’re mostly dealing with MTV-era music here.

In an All Play, you get a varied set of challenges like identifying an album cover as it’s gradually revealed, or hearing a song and figuring out which year it was released in, or trying to guess a song title from a Pictionary sketch. First to yell out the correct answer gets progress on the board depending on whose turn it is.

Outside of the questioning, you can also be forced into a “buzz card” that contains a snappy paragraph which leads to a loss or gain of spaces. When “Choose a Category” is rolled, you can opt for a My Play question, anything off the cards, or a buzz card. Considering the buzz cards top out at 3 spaces or so, and cause you to lose your turn after you do what it says, it’s a bad option. The uninitiated game player will still do it though.

Scattered about the board are “encore” spaces which double the value of your next roll. When you reach the end of the board, an All Play question is selected. If the roller gets it, he or she wins; if not, they enter the “Final Cut.” There you have to answer up to 3 consecutive correct questions to win the game.

So that’s it. Other than the poor rule choice of moving before you succeed, it’s like every other trivia title, which is fine. The clips in My Play are a bit too long for what they set out to achieve. And as I already said, the trivia is really polarized on difficulty.


It doesn’t even touch the 50s, and sort of visits the 60s, so keep that in mind. It’s way more accessible than the movies edition though, and just a bit more than the TV one. I had the incredible fortune to find them clearing out copies at a local retailer for $14 each, so you really can’t go wrong at that price. With the DVD included and all the rights they have to pay therein, these usually have to go for $30-$40.

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