A few years (and a phase of development) ago, the popular YouTube channel, SchmoesKnow introduced a yearly tournament they dubbed “The Ultimate Schmoedown.” Combining a passion for trivia and a love for WWE-style theatrics into one competitive extravaganza, Kristian Harloff and Mark Ellis crafted a new way of celebrating cinematic knowledge and YouTube channel rivalries. Now, spurred on by the success of partnering with Collider Video, the Movie Trivia Schmoedown boasts a new match twice a week, a massive social media following, and now, an app on Apple devices. Fans have been clamoring for the ability to face off against fellow fans and show personalities for a very long time. Now, players can engage in mental battles against the likes of Harloff, Ellis, and the rest of the Schmoedown crew. Does this app live up to high expectations?
As a fan, I must definitely praise the app developers, the Collider crew, and Kristian Harloff himself for creating a game that will make my fellow fans of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown very happy. Cutscenes are well-recorded, questions are well-thought out (for the most part), and gameplay is not frustrating enough to lessen the glory of the experience significantly for someone who shares my love for all things Schmoes. Seeing my username alongside trivia giants like John Rocha or Mark Reilly felt amazing and, really, pushed me through the first few hours of tinkering with the new app. However, when stepping out of my own shoes as a lover of this product to begin with and into those of a random App Store browser, I must admit that there are notable reasons for concern.
First impressions of the new Movie Trivia Schmoedown app will hit many newcomers in a fairly negative light. The app sits at an imposing 1.79GB, which will automatically make gameplay close to impossible for the many, many iPhone users with less than 32GB of storage on their devices. For reference, Garage Band, the massive Apple software used to record music and wield synthesizers off your phone, clocks in at 1.69GB. Furthermore, although the decision to only release this app to iOS was understandable given the massive undertaking of designing a mobile game, it will still strike many as odd considering the sizable chunk of players alienated by rushing out a single release as opposed to spending more time developing both an Android and an iOS version. However, if fans own an iPhone running iOS 11 and have over 2 GB of free space on their phones, they can fairly quickly and easily hop into the gameplay experience. . .
. . . So long as they pay $3.99. This second decision will continue to turn off possible newcomers to the Schmoedown fandom. When an app is first released, charging money for it immediately makes short-term sense as dedicated followers will most likely download a new project within a day or two of first drop. Collider will recoup a fair chunk of their development expenses just based off the many, many fans who will faithfully buy their new app. However, for those who are just looking for a film-centered version of Trivia Crack to play with their friends, there is not much incentive here to pay a relatively high price-point for just another trivia app.
Singles gameplay is well put together and fun enough as you battle your way up the ranks past Stacy Howard, Jay Washington, and Rachel Cushing. As matches increase in difficulty, depending on your preferences, the mundane nature of taking on what amounts to be a familiar-faced AI system might end up causing you to do what I did and shoot you directly over to Online Play which, to be honest, is the destination most players are headed immediately upon installing this app. There, players can earn five coins per win allowing you to pay for entrance to Inner Geekdom (which I have yet to achieve and have no desire to In-App Purchase) or unlock new player avatars (for what it’s worth, I really want the shadowy puppy for 50 coins). Online Play is where the app’s real flaws appear again and again.
I started writing this review an hour ago. As I type, I have been constantly pressing and repressing the “Random Match” button which is supposed to find me an online opponent ready to match wits with me in movie trivia. So far, I have been told every single time that an Opponent has been found and selected for me. However, almost every single time, I have been unable to enter a match. Of the times I’ve tried to start a game, only rarely have I been able to. Of the times I have successfully started a game, only rarely have I been able to make it past Round Two without my opponent’s connection mysteriously dropping. And, of those times, very rarely has the game been able to maintain both players until the final question. It appears that app developers severely underestimated the amount of server power needed to handle a few hundred excited trivia fans. Even more frustratingly, when games drop inexplicably, these are sometimes chalked up as losses on your public win-loss record. It is disheartening seeing a loss that was, in the end, just due to server overload.
There are, of course, nitpicky reasons to critique the Movie Trivia Schmoedown app. Questions are repeated very often (I now know, through repetition, the main cast list and premise of the 1986 film, At Close Range). There is no ability to challenge specific competitors, meaning you are only engaging in mental fisticuffs with random players. Fortunately, however, the Schmoedown fandom is small enough that many names will be, at least, minorly familiar. However, at the heart of it, the biggest complaint I have against the Movie Trivia Schmoedown app comes down to simple ease of use. Creating an app is not simple. There are many, many things I do not understand about coding and releasing a game. However, every fault of this production strikes me as driven by a desire to release something quickly rather than a desire to put out a truly solid finished product.
I feel as if I paid $4 this morning for a beta testing version of a soon-to-be-great thing. Despite all my negativity throughout this review, I must reiterate that, as a fan, I am ecstatic to finally have a Movie Trivia Schmoedown app on my phone. Even just seeing it installed makes me happy knowing that I can flip on an app and have Kristian Harloff introduce me to my imaginary army of cheering fans. However, since this both cost me money and continues to frustrate me every time I try to log on and play it, there are obviously glitches that need to be dealt with and addressed accordingly. There will be better days of trivia ahead. As for now, I’ll probably just stick to answering questions in my head during matches before racing too hard after my own personal Bespin.
As the App Store newcomer that Jonathan described above, I found myself conflicted with this app. I wanted to love it in so many ways, but found myself getting more and more frustrated at each turn. For my experience, I feel about on par with Jonathan with a few exceptions. I focused primarily on Single Player in my play time and found the repetition of the questions to be overly tedious. I must have been asked who Cameron Diaz was in Shrek and about the year Black Hawk Down came out more than five times a piece in a fifteen minute span. What was more frustrating, however, was the forced video commentary. I get that the concept is meant to be in the vein of the YouTube series, but the drain on battery life and the forced banter that resulted felt incredibly disingenuous. The aforementioned size of the app and the pull on battery life may be the biggest sin that the app has to offer. Not even Netflix drains my phone as quickly as this trivia game, and I was taken aback by the strain it put on it, especially when considering upon purchase that I may want this for long travel times in the future. My last big ding on the app is on the touch screen functionality, which was spotty at best, particularly on the topic wheel in Round Two. I got a good spin maybe once out of the many rounds that I played, even after it was going around for a solid few seconds and in quick revolutions.
My real hangup here, despite everything, is ultimately the price. In its current state, I cannot in good conscience recommend this app to anyone but the hardcore fans in its current state due to it’s price ($3.99 is steep for a trivia app with limited questions), content, functionality, and size. The makings are there for a great app and I truly hope the developers take some of the criticisms to heart and continue to make this app into what it has the potential to be. – Josh Finney