Quiz Climber offers plenty of great questions and friendly competition, but little else

As something of a closet trivia fanatic, there are few series I hold as close to my heart as Buzz. Created by Relentless Software for Sony’s PlayStation brand, Buzz is a quiz franchise that’s provided endless hours of entertainment in my household. So it’s with some excitement that I went into the notion of Quiz Climber, a new social trivia game developed by Relentless Software and published by Chillingo for the iPhone.

Quiz Climber pits players against their Facebook friends in a challenge to see who can answer the most questions in a row. To do this, each player is represented by a cute little squirrel-like creature called a “Quizzel” that’s trying to climb a tree. Each question you answer is a branch on that tree. The higher the branch you reach, the more questions in a row you’ve answered correctly.

The visuals are adorable here, but there’s no denying that the “challenge” of Quiz Climber is little more than a Facebook-powered leaderboard. Presenting the leaderboard in such a charming and front-and-center way is great to get people to care more about competition, but at the same time Quiz Climber isn’t exactly re-inventing the wheel here. They’ve taken two simple elements – trivia questions and leaderboards – and smooshed them together in the hopes of creating an engaging experience.

And you know what? They’ve kind of succeeded.

Almost everyone has that “I know I can beat Bill from work” mentality, but with most games hiding their leaderboards away in a menu system, few ever really bring that competitive spirit to the forefront. That’s really the only thing Relentless was trying to do with Quiz Climber, and they’ve done it exquisitely.

The other half of the Quiz Climber equation is, of course, the trivia questions. As usual, this is something Relentless excels at. All of the questions are multiple choice, and they touch on topics that everyone should know, so you can’t help but feel that the game is all too easy – until you finally come across one that stumps you. It’s that perfect carrot on a stick of “I know I’m good at this, so I have to try again,” that’ll keep players coming back for more.

As you play, you’ll also unlock lifelines that will let you skip a single wrong answer – a terrific little feature should you only be one question away from putting your Aunt Esther in her place. And if you feel like you want to abuse this system, lifelines are also available as in-app purchases.

Quiz Climber Quiz Climber

The only major misstep in Quiz Climber seems to stem from how the game is being marketed. At launch there are both paid and free versions of the game, with the free version offering a full, ad-supported version of the game. Other games like Hanging With Friends have followed the same formula to great success, however the execution here seems to be counter-productive. There’s a big “free” banner across the App Store icon, which typically indicates a stripped down “lite” version of a game to most consumers. Likewise, there’s nothing in the description of the free version that tells you this is a full version of the game.

Even worse, if you do discover this, download it, and love the free game, there’s really no incentive to upgrade to the full version. Sure it’s ad-free, but the ads here are totally user-friendly. Other games following this business structure tend to throw the ads right in your face in the most obnoxious manner possible. Quiz Climber, on the other hand, just sticks a tiny ad banner at the top of the screen, tucked completely out of the way. As a consumer I love that they don’t in any way interfere with the gameplay. But looking at it from a business standpoint, it’s a decision I simply can’t understand.

While a great time, there’s no denying that Quiz Climber doesn’t quite live up to the lofty standards set by Relentless Software’s earlier quiz work. The questions are great and the social aspect charming, but at the end of the day, Quiz Climber is little more than a basic trivia app at best. Still, even though it’s basic, that doesn’t stop it from being quite good. The free version is well worth a download – just don’t expect the bells and whistles of Relentless’ other storied franchise.