Imagine the possibilities of combining PlayStation Move and National Geographic magazine, exploring the rich expanses of the world with the super-accurate motion controller in your hand and so much more. The potential seems limitless, doesn't it? What a shame, then, that National Geographic Challenge! is a quiz game.
Developers have used Move in quiz games before, of course, with mini-games in Buzz! The Ultimate Music Quiz, but here it's more or less a straight replacement for the DualShock controller: questions pop up and you press the button that corresponds to your answer, or point at the desired response and press the Move button. There's nothing more complex than that during the main quiz, and Move works fine here of course, under-used though it is. Sadly the button layout on-screen mirrors that of a traditional pad, so first-time Move users won't find it quite so easy to get to grips with.
There are a few ways to play in this globally-themed slice of entertainment. The straight-up quiz enables one to four players to pit their wits against each other over 20, 40 or 80 questions of Hard or Easy difficulty. Easy truly is easy — one question following a video was "What were the tourists doing? Walking / Running / Jumping / Swimming" — whereas Hard varies from mid-ground to the sorts of questions you'd need a lifetime subscription to the Nat Geo to figure out. If you're playing with kids (or the clueless) then Easy mode is fair game, though it would have been nice to let individual players set their own difficulties to make things a little more dynamic.
A few different round types keep things interesting, with some light gambling of points to spark things up, but overall there's a disappointing lack of content from National Geographic itself, featuring only a few photos or brief videos per game. More content would have livened up the otherwise drab presentation: the quiz mode essentially slaps text questions over a CG globe with some excited-looking players in the back. It's passable — and there are some decent Trophies to acquire — but it's not the winner it could be, feeling less like a NatGeo quiz and more a side-pack from a bigger game.
Explorer Mode proves more interesting, challenging you and up to three friends to take over as many world territories as possible by, of course, answering trivia questions. If you try to capture one held by another player it sparks a trivia-off or a mini-jigsaw puzzle where the fastest player wins, but little more interesting comes along. There's some strategy to choosing which landmass you should attempt to conquer, and each character possesses unique abilities, but it never quite conjures the family board game feel it's shooting for; there's precious little room for skulduggery here.
Elsewhere you'll find a few bonus puzzles: jigsaws, sliding blocks and a puzzle with square pieces, all based on high resolution images. They're pretty, control well enough and overall aren't a bad way to while away a few minutes alone, as long as you can reconcile with the fact you're playing nature-themed jigsaw puzzles on your PS3.
National Geographic Challenge! isn't a bad game, and makes a decent go at introducing global education to the PS3-owning family audience. It's hardly made for Move, although it makes a serviceable addition in multiplayer, and the fact the most entertaining section might be the jigsaw puzzles speaks volumes. It might prove worthwhile if you've got young ones who you want to teach about the world; everyone else won't find much here.