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Wheel Of Fortune Review

Publisher - Gametek
Developer - Gametek
Platform - N64
Type - Puzzle
Score - 7/10

The age of television game shows has come and gone. No longer is afternoon television overrun with giddy people from Burbank, CA. Game shows have left the TV scene, leaving a gap that was quickly filled by exploitative talk shows. Very few shows survived the game show crash, and Wheel of Fortune is one of them. Wheel of Fortune has been ported to almost every type of personal computer, a board game, various consoles, and now the Nintendo 64.

Wheel of Fortune has the same rules as its namesake and supports three players. If less than three players are available, the CPU takes up the slack with AI players. You can toughen the computer controlled contestants by setting the gamešs difficulty level. The hard level actually does deliver a nasty opponent.

This game is not a graphically taxing game. There are only two things you really need to draw: the wheel and the puzzle board. Wheel of Fortune does their best to jazz this up with gratuitous panning and zooms. Vanna White makes an appearance as a floating, full motion video head. She doesn't add much to the game besides name recognition.

In this version of Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White serves not only as chief letter turner, but also as the host. The video Vanna looks ok, but the flat, letter turning Vanna could use a lot more frames of animation. Whenever you guess a correct letter, Vanna choppily makes her way across the screen to reveal the letters on the board. This doesn't make the game unplayable, but it is such a common animation that it makes an otherwise good looking game feel ugly.

Much like the substandard Vanna White, the sound in this game, while not horrible, misses the mark. There isn't a lot of music in the game, but there are digitized voice samples. The quality of the samples are decent, but they are very poorly timed. Too often, the pauses between phrases are too short and the end result seems very unnatural and unconvincing. Sometimes voice samples overlap and you get one character ignoring another or a single character saying two things at once. This doesn't destroy the game, but it doesn't scream out quality either.

The gameplay in Wheel of Fortune is adequate. It's kinda boring as a one player game, but with a friend or two, it's ok. The categories can get a little strange (what the heck is "before and after?"), but the instructions manual explains everything. For the three of you who have never seen Wheel of Fortune, the basic idea is that you have to guess some sort of hidden phrase or name. You guess letters to fill in the puzzle and you can attempt to solve the puzzle at any time. It's basically hangman for bucks. On your turn you have three options: spin, buy a vowel, or solve. If you spin, you spin the big wheel o' fortune, which is covered with dollar amounts and special slices. If you land on a dollar amount, you get to guess a consonant. If the consonant you guess is not in the puzzle, your turn is over. If you guessed right, you get the money amount you spun for each time that consonant appears. Since you cannot guess vowels, you can purchase them with your winnings. Finally you can chose to solve the puzzle. Only the person who solves the puzzle gets to keep their earnings from a round. The overall winner gets to attempt to solve a bonus puzzle. That's about it.

The delivery of this game could have been better, but it takes more than that to sink a Wheel of Fortune game. Fans of the TV show should get a kick out of this game, and people who like word puzzles may like it too. With Tetrisphere as it's only competition in the puzzle genre, this is probably the best puzzle game on the N64.