#715-718 – The Wheel of Fortune Tetralogy

 

Assuming Pat Sajak and Vanna White have immortality clauses in their contract, I think we’ll be watching “Wheel of Fortune” for years to come. And why not? Pat is dry and witty, with just the right amount of personality while Vanna says a lot by saying little. The show itself is a weird, addicting gem, the perfect thing to watch when nothing else is on. One simultaneously roots for and despises the middle-class everymen and women who find themselves on the show. They’re always so excited, so innocent when they first spin the wheel. But by the second round, they’ve been consumed by their greed. They’ve obviously solved the puzzle in their minds, but they keep on spinning, hoping to make some more money, or get that Ford Explorer they never knew they wanted until they saw it on the wheel. And when the greedy ones lose, Pat faux-empathizes while Vanna continues smiling. Of course they would, they’re immortal and rich. What do they have to worry about?

 

I can’t say I blame the contestants’ excitement. Who wouldn’t want to go on the show and spin that infamous wheel? Screw the money and prizes. I just want to give that wheel a spin it won’t ever forget. Unfortunately, the Wheel of Fortune tetralogy for my NES is as close as I’ve ever come; which is to say, not close at all. In case you’re wondering whether you read that sentence incorrectly, I assure you, Gametek really released four Wheel of Fortune titles in as many years for the NES. I’m assuming each iteration sold well enough to warrant doing that. Even if sales weren’t the best, many of the elements in the first Wheel of Fortune are re-cycled and re-used in the other versions. Unless you’re a Wheel of Fortune junkie who must own any piece of paraphernalia they can get their hands on, you probably only need one of these games to satisfy your wheel lust.

 

                              

                                                                     Woah, that’s Eighties! And where’s Pat and Vanna?

 

                                                            

                                                                                                                     Representing.

 

PLAYERS: 1-3 alternating

PUBLISHER: Gametek

DEVELOPER: Rare

GENRE: Game show

RELEASE DATE: September 1988

 

The first Wheel of Fortune establishes the template for the others. You input your name, then decide whether you want to play with other people, the computer or yourself. If you’re rockin’ single player, I feel bad for you, son. The computer is a little too good at solving puzzles, and getting back to your turn can take some time, if it happens at all. On the other hand, playing without any competition at all feels flat and flavorless. Wrangle up a couple scrubs to play with you if you can; it shouldn’t be hard, everybody loves “the Wheel.” The basic layout and rules of the game are the same: three rounds (two normal and one “Speed”), with a final round for the winner. If it’s your turn, you can spin the wheel, buy a vowel, or solve the puzzle. Because the game was released in the late ’80s, the wheel doesn’t have as many flashy selections as it does now. There’s a “Bankrupt” tag, a “Miss Turn” tag, and a “Free Spin” tag; all the rest are dollar amounts. For better or for worse, Wheel of Fortune accurately represents a game of “Wheel of Fortune” in virtual 8-bit form. Even if you win, you don’t get to keep any money or prizes. Still, with the proper crowd, bragging rights are as much a prize as a new dishwasher.

 

C+

 

 

                                                                                                                       There you have it.

 

PLAYERS: 1-3 alternating

PUBLISHER: Gametek

DEVELOPER: Rare

GENRE: Game Show

RELEASE DATE: October 1989

 

Junior Edition is the same game as the first Wheel of Fortune. One might think the puzzles would be easier, or that the answers should have more to do with kid stuff, like toys or television shows. Only a few of them lean in that direction; others, like the curious “Ash Wednesday” solution, wouldn’t usually be on a kid’s radar. One part of this game that does seem specifically Junior-centric are the prizes: stereo equipment, a VCR and TV, and a sick BMX bike are among the items you can “win.” If this were released today, it would be DLC. New puzzles, same ol’ Wheel.

 

C+

 

 

                                                                        Doesn’t this blue cover just scream togetherness?

 

PLAYERS: 1-3 alternating

PUBLISHER: Gametek

DEVELOPER: Rare

GENRE: Game show

RELEASE DATE: March 1990

 

Family Edition purports to have 1,000 puzzles. If true, it’s the version of the game most worth having. While the skin hasn’t changed, the puzzles here do seem to have more variety. The first one I solved was “Thoroughly Modern Millie” followed by “A Hometown Crowd.” I’m not sure what the latter is, but the former is a Broadway musical I remember solely because of the strange name. What makes this a Family Edition? Great marketing and nothing more. Any family that games together has bonds that can never be broken. Unless the father’s an over-competitive jerk, then there’s room for debate.

 

B-

 

 

                                                                                                              Or her blurry replica. 

 

 

                                                                                          Pretty sure that’s not Vanna White. 

 

PLAYERS: 1-3 alternating

PUBLISHER: Gametek

DEVELOPER: Gametek

GENRE: Game show

RELEASE DATE: January 1992

 

I suppose having the real Vanna White endorse your Wheel of Fortune game would be a legitimate selling point for some people. But Vanna looks no less like a soulless blond automaton here than her clone did in the other Wheel games. The other changes Gametek made to the formula don’t do the game any favors either. Like in their Jeopardy! titles, you can select hideous cartoonish caricatures to represent you. Their presence is so unnerving, it actually distracted me from the game. No longer can you view the wheel while it’s spinning either. You have to rely on a counter that tells you what dollar amount the wheel is hitting as it’s spinning before it finally comes to a halt. This seems to give the computer an unfair advantage: since you can’t actually discern what the wheel is hitting while it spins, the computer could give you any dollar amount it wanted and you can’t do peep about it. Certain elements feel more sluggish, as well. Vanna takes forever to walk over and turn a letter you select, and the letter selection itself has a slower response time. The other Wheel games may have been boring at times, but the execution felt right. Vanna’s presence here (such as it is) seems to have detracted from the experience rather than added to it.

 

D+

 

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  • Guest

    What is the grade for Wheel of Fortune Junior Edition is it also a C+?

    • DylanCornelius

      Just saw that, woops. Yes, it would also be a C+

  • Robb K

    Ahhhh, WOF. Owned the first one on my NES and literally played it so much I knew the solutions to the puzzles just by the amount of letters and the genre. For the longest time I had nightmares about Vanna White thinking the shadow under her face was a large gaping mouth, transforming her into a terrifying baboon-like creature. Still a fun game none-the-less, especially if there are drinks involved.

    • DylanCornelius

      Agreed to both the Vanna comparison, and the idea that it's a fun party game.

  • Jeffery McDaniel

    I'm a wheel watcher. I'm a wheel watcher.

  • J. Parish

    You mean “tetralogy,” right?

    • DylanCornelius

      I thought both were acceptable, but upon further research it seems that 'quad' is Latin, not Greek. Touche'

  • MacRyan

    Are any of them compatible with the four player adapter? Otherwise, how do three people play together?

    • DylanCornelius

      Pass the controller back and forth.

  • I owned at least six versions for our IBM, including the last version with Vanna White. None of them amazing, but all of them were useful time-killers.

    • DylanCornelius

      “Useful time-killer” is the most appropriate phrase for them.