Forget the nightmare before Christmas - everybody with a family knows that the real terror takes place somewhere between Christmas lunch and New Years Eve. Once the presents have been opened, the roast has been consumed and the naps are over, extended families that might not always spend that much time together are suddenly stuck with plenty of time and a desire to spend it together, but not that much idea of what to do with it. If you want to avoid friction, it can help to oil those family wheels and find something everyone can join in with. In the past, we played parlour games or board games, and increasingly video games are taking a similar role. Anyone who had a Wii last Christmas will remember how Wii Sports could get everyone from the sulkiest kids to grandpa up and playing, but the likes of Guitar Hero, Singstar, the Eyetoy games and Sony's Buzz range of quiz games were doing the same thing some time before.
And now Microsoft wants a piece of the action, as it works to rebrand the Xbox 360 as more than the hardcore gamer's console. Based on the best-selling range of DVD movie board games, Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action is a quiz game that comes bundled with a set of four special controllers. In fact, in true movie-making fashion, Scene It! plays homage to the PS2's Buzz; the four ‘Big Button' controllers follow the same four button plus big ‘buzzer' layout as Buzz's own controllers, though they actually look more stylish, feel more solid and are - best of all - wireless. AA batteries have been sensibly included - otherwise there would have been a lot of miserable punters on Christmas Day - and the controllers work with a special IR module that plugs into a spare USB socket on the 360.
The game itself doesn't stick so closely to Buzz's virtual quiz show format. Instead, players are stars entering the Hollywood studio system, and the game is structured around a series of rounds played out in different studio facilities with the whole thing compared by an unseen producer. While not as stratospherically annoying as Buzz's Aussie presenter, the producer's irritating quips will still grate once the game has got a lot of play, but the saving grace is that his presence is fairly minimal. You can choose to play a short game (approx. 30 minutes) of three rounds of three sections each plus a fourth ‘final cut' round, or to play a longer game where each round extends to five sections.