A social life is a bit of a rarity when you have young children, as any parent will tell you. So having the neighbours round for a cheeky Chinese takeaway and a chat is our 30-something’s version of a twelve-hour drinking session and underground all-night rave. Just with less sweat and glow sticks. To be the perfect host I laid on some entertainment and picked up Knowledge Is Power for PS4 cheap on Amazon, for a bit of a change, and at the £7 price point, it didn’t seem like much of a gamble. I’d had fun with Buzz back in the day, the four of us like a quiz every now and then, and we’d even found some entertainment previously with That’s You!, the free Playstation Plus party game.
So, Knowledge is Power felt like a safe bet, but with it, were me and my neighbours going to win the Bullseye speedboat, or was Bully going to take it away, us forever feeling disappointed with what we could’ve won? (Young ‘uns, feel free to look that reference up!)
The game itself is another of the Playstation PlayLink titles, making you play with your phone or tablet, connected to the same WiFi as the PS4. Set up was relatively painless, and just requires a download of the Knowledge is Power app. Once all players have the app, connection should be automatic and the game starts. As is fairly synonymous with these types of games, you choose your character and take a picture of yourself with your smart device and then you’re made to look like your chosen character. Certainly not revolutionary, but a fun way to kick off proceedings and guaranteed to set the tone perfectly for the game to come. It’s also uncanny how me as a the Hot Dog Man looks like the old man from the film Up in fancy dress.
Each game uses the same format of 12 rounds, with each round being a multiple choice question. Points are awarded based on who answers the question correctly in the quickest time. The topic of each question is chosen from a choice of four, with each player voting for their favourite and the majority verdict wins, and with ties, a winner is chosen between the ties at random.
And this is a good point to introduce Knowledge is Power’s ace in the hole: its various items that you can use to your advantage. The first of these is a Power Pick which grants your choice of topic irrespective of how many other votes it receives. But whilst this is a one-off item you can play at any round, the real fun is had in the items you can use during each question. Most of these are used to hinder your opponent getting to the right answer quickly, thus harming their score. These include gloop which covers an opponent’s answers and needs to be wiped away, bombs which cover answers and if tapped accidentally, stop your game for a few seconds, or ice which freezes all answers and needs to be tapped multiple times to crack it before you can select your answer.
There’s also some less malevolent items, such as the Bet which gives you extra points if you correctly guess an opponent who will get the next question right, or a Points Party which doubles everyone’s points for a single round. All of these items, both friendly or not, work well in that they achieve the Mario Kart effect of giving everyone a chance of pulling back from behind, whilst still ensuring the fair balance of those quicker and more knowledgeable still ultimately win more often than not. The items, particularly the ones that hinder your opponents, provide a lot of the excitement and banter, often more so than if someone gets a question wrong. And in my eyes when items are enhancing the enjoyment of everyone playing then they are doing a good job.
The game also breaks up the questions with every fourth round being a different type of round. The first is a game where you have to make links between different things, such as grouping countries and their capital cities, or actors with their on-screen characters. The second is a swipe left or right game – much like a family orientated version of Tinder, where you are filing different answers into one of two categories.
But it is the game’s grand finale that deserves particular mention. After 11 previous rounds of scoring, the points are converted to steps up a pyramid, so those with a higher score get more of a head start to the ultimate goal of reaching the top. Now answering questions quicker means you jump up more steps on a pyramid rather than get points. It’s an excellent twist but what it manages to achieve is a real sense of tension, especially as players get closer to the top. It makes it critical to not make a mistake, and also choosing who to use your items against suddenly becomes very tactical. It’s a simple mechanic that would fall flat on online multiplayer, but with local multiplayer, being able to see your nervous opponents, wind them up and live through the challenge is all the more fun.
There are a few gripes with the game, not least that there is only a single type of game available, even though that does contain a few different types of rounds as mentioned above. However just one type of game will lower the shelf-life of this game than if other types of rounds were available. The questions despite being varied and plentiful (there’s no hint yet of replaying questions) do seem to be grouped into blocks of categories that the game almost forces you to play. Sure you always have a choice of 4 topics, but when one is Movies and one is Actors, you start to suspect the game is forcing the agenda a little. Now this may be a surefire way to keep the questions fresh, but if so, remove the choice element altogether and keep it random. I mean when you’re finding yourself choosing Asian Folklore as a topic (yes I did do this!), just because you don’t want to conform to the other clearly similar options, then something has gone wrong.
Perhaps the biggest issue this game faces though is it is just a multiple choice quiz game. It’s genre and format by definition mean it was never destined for greatness, expect no pushing of boundaries here. But here in lies the rub of whether this game is for you. Are you missing out on a fabulous experience by not playing this game? Well, no of course not. However if you’re looking for a fun, slightly frantic, enjoyable quiz game to play with friends during a get-together, then Knowledge is Power comes with a solid recommendation. It’s a decent mix of accessibility, wit and competitiveness that hits just the right spot. If you go into it with your eyes open that this is what you’re playing, it’s quite hard to be disappointed. And at the £7.95 this is currently on at Amazon for at time of writing it does feel like well worth the money.
The final point to say really is that me and my neighbours were actively talking about playing it again when we next meet up for a rock-and-roll evening of takeaway and shop-bought Prosecco. And for an of-the-moment quiz game, to want to play it time and again is possibly the best recommendation you can get.
Just remember, with great power, comes tactical and devious responsibility.