The Wii's success with people who don't typically play games has resulted in the console being home to an inordinate amount of minigame collections. Finally, someone figured out that these casual players are interested in more than flailing their arms around to win five-second-long challenges. Smarty Pants is a trivia game with 20,000 questions geared toward both kids and adults. It's bare-bones as far as console-based trivia games go, and at $50 it's a good $30 too expensive, but it's still a fun game to break out with groups of friends.
There's no worse way to find out that you're named after a breakfast food than from a video game in front of your friends.
There are three different ways to play Smarty Pants: You can play alone; against up to three friends; and with your friends in a race against the clock in family mode. Given that most people play trivia games to be competitive, you'll probably spend most of your time in friends mode. Here you select your Mii, which lets the game track your stats, and then input your age to ensure that the game will ask you age-appropriate questions. Although an adult will probably be able to answer more questions than a child no matter what questions you ask, there are some pretty kid-specific questions included, so even the younger crowd should have fun and feel competitive. You can also choose the game length and what scoring type you'd like. "Countdown" decreases the amount of points a question is worth as time ticks away, and "wager" lets you determine a question's value by playing a not-so-fun shooting-range minigame before a round.
Once you've got that all squared away, it's off to spin the wheel, which looks and sounds a lot like the wheel from Wheel of Fortune. This is done by performing a spinning motion with the Wii Remote. The wheel is divided into categories such as arts, entertainment, sports, video games, books, and fashion. You'll be asked questions on whichever category the wheels stops on, unless you nudge the wheel over by pressing a button and waving the remote left or right. Depending on the space where you land, you might receive a card that can be thrown into play during a round by pressing B and making a throwing gesture. These cards will let you pause the timer, change categories, or even narrow down the available answers.
Once the questions start flowing, Smarty Pants is a rather basic trivia game. Even though the questions are multiple choice, they're usually quite specific, so you really need to know your stuff if you're going to have any success. You answer questions by pressing the A button and raising your hand. Whoever buzzes in first gets to answer, and if the answer is wrong, then other players can buzz in. The specific nature of the questions combined with the fact that only one person can get points for answering a question correctly makes for some pretty lopsided matches, especially because the game feels geared toward men with its focus on sports and video games. There is a fashion category that theoretically should be favorable to women, but the questions don't feel as tough as the sports questions. The game also occasionally fails to recognize when a person is buzzing in. This is usually a problem when four people are crowded around the TV and one or more of them is not directly in line with the sensor bar.
Although it's possible to get into some intense games when trying to prove to your friends that you are indeed a smarty pants, it's going to be up to you to make your own excitement because the game's presentation is incredibly dull. There's no visual pizzazz, no real announcer--nothing happening onscreen but a wheel spinning and trivia questions being shown. Balancing issues and hefty price tag aside, Smarty Pants is fun and it's the only game of its kind on the Wii right now, so it's worth a look if you're into trivia.