Trivia games. They’ve been around for a long, long time and whether you’re playing in a Trivial Pursuit championship, an online quiz that determines your level of nerd cred, or an old Scene-It from 2005, you’ve probably experienced the burst of excitement when you blindly guess correctly or the crippling despair when you’re picturing the right answer but just can’t articulate it. Movie trivia is one of the more popular sub-genres within trivia games, but for the most part, there hasn’t been a single trivia game exclusively for films that has had the depth and variety of questions to sustain interest for more than a couple of rounds. Ultimately, movie trivia often comes down to a few, easily memorizable questions about popular movies of the day and the actors who star in them. While that’s a nice place to start, it does little to challenge movie fans who would like to see questions about topics other than Star Wars and Brad Pitt. So when I saw that there was a new movie trivia app, called Celadon Software’s Ultimate Movie Trivia Schmoedown, available for $4.99 on the app store, I was initially skeptical. However, tens of hours later, I am hooked.
It is important to note that the Ultimate Movie Trivia Schmoedown app is based on a popular web-based show (which I am a personal fan of) from Collider Media in which movie critics and other personalities compete in a wrestling-style battle of trivia knowledge while two announcers/trivia administrators provide color commentary. It’s a fun show and one that can sometimes gather over a hundred thousand viewers for a single match, but the exact form of trivia and the personalities that compete in it are not well-known to the large public outside the YouTube film sphere. Therefore, the game works hard to define the rules of play (with the aid of tutorial videos with the hosts, the “Schmoes Know” movie critics Mark Ellis and Kristian Harloff).
Basically, the game is a head-to-head competition between two players (either AI in campaign mode or humans in online matches) where both players basically play an individual game and compare point totals at the end to determine the winner. The format of these trivia battles can be broken down into three separate stages. The first involves the player answering eight questions from eight random categories centering around particular genres and director filmographies, just to name a few broad classifications. The second allows the player to spin a wheel in order to choose a category from which they will then answer 4 questions (important to note here that this is the only round that allows players to answer via multiple choice rather than free response). The last round administers 3 questions with higher point values and are often the most challenging.
What makes this game so special is the sheer volume and breadth of categories. There are dozens of them, including Coming of Age movies, Tom Hanks films, Name that Movie Tagline, Release Dates, and many more that refuse to be confined to the simple, generic categories of “Movie Stars, Classics, and Drama/Comedies” that many other trivia games utilize. Similarly, the questions within each category are much more difficult than other games out there. The game tries its best not to give common knowledge questions like “Who played Indiana Jones” and instead opts to give the sort of specific questions that could potentially challenge even seasoned film buffs such as “Which professional athlete plays Cameron Diaz’s love interest in Any Given Sunday?” It’s these types of hard questions that make the game so satisfying because they truly make you feel smart whenever you get a correct answer, which is ultimately what you would look for in a trivia game. After all, any trivia game that only has a few questions that you can memorize after a few rounds is less of a trivia game than it is a simple exercise in word association and memory.
However, for as good as the game is, it does have some flaws. Since I’ve played version 1.0 of this mobile game, some of these may get corrected within the coming weeks, but they still need to be addressed. First, the online competition is a bit glitchy. It takes a long time to find other players, and even when you do find opponents, there’s a good chance that their connection will go down before the start of Round 1. On the positive side, players do not leave games during matches as this then reflects as a loss on their public record. Second, the game utilizes a leader board that is supposed to determine who is the best movie trivia champion in the world, but the actual mechanism is broken and people with poor win-loss records can be crowned number one while people with good records can be classified as unranked. Case in point: after winning the first match I ever played, I became movie trivia champion of the world for about an hour even though there were people with 20 wins and minimal losses that were ranked hundreds of spots below me. Another minor but troubling bug is that the game sometimes only accepts extremely specific answers. So, if you are asked the question: what is the only use of color in Schindler’s List and the answer is “the girl with the red coat”, you will get the question wrong if you simply respond “little girl with red coat” or just “the red coat”. However, there aren’t many questions that succumb to this problem, and, though you may get frustrated with these sorts of questions, you do come to accept them.
Similarly, the campaign mode is frustratingly hard as you have to restart the entire campaign if you lose once, basically meaning that you need to win eight consecutive matches against AI opponents that do not operate based on an easy to hard challenge system, but instead have different percentage chances of getting various categories right. In a game where all the categories are randomized, that can mean that if you get unlucky, your opponent could hypothetically score a perfect game against you on the first “level.”
However, despite the negatives, the game is truly worth it. Though it comes at the price of $4.99, it is certainly worth it if you are a fan of trivia and would like to engage with a similarly-minded trivia/fan community. Schmoedown does what only the best trivia games do:actually provide challenging questions and obstacles that cannot be overcome with obsessive memorization. And, since this game is still only on version 1.0, it has a lot of potential to only get better and for the questions to get more expansive as time goes by. If that happens, this mobile game may become an essential purchase for anyone who likes movie trivia.
The Ultimate Movie Trivia Schmoedown is now available for purchase on the App Store.