Few things are clear upon opening Hanx101 Trivia, a new mobile game for the Apple Arcade that BlueLine Studios made in partnership with Tom Hanks. For starters, it is not Tom Hanks-specific trivia, as one might have guessed. In fact, I have yet to find one question that even mentions a film that Tom Hanks starred in, though I’m hopeful one of the over 58,000 questions available at the start of the game will eventually ask me about one of the most prolific and successful actors of all time. Especially since, you know, this is his game.
Instead, at the center of Hanx101 Trivia is “Hanx,” which is either the name of some sort of trivia robot or Tom Hanks’s gamertag. Unclear! The opening scene also reminds players that Tom Hanks has an app called “Hanx Writer” that allows your keyboard to make typewriter sounds. (I’m happy for you, Tom.) Hanx then informs me that I will now be answering 101 questions on various different topics. The first “world” on the game board is army-themed, with tanks and a helmet-like design for the boundaries of the trivia island. It quickly becomes clear that the theme doesn’t seem to matter. Is it because Hanks starred in Saving Private Ryan? Is it because of the scenes in Forrest Gump when Hanks’s hero serves in the army? Doesn’t seem like it. No part of this game so far feels shaped by Tom Hanks. I’m answering sports trivia about the nicknames of famous hurlers and music trivia about what songs Seals Croft sings. It seems like Hanx101 has an age demo in mind.
There’s one particular celebrity guessing section called “Who’s This?” where the game inexplicably shows you demonically warped pictures of celebrities. Sometimes, Hanx101 would even do some light face-mashing, asking if the abomination you were looking at was Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt smashed together, or Leo DiCaprio and Neil Patrick Harris’s messed-up-looking baby. Another silly section, called “Spell This,” was equally brain-melting. It asked me the correct way to spell “Rotate,” giving me “Rotayt” and “Rotait” as the two other options. Many of the history-based questions also just force you to guess between various years. Questions like, “Did X event occur in 1912, 1915, or 1923,” for example, are common. Working my way through 101 Hanx101 Trivia questions turns out to be excruciatingly boring.
By the time I get to Question #41, I reach a new map. This one has a city theme! Hanx101 never informs me why I was in the army world previously, and it quickly becomes clear that the city map is just another background with no purpose. The game board also progresses from question to question linearly, so I don’t even have a character or body that can walk around the cartoon town. Bafflingly, there’s a section of the city map next to a basketball court where the round of trivia was “politics,” instead of “sports,” so it seems like the maps don’t have any effect on gameplay whatsoever. After the grueling 101 questions, I received my score of 71/101 (not great!) and was told by Apple Arcade that I was a “cool kid.” Then—wouldn’t you know it—I was back at question number one in the army world.
At this point, I’m seriously questioning if Tom Hanks really even likes trivia.
I thought, at the very least, that we would occasionally get “Daily Double”-style Jeopardy! videos where Tom Hanks would appear and show us his love of trivia. Alas, nothing. Heck, I’m not even competing against Tom Hanks’s score to prove that I’m more knowledgeable than him. That’s just another genius idea I came up with for Hanx101 that would actually make use of, again, its A+++-list star. Maybe the game would have been better as a family experience—as its multiplayer mode suggests—but I couldn’t imagine eight-year-olds even understanding questions like, “Who or what was Stuffy on Green Acres?” That’s a sitcom from 1965?! Good luck, kids. At this point, I’m seriously questioning if Tom Hanks really even likes trivia.
“Trivia is for kids. Knowledge lasts a lifetime,” Hanks said in the press release for the game. “Compete against the entire world with Hanx101 Trivia and you will become a fascinating human being 101 facts at a time.” Totally. Telling my date that I correctly guessed how many children President John Tyler had will surely make me the most fascinating man in the world. If this is for kids, why are there no questions about Paw Patrol or Pokémon? Do you think children can name the cast of M*A*S*H?
Seemingly completing everything that Hanx101 Trivia had to offer, I obsessively scoured the Internet to not only find out why anyone would pay Apple $4.99 a month to keep playing, but also acquire definitive answers from Tom Hanks that he does, indeed, love trivia. I was able to find the obvious Saturday Night Live! skits involving parody versions of Celebrity Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune—but these were scripted. I even came across the actor’s reaction to real Jeopardy! contestants not knowing that he starred as Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, but it wasn’t the proof I desperately needed.
The one bit of actual content I could muster up that showed Tom Hanks answering trivia questions was on BBC’s The Graham Norton Show, back in 2011. Appearing alongside Simon Pegg, the two celebs tested their knowledge of Star Trek, Pegg’s latest film at the time. Allegedly, Hanks is a “huge fan.” Still, he got the question they asked him (sort of right) and was promptly awarded “half of a point.” That was the end of the trivia round, and sadly, I didn’t see any Star Trek questions in Hanx101 Trivia. All I have left to say is: Tom, I’d love for you to actually show up in your own game. I’ll be waiting for you in the army world.
Josh Rosenberg is an entertainment writer living in Brooklyn, keeping a steady diet of one movie a day; his work can be found at Spin, Insider, Vibe, and on his personal blog at Roseandblog.com.
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