Bury the Shovelware: Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?



After a controversial piece last week, followed by a stressful and virus-contracting holiday weekend, I decided to take things easy this week and go for an easy target. As you can assume, my expectations for this title aren't that high. In fact, I've really only one question: is this game worse than Deal or No Deal.

As I popped the game into my DS, I notice something interesting. I asked for "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader," but it looks like they sent me "Are You Smarter than a 10 Year Old," which is the British version of the American game show. I guess whoever was responsible for this is not smarter than a 5th grader ... (punches self). At least I won't have to deal with sub-par humor.

Pedigree

Based on the popular television show, the game plays out like a watered-down hybrid of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Kids Say the Darndest Things, picking the more eye-rolling facets of both programs: cute children say snappy things that elicit either a "aww" or "yay!" from the audience while adults sweat to dramatic music and drawn-out suspense, making fools of themselves and winning money in the process. In other words, there's probably something much better on television you could be watching.

Publisher Mindscape clearly went for the easy cash-in with this program, though they will forever have my respect for having produced the Chessmaster series as well as the bold and brilliant Miracle Piano Teaching System. Developer AWE Games (sigh) doesn't have much credibility in terms of quality publishing. That's not to say that they're a notoriously terrible developer, but their current catalogue is chock-full of licenses that appeal to children (again, your shovelware senses should be tingling).

The Critics Said ...

... actually, not much at all. I can't seem to find much information hinting that this game was ever reviewed by anyone. There are very few reviews for the game based on the US version, and although there may be connections, I can't quite confirm that the UK version is just a re-skinned copy of the US edition. It's quite strange.

Rap Sheet

  • The intro song is the freaking creepy. I've actually never even seen the US show, let alone the British one, so I'm not sure if this is specific to the DS version or not. Either way, a group of British children singing anything always creeps me out for some strange reason. The song that follows is ... weird, too.
  • The game also KNOWS MY NAME. I guess they just took it from the DS menu ... I didn't know DS games could do that. Either way, I'm still creeped out.
  • Choosing a child is like a curtain call for the Children of the Corn. Continued creepiness.
  • The gameplay is ... exactly what you'd expect. There's not a whole lot going on here. The questions are insultingly simple. I'm reminded of an SNL Jeopardy sketch.

Silver Lining

Hey, it turns out that I am smarter than a 5th grader! Hooray? Anyway, compared to Deal or No Deal, this is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in terms of the amount of content. If you or a loved one is really into the show, then this might not make a bad gift.

Our Deduction

Surprise, surprise: the game isn't all that great. But it's apparent that at least some effort was expended on this project (at least the British version). It's notable how just a slight amount of effort can boost something from the depths of atrocity into simple mediocrity. While mediocrity is something that no game should strive for, they should certainly try to avoid being atrocious at all costs.

Uninteresting side note: The title of the program varies from country to country. I find it amusing that the Canadian version is titled "Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader?" I won't dare make any guesses as to what those producers were suggesting, as I wouldn't want to offend any friends of ours from the great white north.



In gaming, the term shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit. Bury the Shovelware takes a closer look at these titles, typically those that inhabit the lower end of metascores. It attempts to: 1) find out where and how the developer went wrong 2) identify common traits present in most shovelware 3) measure how long the game can be suffered.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.