Ever since Regis Philbin brought game shows back from the brink of extinction with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, networks have been mining the vaults of yesteryear, updating old shows with fresh coats of paint and, of course, significantly larger prize purses. Case in point: Million Dollar Password, co-incidentally hosted by Regis Philbin. Unlike the show from the 1960s, this one is fast-paced, tension-filled, and extra flashy. The PC game version, Million Dollar Password 2009 Edition, is no different, but thankfully, like the game show, the great fun is timeless.
The gist of Millino Dollar Password is word association. Contestants are paired with celebrities and one member of the pair is given a special word – the Password. Suppose the password is “milk.” You could give clues like “cow,” “dairy” or “shake.” Each clue cannot be more than one word, or a hyphenated word, nor can it contain part of the actual password in it (you couldn’t say “light” if the password is “flashlight”). After two rounds, trying to guess five correct passwords, contestants swap celebrities to keep things fair. After four total rounds, whoever has the most correct answers goes on to the bonus rounds, where contestants can win up to a million dollars.
Well, at least that’s how the TV show goes. To extend the life of the game, you become a contestant who tries to appear on six consecutive shows. Each show’s maximum prize increases with each subsequent level, with one million dollars being the big final prize. The good news is that, as long as you make it to the bonus rounds, you’ll progress to the next show. The game keeps track of all your winnings.
Million Dollar Password does a great job resembling its real-life counterpart. The graphics are all taken directly from graphical elements from the show, and the audio cues are all authentic. Even “Reeg” makes the digital transition, albeit as a cartoon version. The voice quotes are all from the live show, and Regis’ interjections as you make correct guesses really make you feel like you’re a part of the show.
The game’s producers didn’t get any real-life celebrities to appear in the game, but there are enough stereotypes that you could easily place a real person in there. You’ll see the cute, young, blonde male heartthrob actor, the perky brunette chef, or the wrestling champion. Who you’re paired with doesn’t seem to affect the gameplay.
During the elimination rounds, you’re given two minutes to correctly guess five passwords. Each clue is displayed one at a time, then you type in your best guess. (It is possible to hunt-and-peck with your mouse, but this control method is slow and basically useless.) If you guessed correctly, you’ll move on. If not, you’ll get another clue, but the first clue will still be displayed. Your “partner” will continue to give you clues until you guess it, or pass and try to move onto the next one. During the bonus rounds, you’ll have six minutes to guess five passwords, but you can only have three clues each. You must get five right out of ten to begin with, but each round reduces the number you can get wrong, and the final bonus round means you must be perfect.
Sometimes, these clues all make sense, like the “milk” example from before. Sometimes, it can be confusing. For example, take the clues, “guy,” “pal,” “sidekick” and “companion.” If you were able to discern “buddy” you’re a better guesser than I or my wife were. Other times the computer will simply offer you the same thing you just guessed as a clue. For instance, the clue was “garbage” so I typed “trash.” That wasn’t right, so the computer offered me “trash.” Huh?
Another downside is that, when you’re playing with a fictional second contestant (not your partners, but the person who’s also vying for the bonus rounds), there’s not much tension. However, a nice quick-play option allows for two people to play, one after the other, to see who can guess the most passwords.
Finally, there are also bonus mini-games that are unlocked as you progress through the episodes. These mini-games are loosely based on the password theme, but if successfully completed, add extra time to the timers in each round. Mini-games include a crossword-style game, where you’re given a clue, and your job is to type the answers into a crossword-like grid. Another is a word-search game where you’re given a clue, and you have to find the password jumbled in the word-search puzzle. While not major additions, it is nice to have more than the bare-bones game, and they are creative implementations of the Password theme.
It’s great to see some effort put into a licensed game like Million Dollar Password. While not perfect (an online versus mode would be nice), the game offers a fun, lengthy brain-teasing diversion. It’s definitely worth trying. The password is: download.