I’m a snob, and, until Smarty Pants, I never even realized it.
I do not envy my friends at Christmastime. I am a likeable dude, so, naturally, any and all of my acquaintances know to pay me tribute come the holiday season. However, all is not well for my fan club, as, despite the fact that I have a very obvious, consumer-friendly hobby, I am also a spoiled only child that is used to buying whatever I want, whenever I want. This all means that, effectively, the only way to properly “buy Goggle Bob a videogame” is to either get something videogame adjacent (like a goddamn Final Fantasy funko figure), or go through the cold, mechanical process of confirming that I am not “allowed” to purchase something, and then provide said item on a prearranged date (December 25th works for my calendar). It does guarantee that this lord will receive a tithe that will be enjoyed, but it does kind of suck the fun and surprise out of the exchange when one party is effectively simply working from a pre-approved shopping list. And then if someone goes off script? Whoo boy, look out…
So, despite all these impediments, for Christmas of 2007, my best friend got me a videogame. He confirmed I did not have it in advance by checking out my library. He subtly established, through conversation, that I had no plans on purchasing the game or receiving it as a gift from someone else. He dotted all his I’s and crossed all his T’s, and then purchased, for me, a new Nintendo Wii game. He gifted me Smarty Pants: Trivia Fun for Everyone.
And standing there, unwrapping my brand new videogame present… I had no idea what I was looking at. Smarty Pants? What the hell?
Turns out I was looking at the “it” item of our social circle for the next few years.
There was a time when I was on top of every video game. Or… no… that’s wrong. There was a time I was on top of every Nintendo game, or game released for a Nintendo system, because I subscribed to Nintendo Power, and it outlined every damn game available for its systems shy of some Color Dreams nonsense. So, yes, I might have never seen a copy of Vice: Project Doom when I was a child, but damned if the title Vice: Project Doom isn’t permanently lodged in my brain thanks to some six-page article from the early 90’s (and, yes, I did eventually play the game in my teens, but only thanks to that same article again). For whatever reason, I gradually lost interest in Nintendo Power (that reason was called “the Nintendo 64”), but that was also about when the wonders of the internet made the scene. Ever since, whether it be through Gamefaqs, IGN, or various gaming forums, I have been informed about what’s out there and what games are on the horizon. And that’s important! I consider myself an omnigamer, a connoisseur of videogames of all shapes and sizes. I might not play the latest Call of Duty or Madden, but I’m aware of their existence, and generally lurk around forums and tweets where they are discussed. If something actually interesting happens in that sphere (like a franchise dipping its toes into apparently psychological horror and social commentary)(I’m not talking about Madden), then I can jump on in, and see what all the fuss is about. I might not play every videogame, but I like to be informed on what is happening in that world, and, give or take a dark age sometime around when I discovered dating, that has always been the case.
And I had never heard of Smarty Pants. At all.
This may not be a complete surprise, though. After all, this was the heyday of the Nintendo Wii, a system that had been released to much acclaim a mere year earlier. And much of this approbation originated with the simple fact that Wii Sports had somehow made the Nintendo Wii the most “universal” videogame system to come along in a long while. After years of Metal Gears, Final Fantasies, and Grand Theft Autos, it seemed that gaming had looped back around to something you could play with your grandpa. Ultimately, this new “Blue Ocean Gaming” would be short lived on the consoles, as everything but Just Dance gradually migrated over to mobile gaming, but there was a glorious time when Chocobo Dungeon (a spin-off of a 20 year old JRPG franchise featuring a bird participating in a rogue-like) shared shelf space with Wii Fit (a game where you sometimes stand weird). So, yes, if you were more interested in smashing brothers than exploring endless oceans, then a game from the “casual” side of the pond might come as a surprise. You wouldn’t expect to know the premise of every television show currently appearing on Polish cable, so why would you expect to know the ins and outs of every game outside of your usual gaming circle?
But Smarty Pants? Well, it’s weirdly… uh… how to put this… It feels like… bootleg? Like, the whole thing feels like something that should be a franchise, or was intended to be a franchise… or… something? Like, there’s this little lightbulb dude, and he’s wearing jeans, and you can’t tell me he wasn’t designed by committee. Similarly, the whole game here is just… a quiz show? I would completely believe you if you popped into the comments and claimed this was all based on some obscure USA cable jaunt that ran for seven episodes before the host was disgraced by being busted for possession of excess aardvark semen. But, aside from a few weird events that involve jiggling around with a Wiimote, this is just a straight up quiz show format, with “20,000 questions” (box quote) and a “buzz in” motion required for every answer. It is vaguely… perplexing for someone who knows videogames and game shows to play such a game, as the whole experience could be likened to drinking popular soda brand Dr. Bob: you know you like the name, but something seems off about the whole experience.
