#90: Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition
NES Game: (Gametek: 1990)
Game show video games are a weird beast. Sometimes they are great representations of the actual shows, but then other times they are a big jumbled mess. I've talked about Remote Control being a jumbled mess with ugly, bright graphics, having no bonus game whatsoever, and the host being more inane than what's out there right now. However, there are games that you have to question, "Why do these games even exist?" One answer was that a company have a license for a show or a movie and they have to make a game loosely based off of the movie and gamble if it's going to sell well or not. The other answer is what we're going to be dealing with today, where a company takes a game they've already worked on and do little to nothing to differentiate it from the previous game. Gametek was Guilty of this in the late 80s when they released a blatant carbon copy of a previous release. The Previous release: Wheel of Fortune. The carbon copy release: Wheel of Fortune Family Edition.
I'm going to start things off by looking at the Box Art. Now, while it may not be bad, it looks like they just took the old box art picture and just slapped it on a different colored background and added the words "Over a Thousand new Puzzles and All New!" in bright red letters and in gold the Family Edition. Now I know that the box is supposed to lure people into buying the game, but this box is a blatant lie on 2 fronts. Firstly, when you talk about having 1,000 new puzzles on the box, you better deliver. When playing the game, they only had about 250 or so puzzles in the entire game. So, yay for one piece of blatant false advertising.
Now I need to talk about this game being all new. And to do that, I need to compare and contrast the two releases. The first Wheel of Fortune Game was released in 1987 and had about 160 or so puzzles, and the graphics weren't that great. However, it was a serviceable adaptation and was a good game. So, let's do some quick comparisons of the three main screens of the first game.
Not bad for 1987. So now let's look at the 1990 version.
Aside from some color changes, they are the exact same graphics. Now, if it were a 1 year difference, I would be a bit more forgiving since in 1988, the system was still in its infancy. However, in 1990 when the system was having great graphical games in Mega Man 3, Super Mario 3, the Ninja Gaiden games, especially with their cut-scenes, heck even Jeopardy's game board was better looking than these graphics. I'd go on to say that the 87 graphics looked better.
Now Gameplay and what the shows were like at the time.
The 1987 game was loosely based off of the Nighttime version of the time. Now it was like the first two rounds of the show, minus the shopping with the 3rd round being the speed round, which sometimes happened in the nighttime version. The only problem was that the wheel never changed to reflect the changes in the rounds, so the Free Spin space was there and when the Speed Round happened, there wasn't a $5,000 or even the $1,500 space. The bonus round was the same at the time: Pick your prize, 5 consonants and 1 vowel, solve the puzzle within the time limit and you win.
Now in 1990, the show evolved from what it was in 1987. You had more money on the wheel, more rounds and more things on the wheel, such as 1 free spin space, prizes on the wheel. and a brand new bonus game where you picked a letter from the word WHEEL, then when it came to the puzzle, you got RSTLNE for free and then you picked 3 more consonants and 1 more vowel. So, how did Gametek implement these changes? If you guessed perfectly...WRONG! If you said not at all....Have a cookie. They didn't change the gameplay or the wheel or anything. It's like they sold the same game that was released in 1987, gussied it up and claimed something on their box that wasn't true.
What's the biggest sin is that the classic Wheel of Fortune theme, which was present in the 1987 game, was replaced with some generic tune that I've never seen or heard in my existence. I guess Gametek didn't get the rights back to the Changing Keys theme or they just got completely lazy and wanted to at least make one differentiating thing from the first game. Another theory I have is that when the theme changed in 1989, they figured that they could also change the theme and fool everyone. Unfortunately nobody liked it.
Either way the game was panned and in 1992, a new game was released called Wheel of Fortune: Starring Vanna White, where she was present and you also had digitized audio as well, and the gameplay was made to be like the Primetime show. The graphics might not have been the best, but it was a vast improvement from this abortion of a game. It's one of my major pet peeves when it comes to gaming: buying the first game, then buying the second game and it's the exact same game with no changes whatsoever. I can tolerate the fact that some game companies make a game, and it's not good. However, when you take an old game and don't improve it in any way or make it worse, then you're just not trying.
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