While Sony's Buzz! has popularised the video game quiz show, and the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? game sold ridiculously large numbers during the show's heyday, there haven't been many that have broken through into the mass market. Microsoft attempted to fill the quiz show void in the Xbox 360 line-up with last year's Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action which proved to be a fun first attempt for movie trivia fans. A year later the sequel, Scene It? Box Office Smash has arrived, offering more of the same, as well as support for the newly introduced Xbox 360 avatars.
Played using the Xbox 360 big button controllers (which work via an infra-red adapter that plugs into one of the USB ports) or with a standard 360 pad, everything is exceedingly simple, with the main menu only offering a couple of options, and players hopping in to a game with just a press of the big button. You have the choice of playing alone (which isn't really recommended) or with up to three friends in short or long games, with the long option taking around 30 minutes. You can also head online if your friends can't make it over, although the atmosphere is far better when everyone is in the same room.
The quiz itself is obviously completely built around movies, but questions are delivered in many different ways. There are 21 puzzle types, ranging from guessing the movie from a sound clip and answering questions loosely based on a short film clip, to guessing the movie from a still frame that's missing an object and figuring out the movie from a crude child's drawing.
Something that often lets quizzes down is the suitability for all age groups, but Box Office Smash! offers questions on films of all genres and periods. We wouldn't go as far as to say it's suitable for kids, but whether you're 20 or middle-aged, you won't feel completely out of the loop.
By default a number of these games work on a buzz first, answer second system, whereas others simply see players choosing the answer as quickly as possible, with everyone able to have a guess. The difficulty is obviously directly tied to how well you know the movie in question, but you don't have to be anything more than a general movie watcher to get the most out of the game. Die-hard movie buffs may well find things a little too simple, though. By default the game doesn't punish you for getting an answer wrong, but thankfully this can be activated in the options menu, which soon stops players fearlessly trying their hand with a guess without.
Avatar support is a nice touch, although it's not nearly as good as it could be, mainly due to the lack of options the avatar creation allows. This isn't a fault of the game, seeing as developer Krome Studios simply lets you use the avatar associated with your Gamertag, but Microsoft really needs to give people more freedom to create truly unique characters if the system is to be as successful as Nintendo's Miis. Unless you can create something that closely resembles you, there seems to be no point.
If you appreciate the sound of a new Achievement being awarded, Box Office Smash will most definitely be worth a look, even if the idea of a video game quiz isn't your usual cup of tea. In one 30-minute game we managed to earn over 100 gamerscore points without even trying. If your gamerscore is of great importance, this might just make whipping out Scene It? Box Office Smash this Christmas that bit more tolerable.
Having said that, you don't need to be in the company of non-gamers to enjoy Scene It? We played a rather heated game in the office that proved to be as hard fought as the console war, with as much competition as a session on Gears of War 2. The final 'levelling' round, which gives the opportunity to win an obscene amount of points, might not be to everyone's liking, but it does mean you're in with a chance of winning right up until the end.
At the moment it's hard to know what longevity Box Office Smash offers. We're still playing and not suffering repeat questions, but that time will surely arrive sooner or later, at which point it's effectively game over or time to buy new content from Xbox LIVE Marketplace. There's currently nothing available so we don't know how frequently new content will be released and at what price, but assuming it's not too expensive Box Office Smash should provide movie quiz fun for some time to come.