Review – Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Back when I was a kid, the name THQ was almost always tied to a specific kind of game, the licensed ones. Whether they were based on a cartoon, a TV show, a movie, THQ would always have a game based on whatever was remotely popular at the time. Nowadays, THQ (Nordic) might actually be the largest and most interesting publisher in the gaming world, and even though I welcome our newest overlords and their odd but interesting business decisions, I sometimes miss their janky, occasionally crappy, but somewhat charming licensed output. Then again, I can’t say I was expecting for them to release a licensed Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? game in the year 2022.
A budget-priced, party game revolving around the Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? license, with local multiplayer in mind. It’s basically a Wii game being released fifteen years later. It almost feels like the game was developed just for Game Grumps to make episodes based on it, just like their countless videos featuring the Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune games released for the Switch a few years ago. I know this isn’t the kind of game I should expect a lot from, but even so, how good (or bad) was it?
Video games based off quiz shows aren’t a new idea, but they are a pretty interesting option for local multiplayer… if done right. My go-to example for what I consider a good quiz-based video game is actually South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack, mostly because it knew that quizzes alone weren’t enough to entertain players during long multiplayer sessions, as it featured Mario Party-esque minigames to spice things up every now and then. Other games didn’t feature minigames or any other additional features besides the actual gameplay loop based on the game show they were centered around. In order to feel less uninteresting than their already uninteresting premise, these games usually featured a somewhat fast-paced, filler-free gameplay loop to speed things up and keep everyone’s attention intact.
This is what made the Wheel of Fortune game released a few years ago, janky as it is, so appealing for local multiplayer parties. Quick to set up, fun with a few friends and some drinks, plus it was somewhat replayable. It also became a hit with comedic YouTubers, such as Game Grumps, as a result. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?…. doesn’t have these redeeming factors. It’s a very by-the-books interactive version of the game show, retaining its ruleset to a very loyal degree, but without anything that makes it interesting as a video game per se.
It all boils down to how slow and uninteresting a full game is. There are two modes to choose from: a single-player mode that acts like a carbon copy of the game show itself, and the so-called belle of the ball, the multiplayer mode. The former is a grind-heavy, lethargic recreation of what Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? is all about, with the ever-increasing difficulty level in each question, and a ton of padding. Every single question is fully voiced, and every kid has to give a damn commentary in between rounds. Yes, you can skip it, but it still slows the pace down considerably.
The reason for that is the fact that the entirety of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? is fully voiced. Every single question. Every single answer. Every single commentary by the fifth graders themselves. Even your in-game nickname, which sounds like it’s being spoken by an automatic telephone line. I commend the sheer amount of work done in here, but it’s terrible. The kids sound terrible. The (fictional) presenters sound terrible. This makes the already lethargic gameplay loop even more annoying to deal with. What’s worse, the game basically wants you to spend some time in the single-player mode, as its grind-heavy nature is the way to unlock more questions for you to enjoy in the multiplayer mode.
Sadly, the multiplayer mode isn’t a lot more exciting. Sure, it’s better than playing it by yourself, but the slow pace and lack of interesting elements to spice things up make Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? a hard sell when compared to other game show party games available on the Switch.
To make matters even more complicated, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? isn’t very visually appealing. It doesn’t look much better than your average Wii shovelware title from back in the day. It doesn’t run incredibly well (locked at a mere 30fps), but it gets the job done. There is no visual stimulation, its soundtrack is bland as hell, its voice acting is a nuisance… all in all, it focuses way too much in its gameplay, and it isn’t enough to captivate you or other players for longer periods of time.
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? feels like your bog standard Wii shovelware title released fifteen years too late. For as much as I enjoy the fact developers are still making games with local multiplayer shenanigans in mind, there is very little in this title that makes me want to consider it over Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, or other party games in general. Something inside of me makes me somewhat glad that a little part of the good, old, licensed-centric THQ is still alive, but this is easily one of the company’s weakest outings in recent years. Thankfully though, they probably have like fifty other games in the works I can look forward to.
There is a bit of charm in the visual department, but this game as a whole doesn’t look much better than your average Wii shovelware title. It runs decently, considering the hardware.
This game does follow the game show’s rules to a tee, and the button responsiveness is decent enough (it would have been shocking if it wasn’t). The problem lies in how slow-paced and filler-heavy the gameplay loop is, making this party game a slog to deal with.
The game is fully voiced, but what was supposed to be a selling point ended up being its weakest aspect, as the voice acting itself is terrible.
Fun Factor: 4.0
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? feels like it was created with YouTubers in mind, and not people looking for a party title. It just doesn’t feel as appealing as Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy, and those games were already janky beyond comprehension.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? was provided by the publisher.