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Trivial Pursuit Live! 2: trivia's drab digital cousin

You know Trivial Pursuit: the family trivia game where you race around a board to unlock and answer questions of different categories. Every official Hasbro product description I can find says it has "the same gameplay you know and love", so you must know it.

But did you know it has an official digital version? What about two official digital versions, with the latest released earlier this year?

Well, sort of. The digital versions aren't like any Trivial Pursuit you might have played as a child or down the pub. Instead, they're asking the question: what if Trivial Pursuit was a TV game show with a live audience?

​Players: 1-4

Ages: 12+

Game Time: 30-40 mins

It's not clear why anyone would ever ask this question, but Trivial Pursuit Live! 2 exists nonetheless. You play as a contestant on a Trivial Pursuit themed game show, facing off against up to three other quizzers - either the game's AI, local opponents, or online players - to be the first to earn six wedges and win the game.

You earn these wedges by competing across either three or five rounds of the show. Each question you answer correctly scores you points, and the wedges are awarded when you reach arbitrary point values. It's impossible to earn all six wedges without heading into the final round, so you'll always play for as many rounds as you choose.

Each show begins with a 'Quickstarter' round, which consists of five random multiple-choice questions, each worth more points than the last. The second round is one of either 'Close Call', where you try to pick the best answer from five potential choices, or 'Grab Bag', where you have to select the eight correct answers from a grid of sixteen options. The players might take it in turns to give answers, or if you're playing online or with multiple controllers, you might get a 'Blitz' mode where everyone picks answers simultaneously.

an animated GIF showing gameplay from the "Grab Bag Blitz" round of Trivial Pursuit Live! 2
This is the Grab Bag Blitz round. Watch as two players battle it out to pick the name that sounds most like a fictional detective and not like an author!

In a five-round show, you'll get 'Switchagories' next: each player picks between two categories, and if they choose the correct answer in the category they've chosen, they'll earn bonus points. The fourth round is whichever of 'Close Call' or 'Grab Bag' you didn't play in round two.

Finally, you'll get to the final round. The game proudly announces that this is called 'Final Round'. For each of the six Trivial Pursuit question categories, you'll be presented with two options, and you have to choose which is correct across five questions. Get one wrong and you're out until the next category; be the last contestant standing and win the wedge - points no longer matter in this last chance saloon. Ties after five questions mean each remaining player gets a wedge, and once someone has six wedges, the game's over. (If players earn six wedges at the same time, ties are broken by the number of points they earned in the previous rounds.)

A 'Final Round' question, "Which ranks as the seventh largest country in the world, India or Pakistan?" from Trivial Pursuit Live! 2
A 'Final Round' question from Trivial Pursuit Live! 2. These are always 50:50 choices

This wedge theme and the six different categories (Geography, History, Entertainment, Science & Nature, Sports & Leisure, and Arts & Entertainment) are pretty much all the original Trivial Pursuit brings to the digital version that bears its name. Unlike the board game, you don't have to collect wedges of different colours - any old wedge will do - and the questions in this digital version are all some form of multiple choice.

Those questions come in two sets: Classic, meant to represent a more 'traditional' Trivial Pursuit experience; and Family, designed to make the game a bit more accessible, especially for younger players. But some of these questions are very poorly written, and there aren't a whole lot of questions in those sets. Even in playing to get the achievement for completing just 30 gameshows, I started to see questions I'd already seen.

They're also a bit too North America-centric, which is an odd problem to have given that developers Snap Finger Click are based in Brighton! This is a major disappointment, given that other modern digital quiz games, like the 2021 adaptation of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, allow you to choose your home country for more relevant questions. Even Jackbox party games allow you to filter out US-centric content, but TPL!2 has no such option. So, if you haven't the foggiest about basketball and hockey, don't know your World Series from your Super Bowl, or couldn't pick your Grand Canyon out from a lineup of regular canyons, you'll struggle with Trivial Pursuit Live! 2.

