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The Amazing Race & the Not-So-Amazing DVD Game

January 22, 2007 By Glenn Turner

Amazing Race DVD Game

Around the holiday season, the missus and I normally like to get our game on with something that doesn't require a console or control pad, so we pick up a few new board & other types of games to try out. Last year we had a horrible time with Scene It! (and bristled at a new-fangled Backgammon board), but this year we hoped to have some fun with The Amazing Race DVD Game. Cluck under your breath about 'reality' shows all you want but we are big fans of The Amazing Race. What can I say? We enjoy the mix of drama, competition and footage of foreign lands. Consequently, we had hoped that The Amazing Race DVD Game would contain some of the excitement and intrigue of the show.

Sadly we were ended up disappointed with yet another poorly executed DVD-centric board game, although this one isn't as flawed as others we've played (again, damn you Scene It!). To quickly sum up the game, depending on whether you choose a short game or a long game, you're racing around a board comprised of four or eight cities, each one comprised of seven squares. Each team (like the show, you're supposed to play in teams of two, with a maximum of four teams) spins the 'spinner' (a 'random' disc spinner controlled via your DVD remote), moves 1-4 spaces and, depending on the square they land on, have to answer a question or receive a card. The final city discards the spinner and requires that each team answer eight questions, one for each square. The first team to answer all eight questions wins the game.

Easy enough, right? It's all rather too easy. The problem with the game is two-fold: 1) Teams always advance, no matter what, and 2) Too much repetition. Concerning advancement, you don't even have to answer a question right to advance until you make it to to the final city of the game: every time you spin you advance. And even when you do answer a question right, thanks to the perceived lack of randomness in the spinner (for some reason we rarely end up actually 'spinning' a one or two - we always ended up 'spinning' three or four squares), it feels less like a race and more like a synchronized jig. This could be forgiven if the game's cities, questions and scenarios weren't so repetitive: out of the three games we played, roughly 2/3rds of locations, questions and events we repeated in two or all three games, which means that 2/3rds of the game was simply us regurgitating previous answers. However, nothing possibly exemplifies the repetition and game's lack of imagination more than the cards. Out of the deck's 24 cards, there are only two types: One is a 'yield' card, which allows you to prevent a team from taking a turn, while the other allows you to double your spin. Both are mostly useless, as you probably won't receive a card until you're well into the second half of the game, and you can't yield someone after they've hit the final city.

Finally, there's the matter of the final city's questions which cause the greatest blow to the game: They're the same for each team, they're multiple choice, and the selected answers are displayed on the screen for all teams to see. So if one team is leading, correctly answers and zips through almost all the questions only to falter on the final one, the trailing team can easily come up, effortlessly recall the answers given by the first team and then have an automatic one in three chance of guessing the correct answer for the last question. The loser becomes the winner by sheer dumb design. If the questions were only different, or even just put in a different order, or if it didn't actually display what answer the team selected on the screen, it'd be a different matter. Instead it simply sucks the fun out of the game.

This isn't to say the game is insufferable, as they did manage to wrangle The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan to lend his voice and narration skills to the DVD. For those unfamiliar with the show, Phil is an New Zealander whom has been the face of The Amazing Race much like Jeff Probst with Survivor. Phil comes across as an optimistic, amiable guy, and his voice-over work shines through like a beacon. Sure, you know you'll never be eliminated until someone actually wins the race (as opposed to the actual show, where someone is elimated on each leg), but it's always great fun to hear 'Blue team ... *dramatic pause* ... I'm happy to tell you that this is a non-elimination leg, and that you're still in the race!' Thanks for trying Phil.

Really, out of all the potential reality show-to-DVD games, The Amazing Race, based on its locations alone, had an extreme amount of potential and I'm saddened to say that it simply doesn't live up to it. I can't speak for the non-DVD-based board game, but I can say that I'm starting to wonder if any quality DVD-only games exist out there (and yes, I include Dragon's Lair as a forgettable DVD-only game*). My question to you is, are there any decent DVD games out there? Anything that actually isn't just a quick-y cash-based effort? Anything that actually maximizes the medium in ways that board games & console/PC games wouldn't? Let us know, and we'll give them a try.

* When I initially wrote this entry, I was unaware of the Syberia DVD game. However, based on our time with both Syberia I and Syberia II (the latter of which took us roughly two years to complete), I can only imagine that it was created as a DVD-based sleeping aid.

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3 comments for ‘The Amazing Race & the Not-So-Amazing DVD Game’

#1 jt-3d Jan 24, 2007 01:40am

Well good, I don't have to get it then. The reviews weren't too damning and I was tempted to get it. However, it's possible that they will make an improved version and there are rumors of expansions so maybe one day this will be a good game. For now I guess I'll pass and just wait patiently for the next season to start.

#2 hobbie Jan 24, 2007 08:59am

Ugh, I hate those hybrid DVD/board games. I'll agree, Scene It just plain sucks.

#3 Glenn Turner Jan 26, 2007 11:06pm

hobbie wrote:
Ugh, I hate those hybrid DVD/board games. I'll agree, Scene It just plain sucks.

The worst part about Scene It! was that it could have been a great game, especially for those who are real film nerds. Instead it just fails on all levels at instilling even a modicum of entertainment. I almost wish I had the gumption to make my own DVD-based game using the Scene It! board, just to prove that it can be done well.

I also wish someone had a positive impression of a DVD board game so we could try out a decent entry from the genre :(