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Xbox 360 'Scene It?' a crowd pleaser

The 'Scene It?' trivia game series may have started as a DVD-based board game, but the franchise is really coming into its own on the Xbox 360 console.

Microsoft's 'Scene It?: Box Office Smash' ($60 bundled with four 'Big Button' controllers; $40 standalone) builds on the game's first Xbox 360 edition with new question genres, faster-paced gameplay and the ability to appear as your newly created Xbox Experience avatar.

The party game allows up to four local players to compete through three rounds of such challenges as unscrambling letters to form an actor's name, arranging four films in order of their release dates or answering a series of questions based on a high-definition movie clip.

Dueling voice-over announcers pipe in with comments throughout the contest, but the hosts are not nearly as witty and sarcastic as those from the old 'You Don't Know Jack' PC games of the mid-1990s.

The game will work with the standard Xbox 360 controllers, but the bundled 'Big Button' gizmos add to the game-show atmosphere.

'All Play' questions let each contestant choose their answer with one of the four colored buttons, while 'Buzz In' questions are up for grabs to the first player to hit the large rotund button. Answering earlier nets more points, and there are no penalties for wrong answers so it's better to err on the side of guessing.

'Box Office Smash' adds a few new question genres, the best of which is 'Pixel Flix.' Players are asked to guess the movie from scenes recreated in retro 8-bit graphics looking like something out of 'Super Mario Bros.' or 'Leisure Suit Larry.'

A 'Celebrity Ties' round features a series of questions, each involving a pair of actors. They follow a Kevin Bacon-style six degrees of separation path, in which one of the actors mentioned in the question leads to the next.

Games culminate with a 'Final Cut' round featuring five questions related to a movie clip. Each consecutive correct answer doubles the point multiplier, so those who get on a roll could end with a 10x question that completes a miracle comeback.

Competing against remote players on Xbox Live is great when you can't find an in-person opponent, but such games lack a bit of the social interaction that makes 'Box Office Smash' so much fun. Online play was much more rewarding when four of us pooled our movie knowledge to beat a team that wasn't nearly as familiar with Monty Python movies as we were.

Questions are varied and seem to incorporate a number of recently released movies, though we did notice several instances of repeated questions. Downloadable question packs are planned, and that could give this game an even longer shelf life.

Three-and-a-half out of four stars.