One of America’s most popular TV game shows goes interactive – again – in Wheel of Fortune 2, the latest computer game that lets players be a virtual contestant and win virtual cash.

This downloadable digital diversion offers a couple of improvements over its predecessor – such as multiple game modes, contestant creation and winnable trophies – but the absence of Vanna and Pat (and any voices at all, for that matter) takes players out of the all-important suspension of disbelief.

As with the television game show it’s based upon, Wheel of Fortune 2 lets you partake in a kind of “Hangman”-like word game, where you spin a wheel, land on a dollar value (such as $500) and guess a consonant from the alphabet. If the letter appears in the word(s) you’re supposed to guess, which are turned around so you can’t see them, you receive that dollar amount for each time. For example, finding three letter Rs in the phrase “BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY” will net you $1500. You can then spin again, buy a vowel or try and guess the phrase. Be forewarned, however, you might land on a “Bankrupt” or “Lose your Turn” spot on the wheel if you choose to spin again. The object of the game is to solve the puzzle before your opponents, and make as much money as you can.

The spinning wheel and letter board look just like the television show, plus the sound effects are pleasantly authentic, as well. But without Vanna — who did appear in Atari’s 2003 version of Wheel of Fortune for the PC — it’s simply not, well, Wheel of Fortune. Note: Vanna and Pat were also not in Sony Online Entertainment’s first Wheel of Fortune. At least in this sequel players can now customize the look of their contestant with skin color, facial features, hair styles, and clothing, though it has nothing to do with the game itself.

Two new features, however, make this sequel a fun diversion for followers of the TV show. For one, along with the solo and head-to-head modes on the same PC, you can also play against other virtual contestants in the Road Trip mode, which takes place in various cities across the U.S., such as New York, Washington, D.C., Nashville and New Orleans. Each city has a relevant photo in the background (such as the Golden Gate bridge for San Francisco) and some words or phrases related to that city; one puzzle solution in San Francisco was “MOSCONE CONVENTION CENTER,” while a Dallas puzzle solution was “DALLAS COWBOYS COACH BILL PARCELLS.”

Another neat feature is the ability to earn trophies while playing – if you’re good (or persistent) enough to collect them, that is. Examples of the 36 trophies in total include “Biggest Bucks” (win $70,000 in a single game), “Bonafide 5 Play” (win the bonus round five times) or “Gameplay Captain” (play for 25 hours).

Despite these interesting new features, namely the Road Trip mode and trophies, Wheel of Fortune 2 isn’t really different than its predecessor. Yes, it’s still fun to play, especially for fans of the show, but it would be much better with Vanna and Pat, spoken words and a multiplayer mode via the Net for friends to play when living in different cities.