TriBond makes the grade

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What do an excellent value, fun for the whole family and fierce competition have in common? They are all elements of TriBond by Patch Products.

For those of you unfamiliar with the board game of the same name, Tri-Bond is the game of threes. Players are given three items and asked to try and figure out how they are related. A winning answer lets players move their pieces around the board in a Parcheesi-like race to get all their pieces home.

The game has full voice support, with different actors reading different categories of questions. Some of the actors are a bit over the top, but it’s nonetheless more fun to listen to someone read the questions than to sit there reading them yourself. This also opens the game up for younger members of the family who may be sharp minded, but have not developed excellent reading skills.

The questions themselves are quite good, and would stand up against their board game cousins for both cleverness and difficulty. Some of the questions are somewhat hard to solve, like what does Astronomer Edmund Halley, Proctor & Gamble and Santa Claus have in common? [Answer: They all have a Comet ] Others are a bit easier. Thankfully, on the really difficult questions the game gives players three options to choose from, though they are given less time to think about their answers.

The answer process itself is both a negative and a positive in the game. Unlike most trivia type games, like the fill-in questions in the You Don’t Know Jack series, players don’t actually have to type their answers into the computer in TriBond. You do have to type something though, as leaving the answer blank will automatically generate a wrong answer.

What happens is that you give an answer and then the other players vote on whether it is correct or not. When playing with a few friends this is actually very nice because you can just type the letter "a" or something and tell your buddies that the correct answer is, "things that have a pouch," and just let them give you credit for it. This is far better than knowing what the proper answer to a question is and getting it wrong because of poor spelling. You do have to remember to type something in the blank though, and if you get too much into the oral nature of the game you might forget. When playing the computer, there is also the temptation to cheat.

There is an interesting category of questions devoted to the visual aspects of trivia as well, though I think the majority of the questions in this field are easy. Players are, for example, shown a picture of a man with curly hair, a map of Scotland and a chest — and given a few seconds to figure out what they have in common. [Answer: Locks ] This puts a refreshing twist on just listening to various choices.

Surprisingly, the graphics for this game are also pretty good. Players have a choice of backgrounds that the main board can be set on, from a picnic table in the park to a deep underwater site. Fish swim by or cats’ tails move behind your table in different settings, giving players who are waiting their turns something to look at. Some of the backgrounds, particularly the undersea one, are pretty mesmerizing. The sounds also match the backgrounds well, and a crackling fire or the light rustle of wind are nice touches. You can really tell that the folks at Patch put a lot into the game beyond what was needed just to get it out the door.

The game can be played online though a direct modem connection or on the MSN Gaming Zone. In our trials, we did not have any trouble playing online, though not being face to face seems to take something away from the title, especially given the judging system.

The one problem that was encountered was that for some reason the program tended to crash the older GiN test computer running Windows 95 [the big PIII’s are generally reserved for 3D shooters and graphically intense titles] even though the test system far outweighed the minimum requirements. This would happen about two times in ten, and brought to light a slight game error of sorts. It seems the program only infrequently saves data about what questions have been asked. So if your system crashes in the middle of a game, expect to go through all the same questions again till you get back up to the ones you were at when the game died. When we asked the folks at Patch about this, they said they would tell their engineers to make the game save more often.

All in all, TriBond the computer game is as good as TriBond the board game. Fans of the board game will want to try out all the new questions in the computer version, and the ability to play the game with people from all over the world without having to clean up your livingroom first is certainly an advantage. TriBond earns 4 out of a possible 5 GiN Gems because it is an excellent way to bring the whole family around the old computer for some quality time.

Oh yea, and when you win, as an added bonus, the celebration scene with all your pieces dancing and cheering is not to be missed!

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