If asked to bet a fiver on how high a dog can reasonably leap when kicked up the arse by a skinhead who’d drank fifteen pints on an empty stomach whilst reading Mein Kampf in order to get odds of 2:1 in return isn’t your thing, then Wits and Wagers might not be entirely your bag. Betting on some ridiculous historical or topical situation is just what this XBLA game is about.
The idea behind the game is two fold. Firstly, everyone has to answer a numerical and, most often anyway, obscure question without going over the real answer. Secondly, every player has to bet on the answer that seems closest to the truth. The sneaky trick here is that the odds, and so the return, is based on the deviation of those answers, and nothing to do with the real solution. It is a matter of the player judging which would be the best answer to bet on. Coin is then awarded to the person with the closest answer and to those who bet on the correct answer.
This continues through seven rounds per game, based on various topics from films, science, sport to basically anything that is imaginable. The more obscure the question, the far better the resulting answers and odds, followed with some trivia about the subject of the question; which more often than not is very interesting.
Should you be lucky enough to have a lot of mates and the Scene It controllers, it is possible to have up to six players contribute locally, and this is perhaps the better side of W&W. As a party game it is a fun experience because there’s absolutely no need to be a brainiac. The questions are, for the most part, obscure enough that anyone can have a punt at them and get them right. Furthermore, betting on who is right adds an element of risk to the game. Once a player becomes stacked with chips it can be very tempting to gamble these on an answer that definitely seems to be correct, but it can go wrong very quickly. The nature of the questions means that no-one is definitely going to win unless they’ve stacked early and bet very conservatively.
There are issues here though. The biggest of these is being the online interface. It seems virtually impossible to actually set up a game and wait for players to join. This perhaps explains the total lack of online games available, and multiplayer is where the interest lies. There’s really not much fun in playing against the AI. Choosing a quick game does a quick search and if nothing turns up it will start to host, but this only happens for 30 seconds. It is in no way long enough to get other players to join a game and so inevitable ends up with AI players instead – and these truly do suck.
Yet the questions asked are really great and interesting, so there is some single player potential here. It can be anything from: “On average, how many pain killer pills does the average person take a year?” to the “How many people live in the UK?”. Localisation seems to be pretty good as there is definitely no American or European bias in the propositions at all.
With seven question per game and eight hundred question in total, this sounds like a lot of variation is available. In reality with no history of question already asked being kept, repetition soon sets in. As obscure as the questions are, it’s very easy to remember the answers of these if played regularly, in fact questions will be recognised within less than twenty games. This is perhaps a ploy to get people to buy further questions packs down the line, but if the developers seriously want to sell these questions, the online aspect really needs to be addressed as it’s a massive issue.
Ultimately the game dies due to the problems with the multiplayer, and so here lies the paradox: it would be great to see more people playing this online, but online is so crippled it doesn’t make buying it worth while. Go figure.