That's the thinking behind Quizboard, an iPhone and iPod touch offering from Planeto that brings the increasingly well-worn "with friends" style of gameplay to a Trivial Pursuit-esque test of knowledge. Familiar though the formula may be, it works with this style of trivia game--and it should become even better once the developer finds the right level of difficulty for the questions.
(Image Caption: Fight to the Finish: In Quizboard, you and your opponent are trying to reach the star square by answering question to advance across the gameboard. Bonus squares and other factors add a strategic element to this trivial contest.)
Quizboard lets you find opponents by inviting contacts stored on your iOS device, inviting Facebook friends, or finding a random rival. (The app also keeps a record of the people you play, making it all the easier to challenge them to a rematch.)
Once the game begins, it's not simply a matter of answering trivia questions to see who can get the most right. Rather, Quizboard adopts a board game-style interface: You and your opponent move across a game board, advancing one space for each correct answer, until you reach the designated finish line. You follow the same path as your opponent--in other words, you pick up the path on the game board where she left off. Along the way, there are squares with bonus points and multipliers--think the Double Letter Score tiles in Scrabble--to further bolster your points. Whoever has the most points when one player reaches the finish line wins the game.
Gameplay is asynchronous in the style popularized by Words With Friends. You answer five questions, advancing a space for each one you get right, and then you wait for your opponent to take a turn. (Notifications alert you when it's time for you to play.) You play by dragging a category onto the tile you want to move to--a slightly awkward approach that would work better if you could just tap a category and then tap the targeted square.
The game board style of play adds a strategic element to Quizboard. If you've got fewer points than your opponent, for example, you may not want to chart out a direct path to the finish line; instead, you'd take a more indirect course with the hope of building up your point total. Since you get more points by answering consecutive questions correctly, you'll also want to make sure you're playing the bonus tiles on your fourth or fifth question. The strategic considerations keep the game interesting.
If only some of the questions in Quizboard could do the same. Trivia games can rise or fall on the strength of their questions, and Quizboard stumbles noticeably in this area. Most of the questions--Planeto claims their are more than 14,000 of them--are decent enough, striking the right balance between being a test of knowledge and rewarding educated guesses. But, as a colleague who helped me test the app observed, far too many are ridiculously simple. One question asks which track star the International Olympic Committee named as Sportsman of the Century. The answer is Carl Lewis, but the options Quizboard provides you are simply variations on that name--Carl Louis, Carl Lucius, Carl Lucas. You can't throw in the names of other, real track stars and make the question a little bit more of a challenge?
Quizboard's question problems can be fixed easily. So too can the other outstanding issue with this 1.0.2 release--it's a little crash prone, particularly after a game wraps up. Those flaws aside, Quizboard provides a clever take on trivia that fits in perfectly with the asynchronous style of gameplay so popular with iOS device owners. The game's a free download, and you can enjoy it without ever having to part with one red cent, though a $3 in-app purchase removes advertising and unlocks nine other gameboards. In a particularly nice feature, you can invite another user to play on one of these unlocked gameboards even if they're only using the free version of the game.
Quizboard is not going to supplant the likes of Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy in the hearts and minds of trivia buffs any time soon. But it does provide a simple and engaging way to challenge your friends to a battle of wits, even if some of the questions in this current version are a bit witless.
Philip Michaels is the editor of Macworld.com.
This story, "Quizboard for iPhone" was originally published by MacCentral.