I’m a Wheel Watcher! Practically everyone in America has seen Wheel of Fortune on TV at some point, and I’m slightly more than an occasional viewer. I remember when contestants used to spend their winnings during the show on toasters and furniture sets, I have two episodes on the DVR at this very moment, and I even have a Spin ID! I’m not proud of that last one. Suffice it to say that I know my Wheel.
Sony Pictures Television did the smart thing and made this iPhone app what it should be: a very faithful reproduction of the TV show’s elements with all the gloss you’d expect of an “officially licensed” app. Apparently Pat Sajak and Vanna White couldn’t be bothered… or paid enough?… to make an iPhone appearance, but nearly everything else is there.
You start by customizing your avatar’s appearance and then you jump right into the action. Play Toss-Up puzzles, spin the wheel, buy vowels, collect wild cards, land on Bankrupt, advance to the Bonus round… if you know Wheel of Fortune from TV this app will feel just right, and even if you’ve never seen the TV game show it should be easy to just pick up and play since the game is basically a glorified derivative of Hangman.
Despite being awesome in most respects, there’s one big thing about iPhone-ified Wheel that bugs me: a lot of the puzzles seem like they could have been made up by some intern who lives in a parallel universe where Jeremy Sisto and crappy John Cusack movies qualify as legitimate puzzle answers. If you watch Wheel on TV you can tell that the puzzles are thoughtfully chosen with a broad audience in mind, and the same can be said for some of the puzzles in this app. For others, though, it feels like random words were just pulled out of nowhere, and this can be kind of annoying. Check out the screenshots to see what I mean.
In the What’s Missing department (aside from Pat & Vanna, that is), I have only three items on my list:
- Online Multiplayer Mode
- Pass-n-Play Mode
- Respect the iPod
App Store reviewers are already pining for online multiplayer and I don’t blame them because that would be fun as hell! And the pass-n-play thing would make this a great roadtrip game for an airplane ride or the back seat of a car (LuckyWheel already has this play mode). Right now the only options are to play solo or versus computer players and, while it’s still a great game, there’s no substitute for playing against real people. And as for the last item… making the app defer to iPod music is straight out of App Dev 101! It’s clear that Sony’s way better than that, so I would expect this fix to be coming eventually.
Bizarre puzzles and my feature wishlist aside, overall this app is pretty kickass. The graphics are great, the sound effects are straight from the TV show, and the little avatar people even jump around like manic South Park cutouts when things are going well. If Wheel of Fortune is your thing then by all means cough up $4.99 – you won’t be disappointed.
Brains are not a prerequisite to play Wheel, but they sometimes help