The Game: Holly (and Holly) tax your brain with trivia questions about Red Dwarf (at either “viewer” or “geek” level) or about any number of other things (at “general knowledge”), with a time limit on each multiple-choice question. Some Red Dwarf-specific questions ask players to identify elements of scenes or even pieces of soundtrack music from the series. There are eight levels of six questions each; players who complete a round with no wrong answers will be given a code to enter at the main menu for a bonus game, and players who complete the entire quiz with no wrong answers will be given a two-point bonus question. Along the way, Holly (and Holly) offer helpful advice and critique your knowledge. (BBC Video / 2|entertain, 2006)
Memories: This interactive DVD game contains the first new Red Dwarf footage shot since the BBC’s cult SF comedy series bowed out in the 1990s; that along is cause for some small celebration at the very least. Granted, it’s not a new episode or the delayed-until-it’s-vaporware feature film, but it’ll do. Norman Lovett and Hattie Hayridge reprise their roles as the two incarnations of Holly; that’s got to be worth the price of admission alone.
One of the problems any DVD-based game is going to run into is player compatibility; since I imported this title from the UK (for some reason, despite the excellent sales track record of the Red Dwarf DVDs to date, this is one title that hasn’t been made available in region 1 form), I’m sure those potential problems are compounded, so take my technical criticisms with a grain of salt, if not the whole shaker. Beat The Geek sometimes falls victim to the seek – i.e., the seek time to find the appropriate segment of the DVD to play next. Each question, right or wrong, is followed by a randomly selected pithy comment from one of the two versions of Holly; these gems from the peanut gallery aren’t question- or even round-specific, and sometimes repeat quite a bit. Some questions include video and music segments, and animated interludes between rounds. What all of this means is a lot of jumping around the disc, and with every jump, a pause in the game. (This is really down to the technology, not the authoring – when you boil it down to brass tacks, a DVD game isn’t that much more advanced than, say, an ’80s laserdisc arcade game like Dragon’s Lair.)
Fans will find the Red Dwarf-specific material tremendously challenging; I played my first round at Geek level and promptly humbled myself. Those expecting to effortlessly smoke their friends at straightforward trivia will get the same treatment: some questions challenge players’ power of observation, stuff like “what deck number was painted on the set in this scene?” This is a canny choice on the part of the DVD’s makers, and even makes use of the same video clips from the series for multiple questions.
It’s not perfect though. In the middle of a two player session, the game stopped accepting any input from the DVD remote control, and several questions went unanswered after time “ran out” alarmingly fast. The game eventually resumed normal function after that, but it certainly handicapped everyone for that round. (Again, in the interest of fairness, this may be a player/region compatibility issue, but everything ran smoothly the rest of the time, so this incident stuck out.) There are other times when the on-screen indicators for how much time you have left and what answer you’ve chosen disappear without warning.
If those can be overlooked, Beat The Geek is a ton of Red Dwarf fun, with just a few glitches in the mix. But hey, if Holly’s in charge of this ride, you should expect nothing less.