Split Decision review

Simon Williams August 24, 2012 - 9:30 am

Review: Boardgame adaptations have proven to be a hit on the App Store, so are mental_floss onto a winner with their rapid fire general knowledge quizzer SPLIT DECISION?

Would you know whether “Satibo” is a Star Wars character or erectile dysfunction pill? Whether Operation Wolf is a Nintendo game or the name of an actual military operation? Split Decision, a videogame version of the original boardgame produced by mental_floss magazine - a website “where knowledge junkies get their fix - asks such peculiar questions. And like the site, the Android and iOS app is smart and funny, but after your initial fix you may need to start dipping into your wallet on a regular basis.

The primary game mode on offer is Quick, which sets you the task of answering as many A or B questions as possible within a strict time limit. Bonus multipliers for your score stack up the more correct answers you manage in a row, adding to the pressure as you try to avoid ruining a good sequence with a wrong choice and a subsequent point reduction. Things get frantic as the clock runs down, jabbing away at the screen to cram as many last second answers in as possible, and it’s all relatively straightforward, befitting the pick-up-and-play nature of the game.

There are two further easily unlockable game modes, neither of which are time-limited. Deadly involves answering as many questions without making a mistake, complete with Legend of Zelda style heart icons in the top right representing your three “lives”. Challenge mode has the most meat in the game, as you progress through a series of themed questions by a number of famous historical figures, though the questions themselves are unrelated to them (unless Archimedes had an unreported interest in Florida arts festivals and microbreweries). Here, you have to assign an answer to one of two contrasting categories, and the difficulty and required number of correct answers scale up sharply, perfect for tucking into a longer commute.

Super Mario Bros. Villain or Actual Dinosaur?

The questions themselves are an entertaining and sometimes illuminating bunch, with the choice of answers in Quick and Deadly modes often both sounding plausible enough to make you pause, while there’s a good balance between pop culture, obscure trivia and weightier stuff. The Challenge categories will raise a smile as well – having to discern whether a title is a Neil Young album or a book with Fabio on its cover rarely gets old – and there’s a fair smattering of videogame questions too.

The central problem quiz videogames always face is the repetition of questions, and Split Decision is no different. It comes with a Classic Pack of 750, mainly U.S.-oriented, questions, but even this amount rapidly proves inadequate, and I started encountering repeated questions during only my third Quick game. A UK Pack and Booster Pack, each totalling 450 extra questions, are available at release as in-app purchases, and for the game to have any sort of longevity I suspect you’ll be having to visit the store on a fairly regular basis.

Overall, though, Split Decision is perfect mobile gaming material, its fast pace and smart questions ideal for a ten minute blast on the bus home, and the development team have done an excellent job in adapting and expanding the original game for the touchscreen. With Leaderboards, Game Center Achievements and the ability to rapidly share questions over Facebook and Twitter from the interface, it should provide plenty of food for thought amongst friends – as long as a steady stream of new questions supports it.

[What does this mean?]

Split Decision, from mental_floss and Dennis Media Factory is available for iOS (reviewed) and Android now.

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