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 about combining them together and making an article series about game show video games. Because what better thing there is to write about than the 20 different versions of Jeopardy! that I own.
I’m gonna call this series “Game Show a Go Go.” Because I like how it rhymes. While this will cover a bunch of game show adaptations, I won’t cover video game adaptions of game shows exclusively. While there’s a bunch of game show adaptations, there are also video games that try to simulate the feel and entertainment of a game show, and I’ll cover those as well. Such as this entry, which took a simple little board game made it into something bigger.
Let’s jump back to 1995. Hasbro, wanting to get in on the burgeoning video game market, formed Hasbro Interactive. Most of their output was games based on their various board game properties, including Monopoly and Scrabble. Some of these were actually pretty good, others were fairly forgettable, thrown to the world of PC gaming obscurity.
In the late 1990s, they basically became the new company to make 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, and now they basically are whatever is left of Atari these days. Hasbro the company would eventually get the rights back to license their board games to other companies, including EA and Ubisoft.
Now we move onto to 1998. Jellyvision’s (now Jackbox Games) You Don’t Know Jack was immensely popular, being one of the biggest PC games throughout most of the mid-90s. Naturally any Tom, Dick and Harry game publisher saw what Jack was doing and wanted in on that money by making You Don’t Know Jack-likes for the PC market. In some cases, 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” of Jack and make an original own game show-like game. This game did the latter, and did it by using a mostly-dormant board game franchise.
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 and Star Wars games every two years, CyberDice was a development studio that only made a handful of party games under the parent company of Hersch and Company, the company that actually owns the Outburst brand. From the brief research I did online, the only other game these developers are credited for is Super Scattergories. I’m going to hazard a guess the developer folded shortly after the dot-com bubble burst.
Though, they’re not the only developers involved: Engineering Animation Inc (EAI), who likely handled some of the CG animation, and surprisingly, a pre-Shantae Wayforward. I can’t tell you exactly what they did as there’s only credits for the publisher and some of the production staff, but they are mentioned in the manual, and founder Voldi Way is given a special thanks credit. In a sense, we’re finding out that developer’s humble beginnings is no different than they are now: Adapting some of the biggest properties into video games.
Outburst the computer game is basically formed 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 you can within the time limit. After some rounds, you can earn bonus points by having the randomizer hit an answer you gave. The team with the most points 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 later Jay Leno era of 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, where he will berate contestants for frequently giving wrong answers or having a rather poor performance during gameplay, and gives pretty groan-worthy one liners on most of the answers.
He’s much like many 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, That Lani Minella. The same person who voiced such characters as Ivy Valentine, Rouge the Bat, Nancy Drew, and hundreds of other video game characters doubles as our announcer. Well, at least it’s not Jen Taylor. Minella’s role is giving you the answers you missed, giving clues in some rounds, and some the prizes you could possibly win. She does a fine job, and fits a bit better here than Stack does.
The game’s seven rounds are split up as such: There’s normal Outburst, which is self explanatory. The rest are variants on the same theme, such as ReverseBurst requiring you to find the category through the clues, or Sloppy Seconds, where both teams play the same category, where the other team must fill in the answers the first team missed. Every game ends with Mondo Burst, which is similar to the standard Outburst, but with a seemingly infinite number of answers.
Some of these like ReverseBurst and the rather gross sounding 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.
Remember when I said some of these games tried to take the formula of You Don’t Know Jack and put it in their game?In addition to basically having a poor man’s Jack in the Shout Burst round, they opted for the other thing You Don’t Know Jack was known for: The rather crude humor.
Outburst‘s box boasts that it has “adult humor (and rude noises, too!)” 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 FX, 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 silly product portmanteaus like Aqua Velveeta and Pupsi, to mocking various companies of the time period, like MCI and AOL. According to this game, the best “jokes” are referencing Pamela Anderson for a category titled “U.S. Attractions,” and a fair share of rather gross sexism that is pretty gross about 20+ years later.
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 without having to get to making sexism jokes. Thankfully these fake ads can be turned off, and I recommend that because these are more of a miss than a hit.
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 today. I wouldn’t mind a successor that was trying to be a bit more silly and less like something that would’ve aired on Spike TV in the mid-2000s, but you take what you can get, honestly.
Perhaps one day I’ll look into some of the other Hasbro Interactive PC games based on board games, because some of them relied on being like game shows, like Pictionary. This stuff is not covered much online, which is a shame because the whole “party game” fad of the mid-to-late ’90s is fascinating stuff. Hopefully there’s fewer jokes about the WNBA.
Updated 7/13/2020 to clarify a bunch of info, and to bring this article to a better standard.