TV Game Show Review: Deal or No Deal - Million Dollar Mission


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Jul 5, 2008
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*This week I am going to review three TV Game show based games - Deal or No Deal, The Price is Right, and Prime Time Quiz Show (which seems to be based on Who Wants to be a Millionaire). How similar are they to the TV game shows? How much fun are they? Read the reviews to find out.*

TV Game Show Week - First up, Deal or No Deal.

When Deal or No Deal came on TV, at first I thought it was the stupidest game show ever devised. I mean, it is all random luck - no trivia, no skill, nothing except what suitcases you pick. Then I watched it a couple of times, and I must admit I got drawn in somewhat. It's not my favorite game show, but it can be entertaining. And despite my original idea that there was no skill, there is some skill is assessing the various odds and probabilities, and deciding if you should take the bankers offer. Of course, this is a skill that most of the people playing the show seem to lack, which results in me yelling at the TV a lot.

So when Deal of No Deal came out on the iPhone, I wondered how much fun would it be to play. Obviously with no "real" prizes to play for, some of the excitement would be gone, but would it still be fun to try to pit my "skill" against random luck?

When you start to play, you are given the option to play with sound or no sound - this is a nice option to have as the first screen, because if you want to try the game in an area where you can't have sound, you don't need to worry about muting your phone or frantically decreasing the volume when the game starts (which is a pet peeve about the iPhone - that the volume is not universal!).

You are then brought to the menu screen, where you can choose leaderboard, challenge mode, quick play, or stats. (There is a "more games" option, but that just brings you to an advertisement of more games by the same company). There is also the sound toggle button, and a help screen. The help screen is nice, giving you an overview of the game concept as well as the controls. The scrolling mechanism isn't as smooth as I am used to on the iPhone however - no flick scrolling, you need to keep you finger on the screen and slide up.

I am not really sure what the leaderboard option is - it shows you dollar amounts, but they aren't the amounts you have won. And there aren't any names associated with the leaderboard amounts, so I am not sure what it is showing you. My guess is the leaderboard is for quick play games, but I am not certain about that.

The stats screen will show you your overall progress (how many games you have won or lost, average win amount, and biggest win) as well as the awards you have won so far. The awards are based on game outcomes, either in quick play mode or the challenge mode.

The quick play mode is exactly that - a "quick start" of the Deal or No Deal game. It plays just like the TV, without Howie Mandel. You choose a suitecase, and start picking other suitcases to eliminate prize amounts. At various points (predetermined) the banker will come in and make an offer to "buy" your suitcase, which you can accept or reject. The offer is simply based on the prize amounts that are left, and the probability of what amount is in your suitcase. If you reject the offer, you keep on opening suitcases. This repeats until you either accept the banker offer, or you end up with just your suitcase left (and you get whatever prize was in your suitcase). In the quick play mode, you simply play a game, and see how much money you can get.

In the challenge mode, the rules are a little different. There are different game options - including modes like "Easy Money", "All the 1s", and "Millionaire Mission". Each of the game modes differs in the prize distribution (the dollar prizes that are in the suitcases). As such, the odds of winning various dollar amount differs in each game. All the 1's, for example, has prizes that only have "1"s in them - $.01, $1, $100, $1,000, etc. Because these different modes have different prize suitcases, the odds of winning various dollar amounts differs, and you need to consider then when you are playing the game and judging the bankers offer to buy your suitcase.

In challenge mode, some game modes are locked, and you unlock them as you accumulate prize money. For example, "Chump Change" mode gets unlocked when you win a cumulative $3,000,000. This is a nice change of pace in the game, and provides incentive to try and win more money (since you can't win real money, you might as well unlock game modes!). Each game mode is associated with a level, going from 1 to 10. I am not sure what happens when you unlock all game modes - I am still in the process of trying to earn enough money to do so.

There are a few things that I found to be missing from the game. First off, there is no multiplayer mode. It seems obvious to me that there should be a challenge mode where you can try to beat another player (either via wifi, or on the same machine). For example, the person to win the most money in 1, 3, 5, or 10 games wins the challenge. Also, it would be interesting to have a "random" mode - where the banker appears at random times (rather than at pre-determined intervals) or we have random dollar amounts in the suitcases. It would add a whole new dimension to the game if you didn't know when the banker was going to make his next offer. There are a number of options you could try on the game, since anything is possible (unlike the TV game show version).

One aspect of the game that I found annoying were the various comments made by the game show host. You can't turn them off, and at times the game show hosts' commens didn't make any sense what so ever. In one of the challenge modes, for example, I kept opening $10,000 prize briefcases - which was good, because all I had leftwere those and the $1,000,000 prize briefcases. However, the host kept chiding me saying I was opening large dolalr amounts and not doing well! In another game, I opened two of the remaining three $1,000,000 prize briefcases - only to be told I was playing well and asked if I was feeling lucky. It seems to me that these comments are programmed for the regular game mode, and don't make much sense in the various challenge modes.

In terms of replicating the TV game show experience, I think they do a pretty good job. While you obviously can't win $1,000,000, you can at least match your skills against the random nature of the game. It is nice to see the additional challenge mode thrown in to provide some interest for varying types of game play. The music has the same feel as the game show, and the only thing missing is the actual commentary from the TV host (you need to read his comments). In addition, there are no crowd sounds - it would be great to hear various crowd comments when you open a case, or are deciding if you want to accept a deal or not ("One more case, one more case", "Take the deal", etc).

Pros: Accurately mimics the "feel" of the game show, provides alternate play modes to increase interest on long term game play.

Cons: Host commentary doesn't make sense often, no multiplayer option

All in all, if you like the game show, and you want to play, this game does a good job giving you the playing experience. You can play the challenge modes to unlock other game options, but a lack of a multiplayer option severely limits the potential of the game. It is not cheap, and at $4.99 I would only recommend it for people who really want to try to pick the $1,000,000 briefcase. While a little expensive and lacking multiplayer, it is well designed and enjoyable and does a reasonable job representing the game show. Three and a half stars out of five.

Rating scale:

* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benfits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.