New online version of 'Jeopardy' is anything but fun

by Brad Russo | 10/12/98 5:00am

The answer is: This could be more fun than being a contestant on "College Jeopardy! Online" right from your own dorm room.

Contestant two, you buzzed in: "What is, anything, Alex?"

What an exciting idea, I thought. An online trivia game just like "Jeopardy!" Since the game show has spawned numerous video games and board games, all of which are reasonably fun, I just assumed this version would be as well.

Penalize me a couple of hundred dollars then because my response was so far off it almost certainly would have gotten a remark from wise-cracking Alex Trebek, had this been the real, fun, television show.

Instead this is an online nightmare -- a web site which is either too far ahead of its time to be technologically sound or just a badly designed system for playing a relatively simple game.

First, the rules, and if you're thinking everyone already knows the rules to America's favorite quiz show, think again.

"College Jeopardy! Online" does not play at all like its TV counterpart.

The biggest difference is with the one-player game.

You can't have two friends hovering over a single foot long keyboard each poised to press different keys like in most other computer games.

Nor can you have a computer opponent -- it's just you and your lonesome out on this technological desert.

The other main difference with this version is its multiple choice option.

No more forgetting to phrase your answer in the form of a question, it's all right there before you labeled A, B, C and D.

The player selects a clue from the regular, TV styled gameboard and is given an answer and four question choices.

A correct match gives you the points and lets you keep control of the board and select another clue.

A wrong response penalizes you the dollar value of the clue and allows the next answer to be randomly selected.

Oh! Did I forget to mention the famous "Jeopardy!" pass? In this version, you may pass a clue in order to save money and maintain board control.

Passing reduces the number of plays you may take to earn points though, from 15 in the regular round and 20 in Double Jeopardy!

It may seem entirely less fun to be playing only against yourself -- and it is. The makers of this site try to make it into a competition (I don't know why they would want a quiz show to be that) through a tournament.

You simply fill out a long, four page registration form, press submit, wait to hear the quack of a Blitz from the "Jeopardy!" people and reply. It's that easy.

Once registered, you can play to rack up points in hopes of winning prizes like a TV -- so you can just watch the real show each weeknight.

This game wouldn't be entirely unenjoyable if it wasn't for the technological problems that accompany it.

Everything about this game is slow. Loading time is incredibly long and each clue is accompanied by a sound file which must load independently.

Often these sound files caused the other functions of the game not to work properly.

An on-screen timer keeps track of how much longer you have to answer each clue, but sometimes after it ticks off only a few seconds, the clue and its response choices disappear only to fill my Netscape window with a "sorry, you ran out of time" message.

If you commit the mortal sin of double instead of single clicking you'll be banished to start-over-hell.

It doesn't matter how far along in the game you are, one extra click and you're through.

Though I tried numerous times to complete a whole game, some problem inevitably occurred to send me back to the beginning.

If these technological bugs had been worked out, this might not be such a bad game.

While I couldn't see it becoming as addictive as the television version, it might have been a relaxing break from schoolwork.

Instead, this game will serve as a schoolwork inducer -- sending you running back to that problem set ... or at least to a game that's more fun.

You can find "College Jeopardy! Online" at www.station.sony.com.