Excuse me, I misspoke. Something seems off about the whole game. The whole experience is superb.
This is a dumb trivia game, but it is constructed extremely well. It is straightforward. It is a format that can be easily grasped by anyone. There are no “special moves”, ridiculous inputs, or even a need to figure out how to “toggle” the control stick. You ring in, point your ‘mote at the (hopefully) right answer, and call it a day. Sometimes the game asks you to dance. And that’s it! It is the same interface you would find on a bar’s trivia tablet (do they still do those things? I mean… aside from bars not being viable in virus times?) It is an extremely simple game, but, thanks to those previously mentioned thousands of questions, you can play it for hours.
And, yes, my friends and I wound up playing my “Christmas present” for literally years. Smarty Pants was a constant companion to my Nintendo Wii, and saw more play than other, more traditionally popular games like Mario Party, Smash Bros. Brawl, or even Wii Sports. All those games were played, of course, but Smarty Pants was what came out when we had a big group (and, in those days, that was pretty often with any number of acquaintances, new beaus, and assorted hangers on). “Casual” and veteran videogame players could all agree that Smarty Pants was a fun time, and it was just as much a staple of our parties as wine and assorted cheeses (… okay, we were in our 20s. It was more like beer and expired Cheetos. But still!).
And, through it all, through the entire lifespan of the Nintendo Wii (and even some of the Wii U), I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that this was a game that I would have otherwise ignored. This was a game that, given my own tastes, I would have never even yanked out of a discount pile. This was a game that brought me an inordinate amount of joy, and I might have never played it if it was up to my own pretentiousness. In the end, Smarty Pants turned out to be an amazing Christmas gift, and an amazing game all on its own.
Not bad for a lightbulb wearing pants.
FGC #552 Smarty Pants
- System: Nintendo Wii, and apparently nothing else. It really seems like the kind of game that would be on literally every other system (right down to the PSP… or would it have been Vita at this point?), but just Wii. And I doubt we’re going to see a rerelease…
- Number of players: Four is the max at one time, though I believe there are some shenanigans for “families” with sharing wiimotes and such. But 4-player head-to-head seems to be the standard.
- Goggle Bob Fact: My friends often chided me and claimed that, since I owned the game, I would play it at home, alone, to practice and conquer my rivals. You jerks, I’m just good at trivia. I never actually played the single player mode until I had to write this article, because, fun fact, the single player mode apparently sucks. It’s just trivia! That gets boring fast! …. Wait a second.
- Fun for all ages: The questions do change according to the average age of the players. Or at least there are a lot more questions about Shrek if you claim to be 12. Of course, the whole thing is based on your registered birth year relative to the release date of the game (2007), so if you’re currently 25, the game will assume you’re a twelve year old.
- Favorite category: It’s Fashion. I’m not good at the Fashion category, but it feels great when I get any question right in that category, because, come on, I barely understand how pants work. I’m punching way above my weight class anytime I score a point in the Fashion category.
- Hey, isn’t this just Trivial Pursuit? Shut-up.
- Get up and dance: The “physical challenge” sections of Smarty Pants are extremely shallow, but always welcome during multiplayer. Having to perform wacky dances for an audience of zero during single player, though, is probably the reason this game reviewed so poorly at release. Nobody ever cared about how dumb you looked playing Guitar Hero alone, people of the early 21st century!
- Did you know? The fact that the Miis don’t transfer 1:1 from Wii to WiiU is the saddest loss of our generation.
- Would I play again: Maybe for nostalgia purposes, but probably not, unfortunately. This game dominated my peer group for a long time… but its time has passed. Now we’ve moved on to… Wheel of Fortune? What the hell? Are we old?
What’s next? Recklessly Self-Indulgent Autobiography Week(s) continues with Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, a title that elicits a romantic sigh from yours truly every time it is mentioned. Why? Well, read the article next Monday to find out. Please look forward to it!
Winner and still champion