A selection of the US-centric questions from Trivial Pursuit Live! 2, including "Which of these US states was the latest to join the Union?", "Which basketball player is depicted on the NBA logo?", and "Which of these NFL teams has recorded the most Super Bowl wins?"
A selection of the US-centric questions from Trivial Pursuit Live! 2

Yes, 2. This is a sequel to an original Trivial Pursuit Live, which was published in 2014. So, what has eight years of technological progress brought us in terms of game improvements? Not a lot. There are some aesthetic tweaks - it's definitely brighter, with more of a daytime quiz vibe than a late-night game show, and the voice isn't quite as gratingly upbeat as the original. The background has been swapped from a cityscape to a beach resort, for some reason, and the strangely enthusiastic audience has been fully modelled and animated.

But the round formats and game structure are exactly the same as the 2014 version, and it even reuses some of the icons for the rounds and categories. You still can't permanently turn off the tutorials before every round, just in case you need a patronising explanation of how multiple-choice questions work during your thirtieth game.

In terms of design, Trivial Pursuit Live! (left) and Trivial Pursuit Live! 2 (right) look very similar for games released eight years apart.

The first big difference I noticed was the wider range of characters you can play as. There's not just more of them, they also have more customisable costumes, you can add accessories, and you can even choose the "win dance" they perform when they're in the lead. But who is this for? Where are the people who buy a trivia game because they can dress up as a sailor or a detective? If you've ever played a physical game of Trivial Pursuit in fancy dress, please get in touch and let me know if it enhances the experience.

A sweeping shot of four of the playable characters in Trivial Pursuit Live! 2. Of the two characters on the left, one is a small magician lady, complete with wand she never puts down; the other is someone who was asked what colours they'd wear by the costume department and simply said "yes". It has the cinematics you would expect of a trivia show shot at a beach resort, which is definitely a thing that exists.

Online play is by far the biggest addition, but that's only worthwhile if there are other people online to play with, and that's not guaranteed for a run-of-the-mill trivia game. There are some Twitch integrations which help streamers let their audience play along, which is a nice touch, but it doesn't seem like many streamers have taken them up on the offer. At time of writing, the most popular TPL!2 Twitch clip has just 136 views, and that's from the official channel of publishers Ubisoft. There's a YouTube video of a stream with over 100,000 views, but given one of the top comments is "I can't believe this game shipped with a crash as easy to reproduce as 'one player selects the same answer as another player'", it doesn't seem like it's been a hit.

So, we need to talk about bugs. There's a bit of audio messiness, with the host talking over herself if you skip tutorials or choose an option very quickly. There's the aforementioned crashing issues in online play. But the main issue I had was with graphics - yes, the graphics of a trivia game on a PlayStation 4. Sometimes elements just didn't animate or move like they were supposed to, which meant I couldn't see the scores or the options. And if I ever needed to pause the game, timers would often continue to run in the background, causing further issues whenever I unpaused. Given that the game seems functionally identical to the 2014 version, it's a total mystery as to how its sequel has more game-breaking bugs.

Even if you make it through a game without a bug, TPL!2 is a disappointment. Despite its faults, I'd enjoyed 2014's Trivial Pursuit Live!; the host's catchphrase "want a wedge, need a wedge, gotta get a wedge" will forever be embedded in my brain. I was initially excited to see the release of a sequel, wondering what new gameplay they might have added.

But it has all the same flaws as the original, and nothing new: for example, player order in Close Call often sees you forced to take the least bad of two options when you knew the best answer. Final Round's generous wedge giveways render the previous rounds almost pointless, and it has too many answer pairings where any question you could ask would have an obvious answer (in Geography, for instance, there's a pairing of 'the Great Wall of China' and 'Hadrian's Wall', and as long as you can spot obvious differences between China and Scotland, everyone will end up with a wedge).

A d6 dice face showing one pip

We've only ever given our lowest rating once before at DOALG, but Trivial Pursuit Live! 2 is definitely worthy of being our next 1-rated game. The costumes are nice, the scenery is pretty, and online play is a good idea in theory if not in practice; but this is fundamentally a trivia game where the trivia part is broken: questions are poorly written, culturally irrelevant for anyone outside the US and Canada, and there aren't enough of them to give you more than twenty or so games without a repeat. That's all before you consider the digital aspect of the game that's also pretty broken. To have the backing of forty years of Trivial Pursuit games, plus a previous video game released for the same console structured in exactly the same way, should have been a setup for success, but instead it's churned out a bland, low-grade, broken copycat.



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