Sometimes when you’re like me, sifting through thrift stores and finding unusual stuff, you sometimes find things you remember hearing existed, but didn’t know if it was real.
I’ve written about game show games in the past, from portables to knockoffs. I try my best to keep up with the current game show-related merchandise, and that includes games. Yet, this was one I wasn’t expecting to find.
Concentration: The Classic Game of Mix and Match, based off Concentration, a show you might’ve heard of if you’re as old as I am, or know a lot about game shows like I do. Developed by casual game developers Freeze Tag and published by Mumbojumbo, this came out around 2007 for PCs, and is something I honestly forgot existed until I picked this up and talked about it on a recent post.
For those who never saw the game show, I’ll give a brief explanation since there are better places that explain the show in more detail: Concentration was a game show that aired on television throughout the 1950s all the way until the early ‘90s. It first aired on NBC from 1958 until 1973, being a daytime staple for the network. After being canceled, the show was revived two times: Once as a syndicated show from 1973-1978, and once more back on NBC from 1987-1991; this time under the name Classic Concentration and famously hosted by Alex Trebek. Classic’s last new episodes aired in 1991, but it aired in reruns until 1993.
A combination of the board game Memory with rebus puzzles, players tried to find matches to earn prizes and eventually win them by solving the mystery rebus puzzle beneath. There were changes and rule adjustments throughout the 35 years the show was on the air, but that’s the general gist of the game.
So why I am surprised this exists? Well, Concentration is slowly becoming one of those shows forgotten by the general populace.
The last time it aired anywhere in the US was in 1993, when NBC reran Classic Concentration. Unlike other classic game shows, it never reran on USA Network’s game show block, or even on Game Show Network. This is because NBC bought the rights to Concentration back in 1958 from Barry-Enright Productions, a TV company who was a part of the big quiz show scandals at the time. Even though the later revivals were produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman’s production company – producers of Match Game, Family Feud, and The Price Is Right – the show was still owned by NBC. Presumably NBC was asking too much for rerun rights, hence why the only places you can watch Concentration is YouTube videos of old VHS recordings.
(Update: It seems pigs are flying and what was the impossible is now possible, as Buzzr, Fremantle’s game show channel, is now airing both the 1970s Concentration with Jack Narz and Classic Concentration on their network daily. I’ve kept the out-of-date information just so people know what it was like before those two shows got a new life.)
Through various acquisitions and mergers over the past sixty years, Concentration is now pretty much under the arm of NBCUniversal. Make a note of this, as it will come up later.
Now that I’ve given the refresher course about the show, let’s talk about this game, shall we?
Despite being just called Concentration, the game itself is based on Classic Concentration. There are 25 numbered squares holding prizes, a handful of Wild Cards (which can match any prize on the board), and TAKE! cards to steal a prize from your opponent. The game is simple: Use the mouse to click on a square to reveal a prize, then try to find the matching pair (or a Wild Card). A successful match earns the prize, and reveals two pieces of the puzzle underneath. The player can either take a guess at the puzzle, or pick two more pieces and hope they match.
If there’s no match, the other player (or a computer player if you’re riding solo) tries to match a pair. This continues until a player correctly guesses the puzzle, getting the prizes they won. Solve two puzzles to become the champion.
The game itself is fairly simple, trying to find the matching pairs is good test of short-term memory, and figuring out the rebus puzzle can be difficult if you get stumbled on a visual clue. There really isn’t a lot to say about the game, though it’s one of the better “interactive” game shows, next to Wheel of Fortune and The $25,000 Pyramid.
Naturally since this is a casual game, the presentation is a bit lacking. Not a lot of flashy animations, there’s a static image of just the board and not much else, even the “host” sounds a bit bored in spots. He ain’t no Jack Narz or Alex Trebek, that’s for sure.
Though once a player solves two puzzles, that’s not all. They get an opportunity to win a fabulous new car. This is identical to Classic Concentration’s bonus round: A player must match seven matching pairs of cars in 35 seconds. If they match all seven, the last car they matched is the car they win. On Classic Concentration, there were eight fabulous cars, but only “15 numbered squares” as Trebek would say, leaving the case for a lone car that had no matching pair.
The game surprisingly keeps this, but instead of it being an actual car, it’s a gimmick prize like roller skates, a tricycle, and even a donkey. This actually makes the bonus round easier than on the show: since there’s only one of those, it’s easier to ignore and find the other pairs. It’s also a (likely unintentional) throwback to the original NBC show, which had gimmick prizes like “An Old Shoe” and “A Mangy Mutt” in the main game.
After this, you can play again, or quit out. There’s not a lot else to this game, there’s no career mode, and there’s a high scores board so you too can be the Concentration master.
So here’s what I found interesting. This game has product placement. Players can win trips to Universal Studios, even GE appliances. This makes sense considering those are owned by Universal, but it’s even more surprising that the cars in the bonus round are real cars and not fake ones.
Ford is the most prominent sponsor, with Ford and Lincoln cars being the most common vehicles, including the now-defunct Mercury division. Even some of Ford’s subsidiaries at the time like Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar are potential prizes. Yet there’s only one non-Ford brand here, and that’s Mazda with three whopping cars. For them to even bother getting the car sponsorship is surprising to me.
The only other things of note is how it even has the iconic beepy door sound from Classic Concentration, despite the rest being stock sound effects. Even the music is a loose recreation of Classic Concentration’s theme – presumably because licensing the theme from Score Productions would’ve been too expensive for this low-budget endeavor.
Surprisingly, this is not Concentration’s first video game rodeo: Sharedata made a handful of computer adaptations of Classic Concentration when the show was new, and it even got an NES game published by Gametek. Sharedata was one of many companies alongside Hi-Tech Expressions and Box Office Software that capitalized on making game show games for home computers.
I figure the only reason Concentration got a computer game in 2007 was because publisher Mumbojumbo had gotten rights to adapt some of NBCUniversal’s properties into “Premium Casual Games,” which only brought out one other game adaptation: a Diner Dash clone based on The Office. Ah, simpler times when you’d just knockoff an existing idea and slap a TV show license over it. Nowadays a video game based on The Office would be a six-episode Telltale Games series.
For being such a simple game show, Freeze Tag and Mumbojumbo actually put out a surprisingly good adaptation. It’s not perfect, and it’s fairly simplistic-looking, but this is one I’d consider getting if you have even a passing interest in game show video games. It’s certainly the most notable thing called Concentration in recent years, anyway.
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