Let’s talk about MTV. Go ahead, make the “Remember when they used to play music videos?” jokes, get it out of your system. Despite that, MTV was a cultural revolution back in its 80s and 90s heyday. Seeing lots of quirky music videos, then it slowly started expanding to general purpose music programming, such as Beavis and Butt-head and game shows like Remote Control. Eventually MTV’s various TV shows eventually got video games of their own in varying levels of quality, most of them bad.
As we entered the internet age, music videos became infrequent, and we were subject to various shows like Celebrity Deathmatch, punk’d, and Jackass. These shows went further and further past the original “Music Television” concept and ended up being more about general pop culture than anything. Nowadays we’re subjected to reality shows involving teen moms and people from the Jersey Shore, with maybe some music videos in the middle of the night. But let’s forget about today, and travel back to the year 2001, when times were much simpler, and it was more about the music.
Total Request Live, or trl for short, was a show that was part music videos, part talk show, and part “random teenagers screaming over the music video telling us how this Christina Aguilera song is their favorite song of all time.” It lasted several years on MTV before finally ending in 2008, which is surprising considering the state of the network at that point. TRL was where Carson Daly got his start, which eventually lead to him hosting a podunk late night talk show on NBC that no one watched unless they fell asleep after The Tonight Show and forgot to turn the TV off.
In 2001, publisher Take Two Interactive decided to cut a deal with MTV and make a game based on trl for the PC audience. Enter TRL Trivia. (or as it’s stylized on the box: MTV trl trivia.) I’ll give you three guesses which game this is meant to be like.
This game holds a silly memory with me. I saw this game at a Big Lots many many years ago. It was always found in the discount bin with copies of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men and Tiger Woods PGA Tour: The DVD Game. I saw it go from $10, to $5, to $3, and eventually down to $1. Despite seeing it at the same damn Big Lots for years, stupid me didn’t buy it.
Eventually that Big Lots got renovated, and that game disappeared from the bargain bin. Either somebody actually bought it, or it finally went straight into the dumpster. Eventually I found two (!) copies at a family thrift store nearby from that Big Lots. I’m going to pretend the copy I bought is the same one from that Big Lots of years past, but it probably came from a different place that had also thrown it out because nobody wanted it.
TRL Trivia was developed by Hypnotix. Outside of satire games like Deer Avenger, Outlaw Golf, and Panty Raider: From Here to Immaturity, they’re not known for making anything straightforward like a trivia game, unless you count their adaptations of stuff like The $100,000 Pyramid. Knowing what I found out, having them do a trivia game is weird considering what else they’ve done, but let’s see how they handled it.
Sadly, our host is not Carson Daly, but instead a guy named Brian McFayden. It’s a bad sign when your host is only known as an MTV VJ and a small time news anchor. He also looks like an *NSYNC reject on the back of the box, but considering the time period, I’ll let that slide. However, McFayden isn’t hosting this alone, we get questions handled by Dana Fuchs, which is probably not the same Dana Fuchs who sung in Across the Universe, but I’m not 100% certain. All McFayden does is praise the contestants for getting multiple right answers, chide the contestants on wrong answers, and call the contestants strange nicknames like “Friend 4.” He does a passable job in this case.
So TRL Trivia is a blatant You Don’t Know Jack knockoff. Two of the rounds are based on the traditional Jack format of multiple choice questions, and the Speed Round is their take on the Jack Attack. But there are unique rounds in TRL Trivia. At least, as “unique” as you could make a trivia game anyway. There’s a Timeline round where you arrange the answers in a proper order (such as “Arrange these movies from oldest to newest”), and a Guess Who round that’s like multiple choice, but gives you four clues instead of a question.
You choose one of 6 or 9 categories and play five questions at 500-2,000 points each, which are usually based on boy bands, movies, pop culture, other facts and miscellanea circa 2001. Hope you’re familiar with 98 Degrees, O-Town, and Almost Famous, otherwise you’re not gonna do very well here.
Another big change is that TRL Trivia supports up to four players compared to Jack‘s three. Problem is the buzz-in keys are now Z, M, the up arrow, and NumPad + keys, which is cumbersome compared to the common Q-B-P setup that You Don’t Know Jack used. I guess they didn’t want people huddled up so close to the keyboard.
Instead of “screwing” your opponents to answer a question, the bonus options for you are resetting the clock, passing on the question, or asking for a new question. Like in Jack, you only get one of each. The only remotely useful one is the new question, the time extension doesn’t help unless you just can’t think of an answer, and you’d only use the pass if you buzzed in by accident, making it pretty useless.
The key of what made the screw an interesting choice in You Don’t Know Jack was to challenge a friend who might not know the answer. Since all of the helpers in TRL Trivia help you rather than challenge an opponent, it feels a lot less ruthless and a bit more banal.
Besides that, there isn’t a whole lot to say about this. At one point you could submit questions to a site for a possible expansion, but I see nothing about said expansion ever being released, so I can safely say it was canceled. The only other thing I could talk about is how the disc comes with a demo for Tropico that’s prominently advertised in the installer. Oh, and the wonderfully rendered 3D recreation of the TRL set.
TRL Trivia is a late ’90s-early 2000s era pop culture trivia game. Not really as funny as You Don’t Know Jack, and the subject matter wouldn’t be interesting to teens, nor people my age. It’s average, and all it made me wanna do is play You Don’–