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 technically they’re 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. It also helped 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 probably Pokemon Red. There wasn’t much to do in the times before everybody had the internet in their pockets. 😛
But enough reminiscing. Let’s play 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 guy certainly has some voodoo magic.
Now let’s get into the game itself. It handles pretty closely to the TV show, having all the clues, Daily Doubles, stuff like that. Though I can tell the clues aren’t nearly as refined or polished as the TV show’s. Guess they didn’t want to crib from old episodes for material.
Since I’m a loner, I decided to go 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-
What? Oh, that’s incredibly lame. 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. 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.
Love how the later ones have a glitched logo and the subtitle in Arial, like they put so little effort into it.
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. In addition to a Sports-themed Edition, there was a Platinum Edition with new questions, and a new Teen Tournament version with easier questions for the younger crowd.
There are differences between this and the original, though. Sports Edition added a delay when showing the clue to avoid quick autobuzzers, as well as resetting the timer to 5 seconds on a wrong answer to avoid cheating players out of buzzing in. The later Platinum Edition and Teen Tournament versions removed link play, and added Super Game Boy support! Wowsers!
I’m not exactly sure who made these versions. The credits have changed very little 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 a Sports Edition. Let’s see if there’s any major differences between them.
Wow. They actually sprung the money to actually get Alex frickin’ Trebek’s likeness in the Game Gear version. Wonder why they didn’t get him sooner.
Anyway, the Game Gear game is similar to the other versions, but with some fancy enhancements. The game looks nicer, resembling the TV show more. The developers of this version decided that the SN76489 chip was so much better than the dinky sound chip the Game Boy used, because there’s DIGITIZED SPEECH! Hear Trebek say things occasionally while playing, as well as hear some of the sound effects from the show. It’s like the real thing!
However, it’s still two players, which is a shame. 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 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.
It would take many many years and several portable systems before Jeopardy! would grace the handheld scene once more, when THQ released it alongside Wheel of Fortune in 2010. Maybe I’ll get around to those one day, but we can’t forget the GameTek era of Jeopardy! handheld games, where not-Trebek gave the answers, and you had to come up with the questions. Or if all else failed, yell “ZWXYZ” in a panic.