18 October 2017
Globetrotting trivia game When In Rome first in Voice Originals series
Sensible Object’s Beasts of Balance was a shining example of how physical pieces and digital gameplay can work together in harmony to offer a fun and dynamic experience, with the tactile joy of stacking plastic animals on top of each other enhanced by the surprisingly layered systems of scoring and interaction powered by its companion app.
It’s promising to see, then, that the studio is now turning its attention to a different kind of virtual interaction with a new series of games designed to be played using smart speakers and home AI, such as Amazon’s Alexa.
The first entry in the Voice Originals series is When In Rome, a globetrotting trivia game with mild undertones of educational TV show and game series Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?.
When In Rome uses an app for Alexa – known as a ‘skill’ – in combination with a physical board depicting the world map, player and points tokens, and ‘souvenirs’ to set up a race around the globe.
Each player starts in a home city before jetting to one of the 20 locations on the map. When they land, they’re asked a question. A correct answer earns explorer points and the potential for a souvenir from the region for a bonus score.
Alexa keeps track of the score and provides a bit of narration as players fly around, pretending to be the announcer on ‘Air Alexa’, while in a particularly nice touch the questions are read out by real-life inhabitants of each of the cities, stretching from San Francisco over to Auckland. (You can actually sign up to be one of the voices over on Sensible Object’s site, if you’re into that.)
The questions and commentary ranges from obvious general trivia about each location to some unexpectedly insightful views from the people that live there – such as the tastiest local food, the general weather, local slang or how they get to work each day.
When in Rome is due out next March and will cost $25 (£19), although there will be a free daily skill for Alexa that doesn’t use the board and just provides a snippet of trivia and a new question each day.
When In Rome isn’t the first game to make use of the virtual assistants finding their way into more and more people’s homes. Escape-the-room puzzler The Werewolf Experiment is due out next month and can have a timer, clue system and soundtrack provided by Alexa – although, unlike When In Rome, it can be played with the digital companion.