Powerplay: The Game of the Gods logo


Powerplay is a version of the traditional pub quiz machine, with more than a passing reference to Role Playing Games. Up to four players choose teams from Greek mythology with which to engage in a contest of knowledge. Play is based on a checkerboard of coloured squares, which we are reliably informed is in a courtyard in the Temple of Apollo.

Each square represents an area of knowledge - general, leisure, science or history/geography. Correctly answering a question allows you to move a selected character to an adjacent square; the objective being to eliminate your opponents' pieces from the courtyard by landing on their squares and engaging in a challenge.

A challenge, since you asks, consists of the two players competing against each other to answer questions; the first player to gain a three question advantage wins and the loser's piece is removed. As a strength factor is added to a character each time a question is correctly answered it becomes a question of manoeuvring your strongest pieces to take on challenges.

When playing the computer, the reaction time you are allowed as the game progresses gets shorter and shorter. Things become almost pointlessly difficult when you barely have time to read the question before you are timed out.

Graphically Powerplay doesn't make anything like an interesting use of the Amiga's capabilities. Despite animated movement throughout, the sprites aren't really well designed or defined. With Greek Gods bopping up and down it looks more like a scene from the local nightclub. Sound-wise, the game features spot effects providing atmosphere for the animated challenge sequences.

Although not delivering either graphical power or compulsive gameplay, Powerplay is certainly a novel approach to the current Trivial Pursuit/pub quiz fad. If Arcana were to bring out new data sets from time to time they might be on to a winner.

Powerplay: The Game of the Gods logo

Price: £19.99

There seems to be no let-up in the demand for trivia quiz style games, although all appear to need an additional hook or scenario to put the quiz element into some sort of context; Powerplay is presented, rather ingeniously, as a do-or-die battle of Greek Gods.

Explaining the game is probably more complicated than actually playing it. One to four players can take part, each taking the role of Apollo, Hermes, Hecate or Aphrodite. Each of these has four players, also characters from Greek mythology, on their "team".

The game is played on a board of eight by eight squares, coloured according to question topics: blue for general knowledge, red for sport and leisure, yellow for history/geography and green for science and technology.

Your characters move one square in any direction by answering a question successfully. The object is to manoeuvre the figures so that they can capture squares occupied by one of your opponents' characters. Before making your move onto an enemy square, you and the opponent go through a quickfire question challenge to fight for the right to that square.

The challenges take place in one of three different scenarios: the top of Mount Olympus, the depths of Hades or in Medusa's cave. Get three questions right - or answer them correctly before your opponent does - and you win the challenge.

Answering questions adds to the character's wisdom quotient. When that reaches 25 points you may if you like, "mutate" that character into a higher grade player; there are four grades in all. Questions for higher grade in all. Questions become more difficult. Losers of challenges will either mutate back down a grade, or if they are of the lowest to start with, will be eliminated from the board. The winner is the last player to be left with any pieces on the board, all opponents having been wiped out in challenges.

In the one player versions, you play against Zeus, king of the Gods, and the strongest "army" he can muster. There are other details, but that's basically how the game is played, a sort of draughts or halma meeting Trivial Pursuit in a classical setting. And very enjoyable it is too, though obviously playing with human opponents is a lot more fun and more satisfying than playing against the computer. The gameplay works well, and gives the program an interesting strategic element.

Two thousand questions are supplied on the program disk in a multiple choice format. There is the odd spelling mistake in the answers, but I haven't spotted any that are ambigious, or simply incorrect. There is also a question compiler facility which allows you to add questions of your own, an excellent feature.

The presentation is of high standard, with a clear screen layout, and nicely differentiated individual characters. However, I confess to being slightly disappointed in the graphics - they're good, but they're not that good. Some very atmospheric sound effects though.

So long as your appetite for trivia hasn't been entirely jaded by now, Powerplay is well worth checking out for its freshness of approach.

Powerplay: The Game of the Gods logo

Arcana, £19.99

Instead of the harmonious strains of pipe music and ambrosial melodies, Mount Olympus is echoing with loud voices, the clash of armour and unmentionable four-letter words. There's one four-letter word we can mention though and that's ZEUS (you know - the one with the beard and the thunderbolt). Bored with all this quarrelling, he's devised a contest to shut them up once and for all.

The new enhanced version of Powerplay (the original Amiga game was released last year) features 21 hand-drawn portraits of all the characters in addition to improved graphics and more finely animated challenge screens. Play itself remains pretty much the same: up to four players choose a difficulty level and pick a team of warriors from a suitably godlike selection.

Gods take it in turns to decide on a piece and answer a trivia question. Get it right and you're allowed to move the appropriate character one square in any direction on the multi-coloured board (different colours represent different trivia subjects). As questions are answered correctly, each character accumulates wisdom points; a score of 25 or more gives you the option to mutate to a higher grade of character (and there are some pre-tt-y UGLY ones on later levels).

If you concentrate for too long on a particular piece, other members of your team begin to get the hump. Occasionally they'll start moving about and stretching their legs of their own accord. Try to move on to a square occupied by an opponent piece and you're in for a fight... well, a challenge really. As if by magic you're transported to the site of a blazing lava pit or a gorgon's lair. The players compete against each other to answer the same questions. The more questions you get wrong, the closer you get to falling in the lava pit or being turned to stone by the gorgon's fatal stare.

Lose a challenge and you're demoted a character grade. There's no grade lower than one so if a grade one piece loses a head-to-head it vaporises and disappears from the board.

There's just one snag. If you make all your opponents disappear there's going to be nobody left to praise the smartypants. Serves you right, clever clogs!

Gordon Houghton This was one of my all-time faves on the good ol' 64, because it wasn't just a literal translation of a question and answer game - it was also fun! I particularly liked the jolly challenge music, something which this version lacks (and suffers as a result) - in fact, it's on the whole less cute 'n' cuddly. However, this more formal 'epic' approach works extremely well, not least because of the superb pics of the challenging armies. The random element adds a touch of fate which can sometimes be annoying - but then, what would the game of the gods be without Fate? The clever question and answer system and the levels of difficulty mean that even if you think you know the answer, you're pushed to find it in the time allowed. On the whole, it's the kind of game I go crazy over (being an aspiring smart-arse), and if you're into trivia too, check it out.
Kati Hamza As I've been hooked on trivia games ever since I watched my first episode of Sale Of The Century, I could hardly control my excitement when I heard about Arcana's latest release (it hasn't got Nicholas Parsons, for a start). On all formats, Powerplay is still the best fix of computerised trivia around - it manages to involve all the players all of the time and doesn't give hours of playing time to the smarmy smart alecs who've tried to memorise the questions beforehand (like Paul). Having said that, the new enhanced Amiga version isn't all that different from the original. The character portraits do add a bit of interest but one of the challenge screens has been sacrificed for the extra animation - and a few more sound effects would have added to the atmosphere. This is probably the smarter version of the two but don't bother buying it if you've got the original.

Paul Glancey At last the 64 version of Powerplay had a sense of humour - you'd have to go far to find much sillier challenge music - which is basically what made it fun to play. Apart from the graphics, which do look pretty good, all the other Amiga improvements leave me cold. The way the characters keep going off and walking about on their own, creating a challenge when you most definitely don't want one (i.e. have zilch strength) gets pretty annoying - probably why they called it irritability factor. There isn't any sound to speak of and the slowness of the action gave rise to one or two hefty snores. Unless you're a trivia addict, think before you grab this off the shelves.