Many TV game shows—Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Who Wants to be a Millionaire—have made the leap from the small screen to the smaller-still iPhone screen. The Price Is Right, a $5 game from Ludia, looks good and sports great audio, but suffers from a recurring series of interruptions that detract mightily from the fun.
That’s not for lack of trying. The game cleverly incorporates most of the best aspects of the television show: The familiar “contestant’s row” where all five contestants bid on one item, the familiar mini-games like Plinko and 3 Strikes, and of course the Showcase Showdown with the giant spinning wheel. Each game is implemented fairly faithfully, and the products you’re guessing prices for are real. But they’re also really old: The “new car” I was playing for was a 2006 Lincoln Town Car.
The oddly dated products were the least of the annoyances I encountered while playing The Price Is Right. Some of the game’s descriptions and cut-scenes get boring quickly, and mercifully you can tap to skip through most of them. Tap too quickly, though, and you can skip right through the product description for the next item up for bids—with no way to bring it back. Now you’re bidding blind, which is decidedly unfun. Still, that experience isn’t as frustrating as watching your computerized opponents spin the big wheel during showdowns. You can’t skip through that painfully slow experience at all, and it’s awfully boring.
Sadly, you should get used to waiting. Although some slower moments are indeed skippable, you’ll encounter oodles of “Loading” screens while playing The Price Is Right, and they feel like commercial breaks without a TiVo.
On the plus side, the game does do a few things right. Besides the already-mentioned great sounds (down to the crowd shrieking advice when you need to guess a dollar amount), the game incorporates several smart gameplay modes: You can play “three strikes” mode, where you get to keep bidding, playing price games, and spinning the showdown wheel until you fail three times, ending your game. That’s decidedly more fun than the standard one-player mode, where the whims of the wheel or tough bidding can mean you barely get to do anything fun at all. Multiplayer mode, which pits you directly against up to three other friends (via pass-and-play), also works well. The in-game camera work is also impressive, taking multiple angles of the action and incorporating decent video clips of products.
Some of the mini-games—Cliff Hangers, Shell Game, and Punch a Bunch, for example—make the transition from TV to iPhone pretty well, with touch-based controls that work intuitively. Others, though—I’m looking at you, Hole-In-One—suffer a bit. And though it’s a picky complaint, I find it terribly lame that the power of my finger flick has no bearing upon the spin of the Showcase Showdown wheel; on the show, some spin it faster than others, and I don’t like the one-size-fits-all spin in the iPhone version.
The Price Is Right is fun to play once or twice. But the too-frequent loading screens, tiresome and unskippable scenes, and occasionally outdated products really mar the overall experience. There’s plenty to like in the game, but unfortunately, playing it too often feels like a chore.