One idea I had during my game show research was to cover most of the notable adaptations of game show games, such as Jeopardy! There’s one problem, though:
There are a lot of Jeopardy! games. I mean a lot of them. MobyGames doesn’t even list all of them. Plus for a game as simple as Jeopardy!, there isn’t much to say about each one. So I decided to go smaller. Much smaller.
Today, I’m gonna talk about Jeopardy! on the Game Boy. Jeopardy! was one of the few game show games that made it to Nintendo’s greenscale handheld in 1991, alongside Wheel of Fortune. Naturally GameTek published this outing, and it boasted “Over 1,500 new questions!” on the box. Though considering the show they should’ve boasted “1,500 new answers,” but I’m not gonna get too nitpicky here.
I remember getting both Jeopardy! and Wheel in a combo pack at Target for about $10 each. This was the mid-90s, and Target was chock full of excess copies, so selling one to a young budding game show/video game nut like me was a treat.
These games got a lot of action during vacation trips, such as the one time I went to a resort cabin with my family and was happily having fun with this, and occasionally Pokemon Red. I mean, before everybody had the internet in their pockets, what else could you do?
But enough reminiscing. This is Jeopardy! on the Game Boy.
We’re off to a rough start where it shows these three options: Play against the computer, go head to head, or use a link cable to go head to head. The problem with the last one is that it’s ultimately pointless. Jeopardy! is not an intense head-to-head game like Tetris or Dr. Mario, and you already have a two players on one system option already in place. It just seems like a feature they slapped onto the box just to say they had it.
Notice that so far I’ve mentioned only two players. Well, here’s why.
As opposed to allowing three players, like every other Jeopardy! game in existence, this game is two players only. This is baffling, considering it probably wouldn’t be hard to support three players on the handheld. Oh well, let’s move on.
Sadly no Alex Trebek in this version. Nintendo Power once described the host as “Guy Smiley” from Sesame Street, but I’d say he more resembles Mr. Game Show‘s dorkier brother. Also, our intrepid not-Trebek is not at a podium, magically reading all the clues from a single question card, and occasionally teleporting to the board when a Daily Double is chosen. This host certainly has some voodoo magic, and we should be afraid of him at all costs.
It handles pretty closely to the TV show, having 30 clues separated between six categories, 1-2 Daily Doubles depending on the round, and Final Jeopardy! is in there mostly intact. Though, I can tell the clues aren’t nearly as refined or polished as the TV show’s. Guess they didn’t want to take material from old episodes for reference, which considering there would’ve been six years of shows to go from would’ve been just fine to me.
Since I’m a loner without a link cable or any nearby friends, I decided to play solo with an AI opponent. We’re at this one clue, when suddenly he buzzes in with a few seconds remaining.
Oh right. Instead of programming a potential wrong answer, the game opts for a generic gibberish term. Now that I saw the clue and he guessed wrong, maybe I can buzz in-
Oh. The in-game timer resumes from where it left off. Since the AI buzzed in just before time ran out, it basically blocked me out of buzzing in and guessing. This also seems like an easy way to piss off your opponent by buzzing in and guessing wrong just to screw them out of money. Though it’s not the best strategy if you wanna stay in the black for Final Jeopardy.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about this one. It’s Jeopardy!, but with a few differences that don’t make it nearly as cool as the other versions. It’s a rather serviceable adaptation of the show, and in 1990 this was an enjoyable distraction. There were other games on the Game Boy worth your time than this.
But did you know there was more than one Jeopardy! game on the Game Boy? There wasn’t just one Jeopardy! game, there were FOUR versions of Jeopardy! on the Game Boy. Four.
Apparently Jeopardy! must have been cheap as hell to make for GameTek, so they pumped out a few more of them during the Game Boy’s long lifespan. A Sports-themed Edition was the first version released around 1994, which they did for every platform there was a Jeopardy! game in the period before Sports Jeopardy! existed. After that, GameTek released a Platinum Edition with new questions, and finally a Teen Tournament version in 1996 with easier questions for the younger crowd.
There are differences between this and the original, though. Sports Edition now added a delay when showing the clue to avoid anyone autobuzzing in before the clue was shown, which was a nice change. An even better change is the game will now reset the timer to 5 seconds on an incorrect response to avoid cheating players out of buzzing in. The later Platinum Edition and Teen Tournament versions removed link play and traded that in for Super Game Boy support! Wowsers!
The Super Game Boy support is rather disappointing. Minor sound changes and now a palette that seems in line with playing the game on one of the premade Game Boy Color palettes, but the rest of the game looks identical visually. Even those doofy avatars for the characters made in 1990 are still here.
I’m not exactly sure who made these versions. The credits haven’t changed from version to version, but I doubt the two designers credited were brought back every few years to add new clues. I guess we’ll never know who wrote the material, but they do make it important on the back of Sports Edition that Merv Griffin Enterprises didn’t write the clues for this version. I guess that was to avoid any legal trouble, but it’s weird to see on the back of the box.
Now the Game Boy wasn’t the only portable to get the fast-paced quizzer. The Game Gear also received Jeopardy! as well as the later Sports Edition. Let’s see if there’s any major differences between them.
Wow. They actually sprung the money to actually get Alex Trebek’s likeness in the Game Gear version. Wonder why they didn’t get him sooner. That’s not the only thing they changed, though.
The game looks nicer, resembling the TV show more by looking like the 1990s-era Ed Flesh designed set compared to the dull blank color of the Game Boy versions. However, it’s still two players, which is a shame. It seems they couldn’t find a good way to get three players working even on this platform.
The developers of this version found out the Game Gear’s SN76489 chip was so much better than the tinny Z80 sound chip the Game Boy used, and used that to give us something we didn’t know we wanted: Digitized Speech. You can now hear Trebek say things occasionally while you’re playing, as well as hear some of the show’s sound effects. It’s like you’re actually there on your portable! Hopefully you have enough battery life to play through a single game.
It also looks a bit… choppy animation-wise. I assume the designers were trying to work around the LCD screen that the Game Gear used, but since I’m playing this in an emulator, it just looks weird outside of that.
It’s better than the Game Boy version by a long shot, but that’s not saying a whole lot. But at the time if you wanted a portable version of Jeopardy!, you couldn’t really go wrong with the Game Gear release if you had that system instead.
It would take many many years and several portable systems before Jeopardy! would grace the handheld scene once more, when THQ released a Jeopardy! game for the Nintendo DS alongside Wheel of Fortune in 2010. Maybe I’ll get around to those one day, I bet with the improved technology they’re probably miles ahead of these two versions.
However, the GameTek era of Jeopardy! handheld games have their own little charm to them that I’d kinda miss, the game where not-Alex Trebek gave you the answers, and you had to come up with the questions. Or if all else failed, yell “ZWXYZ” in a panic.