Long, long ago, we brought you a sordid, Hunter S. Thompson-esque tale of how we annihilated the Ewing family and left them in a shallow grave outside Studio City, California. It’s been a couple decades since we’ve looked at a Family Feud game, and I heard rumors that these digital families thought we were slipping. That the JGR family was just a boogeyman story passed between contestants as they waited for the next show’s taping. That no family could possibly be that good at the Feud.
After Richard Dawson packed it up for the first time, ABC passed on renewing Family Feud for the 1985-86 season. Without the legend at the helm, the show languished for three years. The next time the Feud would resurface, it was in 1988 on CBS, with Ray Combs as host. This is the version the SNES title is based on, plus the “Bullseye” round added in 1992 as the New Family Feud.
In the show, two families of five are facing off against each other over questions asked to a random sampling of 100 laypeople. Things like “Name a physical quality of Frankenstein’s monster” or “Name something Texas is famous for.” The top answers go up on the board, and are worth that amount of points. Basically, you’re trying to guess what the most popular answers to a question are, as those will have the most value. If you’re not linked into the cultural consciousness of your fellow man, you’re going to have a hard time.
After picking a 1 or 2 player game, contestants choose their families from some very lame options. There’s two white families, one black, one Asian, and that’s it. GameTek has never had good contestant art, and while this is definitely some of their better work, it almost certainly won’t represent your real family. Special attention should be given to the awkward three-frame clap animation that shows up now and again, showing off your lifeless, mannequin family. Our prey for today will be the Booth family. None of the five Booths could possibly know that they are but lambs headed to the slaughter.
When you begin a game, you can opt to play with the awkward Bullseye round. If you choose “yes,” it will be the first game played. This basically exists to pump the bankroll up at the start and asks all five members of the family, one by one, to try and guess the top answer for a question. No answers other than the top one counts, and successive correct answers drive the value up to a maximum of $10,000. It’s meant to be a rapid fire introduction, but the pacing feels slow, and it’s simply a miniature version of the rest of the game. I’m glad the option to skip it exists.
Bullseye or no Bullseye, we move on to the first round of the game proper. This round will have the most possible answers on the board with no bonus point multipliers. One member from each family face off, and the family who gives the most popular answer decides if they want to “Play or Pass.” Playing requires correctly guessing every answer on the board before racking up three missed guesses (strikes). The other family then gets one chance to guess an answer on the board of any point value. If they get it, they steal all the points.
I think there’s supposed to be strategy here in passing off a tough question to the opposing family, or betting that they will do the hard work while you swoop in and steal the points in the end. In practice, I’ve never seen anyone not choose to play – either in the show, or in this game. The JGR family is no different. The question is “Name something that is sealed.” We ring in confidently. “Letters.” Letters are sealed.
*BAAAAAAMP* Not on the board.
The Booth family takes control of the game with “cereal.” What horseshit. They proceed to take a few more with “milk carton” and “medicine.” Here, you start to notice how the AI works. The computer will either give the exact answer on the board as written, or will reply with “No Guess” or “I Give Up.” You will have to watch the AI type this out as if it were a player every time. In fact, you will have to watch the entire AI’s round play out as if it were a player sitting right next to you. I sat, fingers drumming, as it nailed the lowest scoring answers (of course it did) and I figured I was going to have to watch it steamroll me as it typed out “guesses” for the answers it already knew.
But the random number gods smiled that day, and before I knew it, the Booths gave consecutive “I Give Up”s. I had my chance to steal! I had been thinking in the interim about things that were sealed. They seemed to be edging toward products, but I didn’t believe this would truly be a common answer. Court order? Nah, too specific. I had said “letters” but maybe there was still something close there. Something like… packages! Packages are sealed!
Show me packages!
The number one answer was “mail.” And so, here we go again with the bane of GameTek home game reproductions – there are no judges like there are on the shows to rule on wording differences. The programmers make some effort to guess what someone might give as an answer. “Candy” for “chocolate” was okay. “Oven” for “stove.” “Fridge” for “refrigerator.” But it’s not enough effort to catch everything, and some really obvious ones didn’t count.
“Pay phone” didn’t count for “public phone booth.” “Wallet” didn’t count, but “purse” did. And sometimes, the programming just breaks. I watched the AI give the correct answer twice that just didn’t register. When they revealed the answer – exactly as the AI had typed it – I think both of us rolled our eyes.
The next two rounds are the Double and Triple rounds, both describing multipliers given to the points. These rounds have progressively less answers on the board, making it theoretically harder as your guesses have to be more precise. In practice, I found it to be easier here than trying to guess a lot of esoteric answers in the first round. Nail a couple of popular answers and you’ve pretty much won the board.
The Double round asked us “What would you miss most if you lost your wallet?” This one was pretty easy to charge through, with obvious answers like “cash,” “photos,” “credit cards,” and “driver’s license.” We were able to answer all of them without handing an opportunity over to the Booths, who looked visibly nervous. Uh-oh. That lead doesn’t look so secure now!
The Triple round asked “Name something you should not leave in your car on a hot day.” Despite not nailing it with an early answer, this was another easy sweep with answers like “pets,” “chocolate,” and “ice cream.” And just like that, the game was over. We had crushed another family of dunces underneath our boot. They thought they had us on that first round there, but it was all part of the plan! See Booths, we came to play. What about ya’ll over there?
Oooooh. Is 84 dollars even gonna cover the gas money to drive out here? Oh well, sucks to suck. See ya!
The winning family gets to play the Fast Money round. This takes five questions asked of 100 people, and has two family members give answers. The second player is held in a soundproof booth while the first gives their answers. If you’re playing by yourself, you basically just have two guesses to try and land the most common answer. If the total points from both players equal 200, you win $5000 plus whatever was earned in the Bullseye Round.
Win or lose, you’re shown your total winnings and invited to immediately play again. In a nice touch, you’re given a brief password to come back as “returning champs.” You can build up quite a bankroll this way – provided you don’t lose, of course – and it gives some replayability and longevity to the game for relatively little effort. And that’s about it. You’ll play endless games of the Feud until you die – not the worst way to spend Purgatory, provided Louie Anderson isn’t the host.
Graphically, it replicates the show well enough. The set looks the part, and that’s about all you can ask for. Going by the hair, the host is supposed to be Ray Combs, but from a side view, it’s clearly Beavis. The host has zero personality and not much to do here, so he’s just as generic as in any other GameTek release.
On the sound front, the Family Feud theme is replicated reasonably well. A couple notes sound off, or it could be the digital instruments chosen, but it’s recognizable. Some surprise digital speech even shows up occasionally, including the legendary “Good Answer!” support from your family. You’re given a generous 45 seconds to type your answer while some pretty hideous “think music” plays. This is some kind of pokey hillbilly track, with a digital banjo and what I guess is supposed to be a washboard. It fits only in the sense that early Family Feud used to loosely reference the Hatfield and McCoy rivalry. Thankfully again, you can turn both music pieces off at the start of each game.
Overall, this checks all the expected boxes for a 16-bit version of the show. I still wish GameTek would offer more contestant variety and spend more time programming in answer variations, but I’m aware these games are honestly meant to be disposable. It plays well with two people – or even with more filling out the families – and even gives some bonus replayability with the “returning champs” code. Another good game show conversion, and another dominating win for the legendary JGR family.
Looks and mostly sounds the part. Gameplay is mostly smooth. You can easily turn off the most controversial parts (Bullseye Round, the music).
Still get screwed out of legitimate answers sometimes. Only four families to choose from.