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Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?


Learning is fun, but this game isn't.
If you havenít yet seen or heard about Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?, youíre missing out on a rather amusing game show concept that actually encourages family participation as they watch. The general idea is that contestants must answer a series of questions that span ten subjectsótwo for each grade from 1st grade up to 5th grade. It may sound easy, but the contestants usually find that this test is anything but easy as they try to win $1,000,000. Along the way, there are actual 5th grade students that can help in a couple of different ways. The student answers the same question that the contestant is asked, and contestants can elect to peek at the answer (and decide whether or not to use it), copy the answer (meaning the contestant has to accept that answer as final), and a save. Saves happen when the contestant gets the question wrong, but the student gets it right. Itís both amusing and humbling to see adults getting saved by kids.

As with most game shows, the transition to a video game format was inevitable for this concept. There are questions about this game, as there are for any at-home game based on a game show. Does the game feel authentic? Does the game lose anything in the transition to a video game format? Will the game hold a playerís interest beyond a few plays? While there are some things that the Nintendo DS version of Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? does well, thereís not enough depth here to keep many players tuned in.

Gameplay

The good news is that the DS version of Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? is a decent, albeit basic, replication of the game show. There are over 3,000 questions encoded within the game, which means that youíll have to play a fair number of games before starting to get repeats. One major difference between the game show and the DS game is that all of the questionsó- except for the final Million Dollar Questionó- are multiple choice, and therefore are a bit easier to answer than the ones on television. There are definitely some tough questions to be answered here, especially if you donít know a subject particularly well in the 4th and 5th grade levels. Donít be surprised if you see more than a few questions that you honestly donít know (or remember) the answer to. Luckily, you will have some help by way of five virtual 5th graders; however, these virtual kids have almost no personality, so itís hard to judge whether any answer they give for peeks or copies is credible. Answering the questions can be done either via stylus tap or by using the D-Pad to select between options, and thatís just fine.

The bad news is that thereís no tension here. Itís fine that contestants on television can take their time to answer questions, but at-home contestants canít be given all the time they want because itís too easy to cheat. Almost anyone old enough to play Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? on the DS can surf the web and find answers to these questions without penalty. A timer should have been included here to deter cheating, but all players get is periodic badgering in the form of Jeff Foxworthy voice clips. Granted, if you donít cheat, there may be a little tension once you reach the higher money levels. The final question is also a challenge as you must enter an answer, rather than choose from possibilities. Nonetheless, what little tension might be encountered may be quickly tempered by the knowledge that this isnít real money that youíre playing for. Aside from a victory sequence, thereís no real payoff for beating the gameÖ and that means that youíre almost always going to go for the whole thing every time, rather than electing to walk away from the game. There is a High Score board to shoot for, but there arenít any unlockables or secrets to be had here, and once youíve beaten the game, thereís no real feeling of fulfillment.

Graphics

Although Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? does have full-motion video encoded on the Nintendo DS card, developer Awe Games uses it questionably. Instead of full-motion clips of Jeff Foxworthy or the 5th graders, players are treated to some downright ugly virtual models that have limited animations and just look silly. Seriously, if youíre going to use FMV, do it right. The least they could have done was to use static pictures of Foxworthy from the set, along with some kids. This direction is a real letdown and hurts the gameís authenticity. The rest of the visuals are adequate, although the font for the questions and answers should resemble chalkboard writing, rather than typewriter text. The top screen of the DS occasionally will show explanations of correct answers or give players a bit more information about each answer, while the touch screen shows the questions and possible answers in most cases.

Sound

From the actual theme song and incidental music to an impressive number of Jeff Foxworthy voice samples, the sound in Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? is rather impressive. Foxworthy explains the game at the beginning, reads off the money level for each question, and congratulates or chastises you for your right or wrong answers. Foxworthyís delivery is credible and doesnít sound forced at all, and his zingers are funny. It would have been a bit better to have Foxworthy read the questions as well, but memory limitations likely prevented this from occurring. More than the visuals, the gameís sound is what heightens its authenticity when compared to the game show that itís based upon.

The Final Verdict

There are ways to argue for and against the purchase of this game, making a final verdict more difficult than usual. If youíre buying this game as a gift for a younger player, there are some challenging questions to be sure and he (or she) will likely learn more than a few things from the game. Itís certainly an educational experience, even for adults. More intense gamers or older players likely wonít find much to like about Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?, however. Itís far too easy to cheat, and thereís no fulfillment for beating the game, aside from a nice spot on the High Score board. The tension of the TV show is missing, which is more a product of being a home game with no real prizes to shoot for.

Unless youíre a huge fan of the game show, or unless youíre looking to buy this game for a younger player as an educational experience, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? for the Nintendo DS just doesnít make a good enough jump from the TV screen to your dual screens. After about an houróif that longóthe game will have given most players all itís got. For a full price of $30, thatís not a recommended experience at all. The smart decision is to skip this one.