I mentioned this in the past, but there’s two things I have an unhealthy infatuation with: video games (natch) and game shows. Naturally since I like both of them, I’ve amassed a bunch of game show video games over the years. So I thought, “let’s talk about game show video games.” Because what better thing there is to write about than the 20 different versions of Jeopardy! that I own.
Though, this won’t exclusively cover video game adaptions of game shows, no sir. Naturally there are video games that try to simulate the feel and entertainment of a game show, and I’ll cover those as well. Such as our inaugural entry….
Let’s jump back to 1995. Hasbro, wanting to get in on the burgeoning video game market, formed Hasbro Interactive that year. Most of their output was games based on their various properties, including Monopoly and Scrabble. Oh, and taking over the Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! games when GameTek went bankrupt. The company basically stayed on this path until Hasbro Interactive was bought by Infogrames in 2000, though Hasbro would eventually buy back the rights to make video games based on their various franchises.
Cut to 1998. This was around the time when Jellyvision’s (now Jackbox Games) You Don’t Know Jack was immensely popular, and naturally any Tom, Dick and Harry game publisher wanted to cash in by making You Don’t Know Jack-likes for the PC market. Either they tried to make a trivia game styled like Jack, such as TRL Trivia and Austin Powers in Operation Trivia, or they tried to copy the goofy “adult humor” and make their own game show-like game. Enter Outburst.
Remember Outburst? It’s that one board game where you shout out as many answers to a category as you can. It’s not a classic, but it’s one of those party games that gets thrown in along with Taboo and Catchphrase. Hasbro enlisted the development of Outburst by a small games company known as CyberDice. Not to be confused with the company that pumps out Battlefield games every two years, CyberDice was a development studio that only made a handful of party games. From the brief research I did, they worked on this game and Super Scattergories. I’m going to hazard a guess the developer folded shortly after the dot-com bubble burst.
Outburst the computer game is stylized much like a TV game show. You can play by your lonesome or with other players, online or off. The game has multiple rounds of play, all based on the general theme of giving as many answers as they can within the time limit. After some rounds, you can earn bonus points by having the randomizer hit an answer you gave (Shown above). The team with the most points wins after seven rounds wins.
Our “host” for this show is Timothy Stack. It’s okay if you had to Google search his name, unless you guffawed a lot at those Gas Station News Reports he did during The Tonight Show, or you’re one of the five people who remember Night Shift with Dick Dietrich or Son of the Beach. His hosting style is particularly sardonic, he will berate contestants for constant wrong answers or poor performance, and gives pretty groan-worthy one liners on most of the answers. He’s much like many game show hosts who come from TV backgrounds: They’re no Wink Martindale or Bob Eubanks, but they’re better than the one-timers who just smile and catchphrase their way through a show.
When not giving corny jokes, Stack is joined by announcer/sidekick Lani Minella. Yes, Lani Minella. The same person who voiced such characters as Ivy Valentine, Rouge the Bat, Nancy Drew, and hundreds of other video game characters. Well, it could’ve been worse, they could’ve got Jen Taylor. Anyway, Minella’s role is giving you the answers you missed, giving clues in some rounds, and the prizes you could possibly win. She does a fine job, there’s not much else I can say here.
So let’s talk about the various rounds. There’s normal Outburst, ReverseBurst (which gives you a list of items, you have to come up with the category), Sloppy Seconds (both teams play the same category, with the other team trying to come up with the answers team one missed for extra points), Challenge Clock (Come up with five answers in the shortest amount of time) Shout Burst (rapid-fire multiple choice questions based on a specific category), and finally, Mondo Burst (same as regular Outburst with a seemingly infinite number of answers). Some of these like ReverseBurst and Sloppy Seconds are interesting twists to the base game – so much so that ReverseBurst is now a round in the regular Outburst board game – whereas Shout Burst is the most blatant knockoff of You Don’t Know Jack out there.
Speaking of Jack, remember when I said some of these games tried to take the formula of that game and put it in theirs? In Outburst‘s case, it proudly boasts having “adult humor,” and this is very apparent throughout. In addition to having so many jokes with topical humor that’d be better suited for a crappy show on Comedy Central or Adult Swim, we’re given wonderful categories such as “Another way to describe ‘throw up’” or “Foods that give intestinal gas.” Halfway towards the game you’re given commercials for parody products like the Pompeil Pimple Popper, to portmanteaus of various products like “Aqua Velveeta” and “Pupsi;” to mocking various companies of the time period, like how MCI will call you even while you’re eating dinner, or how AOL’s services don’t work. Despite touting “adult humor,” a lot of the game’s humor, from Stack’s jokes to the categories, even the manual, are more juvenile than anything. Then again, You Don’t Know Jack has about the same level of humor as Outburst, but Jack did it tactfully. In Outburst‘s case, their best jokes are referencing Pamela Anderson for a category titled “U.S. Attractions.”
This is just a sampling of the many prizes you could win. Full of simple jokes, portmanteaus and “topical” humor! (Thankfully you can turn these ads off.)
Despite the dumb humor, Outburst as a game is pretty good. Each round gives a different spin on the Outburst formula, and the game is a blast with multiple people, and that’s really all that matters. Perhaps my sense of humor is a bit too sophisticated, but the game itself is still fun as hell, even 16 years later. If you find a copy, give it a shot. Though, make sure you have loads of friends around, because I doubt the Network mode works in this game anymore.
One last thing: Did you know WayForward Technologies, makers of Shantae and DuckTales Remastered had a hand in this game? What they did I have no idea exactly, but apparently they worked on this. Just thought I’d let you guys know this dumb fact.