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Play the latest TV game shows from home

EW Online reveals which Web versions are worth a spin

Posted on

Pat Sajak, Vanna White

ABC will air an eight-day ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” marathon beginning this Sunday (and then run the series thrice weekly starting Jan. 18), edging the network that much closer to an all-Regis-all-the-time lineup. But for trivia fans who prefer the Web, ”Millionaire,” ”Jeopardy,” ”Win Ben Stein’s Money,” ”Wheel of Fortune,” and the new interactive MTV show ”WebRIOT” all have online versions available free to fans who visit their sites. Here’s EW Online’s take on the Web games, rated from 10 (best) to 1 (worst).

”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”
Score 9
Easiest Question ”A yardstick is how many inches long?” [answer: 36]
As Seen on TV The online version features the same tension-heightening music, fancy graphics, and unnerving mix of painfully easy questions and near-impossible brain teasers as the TV show. But unlike the TV show, there are no prizes (sigh). There are some unique online twists: Your ”lifeline” is hooked up to canned answers from $250,000 winner Doug Van Gundy. And fans who’ve scoffed at the flop sweat they’ve seen on the TV contestants’ faces will feel how hellish it is to watch the timer tick away the all-too-brief 20-second answer period.
High Point You can play each game over and over again until you get the answers right, so even the feeblest player can be a millionaire.
Low Point With a 56K modem, the game takes 3 minutes and 45 seconds to download, so prepare to be patient. And, even without Reege, players get nagged with ”Is that your final answer?”

Score 8
Easiest Question ”’Every Breath You Take,’ the biggest hit by the Police, was written by this lead singer.” [Who is Sting?]
As Seen on TV This site may actually be an improvement on the real deal. If you’re playing solo, you can choose among Sports Jeopardy, Jeopardy 2001 (technology and sci-fi questions), College Jeopardy, and the original flavor. But it’s with the multiplayer function that the real fun begins. You can select a groovy ’60s style animated character as an avatar, then dive into a novice, intermediate, or advanced real-time game with two other players. If the questions bore you, you can chat with your game mates or just make fun of the animated host, who looks more like a thumb with hair and glasses than Alex Trebek.
High Point A featured-player section posts short bios and photos of real players. Plus the groovy avatars could almost fool you into believing that you aren’t playing with bored accountants and frustrated housewives.
Loe Point To play, the site demands you fill out a tedious sign-up page that demands all of your personal information just short of blood type. And getting into the game is slowed down by annoying advertising pop-ups and time-consuming downloads.

”Win Ben Stein’s Cyber Money”
Score 7
Easiest Question ”Who was the oldest first lady in the 20th century?” [Barbara Bush]
As Seen on TV No cool graphics or music here, but in this case no frills is just fine. Stein’s brittle wit is in evidence, and the online version is a dead ringer for the TV show. Just like the series, the online game gives you 60 seconds to answer 10 true or false questions, but this time you’re spared the isolation booth and Stein’s oafish sidekick, Jimmy Kimmel.
High Point There are no fussy downloads or graphics to slow you down, and you’re only asked to input personal information after you’ve beaten Stein — and then only if you want to be entered in the drawing for a mysterious ”Comedy Central prize.”
Low Point Stein’s cyber alter ego is just as whiny as the real thing.

”Wheel of Fortune”
Score 6
Easiest Question All of them. This is ”Wheel of Fortune,” remember?
As Seen on TV If you know who Vanna White is or you just have a basic grasp of English, you probably know how to play this one. Give the wheel a spin (well, actually a click) and start guessing consonants. Get stuck, and buy a vowel. ”Wheel,” like ”Jeopardy” (both are from Sony’s Station site), offers single and multiplayer functions, and you’ll find the same hipster avatar icons to choose from.
High Point The cool graphics almost make you forget how brain-numbing this game really is.
Low Point It’s still ”The Wheel.”

Score 4
Easiest Question ”What does ‘Kraftwerk’ mean in German?” [Power plant]
As Seen on TV MTV has goosed up the hi-tech graphics and music, creating an intro worthy of music-video rotation. Once you log on to a game in progress, brace yourself for music trivia questions tough enough to stump anyone but the most obsessive music critic. You won’t be introduced to other players until the end of the game, when you’re dumped into a community chat room to gripe about that darn Cindy Lauper/Lou Albano question. ”WebRIOT” is available all day, but fans can only play along with the TV show as it airs (weeknights, 5 p.m. EST).
High Point Prizes ranging from gift certificates to a new car are given to random winners. And high scorers who play along with the show may see their names on MTV.
Low Point All of those cool graphics mean lengthy downloads and, in some cases, glitches that can dump you out of your Web browser or crash your computer altogether.