Category: Game Show a Go Go

High Rollers: A DOS game of CGA high stakes.

When it comes to video games based on existing TV shows, game show video games rarely ever get talked about. If they do, they’re often relegated to brief blurbs with ridiculous arguments like “why play this when I could watch the show?”, missing the whole point.

There’s been several dozen versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune – most recently for the Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – with Family Feud not too far behind. There’s been a handful of games based on The Price is Right, Deal or No Deal and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Speaking of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, I’ve actually written about some Jeopardy! games, such as the Game Boy/Game Gear installments, as well as Talking Super Jeopardy! on the NES. Surprisingly, when it comes to Wheel, so far I’ve covered only a knockoff: Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune. Give those a read if you wanna see more game show-related stuff.

But then there’s shows that somehow got 1-2 games, despite not being that well-known. Now You See It, Win Lose or Draw, Fun House… Even 1 vs. 100 got a few games, which as time went on has been remembered more for being an interactive Xbox Live experience more than being an Actual Game Show.

One of these lesser-known game shows that got the video game treatment is High Rollers.

I’m more a fan of Hair Rollers, myself…

High Rollers had a few runs over the years: Fairly popular runs from 1974-76 and 1978-80 with a pre-Jeopardy! Alex Trebek, and a short-lived revival from 1987-88 with Wink Martindale. Created by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley, who had done similar gambling-like game shows such as Gambit. Oh, and a little-known show called Hollywood Squares.

While there are more comprehensive places on the internet that’ll cover all the rules, the game basically goes like this: Two players compete to answer questions to roll a pair of dice, and knock numbers off – one each of 1 through 9 – to win prizes while avoid getting a bad roll. Winner of the match plays the Big Numbers – where there’s no questions, only dice rolls – for a chance at $10,000 big ones. It’s basically the classic board game Shut the Box but with gambling and quiz show elements.

For being called “Box Office,” they weren’t a big success.

Box Office, a budget publisher of computer games, developed and released this game. They didn’t do very many computer games, the only other standout games are A Personal Nightmare, a horror game featuring Elvira; and games based on ALF, The $100,000 Pyramid and, surprisingly, Psycho. Lord knows how making one of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic films into a video game even works, but that’s not the weirdest “movie into a video game” I’ve ever seen.

Wink looks a bit… concerned here.

There are multiple versions of the game, but for the sake of this article I’m covering the DOS version. You’ll see why in a moment.

After being flooded with a litany of PC Speaker sound effects at the main menu, the visage of host Wink Martindale appears, in all his CGA glory. His smiling mug is on the box and in all versions of the game, but the DOS version here has the best one because of the CGA color scheme. This is the only time you’ll see Wink, as you only see his back during actual gameplay. After seeing a very plaintext menu option,  you’re whisked away to start buzzing in and rolling dice.

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Concentration: A casual adaptation of a classic game show.

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.

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Welcome to the Concentration Hellzone, human.

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.

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A sample board, from the later 1970s revival.

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.

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From Classic Concentration, a player found a red TAKE! and a Wild Card, giving them an opportunity to steal an opponent’s prize.

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. For historical purposes, I’ve kept the out-of-date information for historical purposes.)

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?

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It certainly looks pretty… simple. The logo looks better than other ones I’ve seen for this game, though…

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Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku: I’d like 3 big ones…

Over the many years I’ve been collecting games, I’ve always found particularly unusual game show games. Besides the common Jellyvision/Jackbox collective, I’ve found stuff like Outburst, a board game that decided to become a poor man’s You Don’t Know Jack; Another Jack clone that was endorsed by MTV’s TRL, the list goes on. I even have Pat Sajak’s Lucky Letters, which makes me one of the 34 people who bought a physical copy, and that’s also worth talking about. But this one’s a bit different. It comes from across the pond, and features one of the most notable fads of the mid-2000s…

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I wonder if us Americans thought Carol Vorderman was like Mavis Beacon.

It’s Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku. A somewhat obscure Sudoku game, this came out courtesy of Secret Stash Games, a weird Eidos Interactive imprint. Though Empire Interactive is also credited on the box and in the game itself, which mostly published games in the UK (and were the original distributor there, presumably).

So you’re probably asking: Who the heck is Carol Vorderman, and why is she endorsing a Sudoku game? I’m going to assume the people reading this post are not from Britain and/or game show nuts, so I’ll give the skinny on who she is: Carol Vorderman is a long-standing television host, being the co-host for a British game show called Countdown.

Countdown is a fairly simple game show where players either try to come up with the longest word from a semi-random pick of letters, or solve a mathematics puzzle by hitting a target number with six randomly chosen set of numbers.

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Carol solving a particularly devious numbers round.

Vorderman was well known especially for the latter, sometimes getting solutions to the math problems that even the players couldn’t figure out. She was on the show for a very long time, from the show’s early beginnings until 2012. She’s almost like Britain’s Vanna White, but does more than touch screens and clap all day.

As for Sudoku, it’s a little more complex. A long standing game that got an unusual resurgence around the mid 2000s, the game involves placing the numbers 1 through 9 on a 9×9 grid split into 3×3 subgrids. The goal is to make it so each row, column, and subgrid have one of each number without any duplicates. It’s a nice mental puzzle that gained traction in unusual ways, and it’s one of the mini-games in Nintendo’s then-popular Brain Age games. It’s certainly more enjoyable than Jumble or Crossword puzzles, anyway.

Presumably this was made for a pittance, since this was around the time Phoenix Games were churning out sub-par budget games in the UK, so this likely got tossed in that same pile. Though in my case I only paid a few bucks for it at a gaming convention, so it’s no big loss.

So here’s the first problem I have with this game. Carol Vorderman doesn’t have the name recognition that someone like Gordon Ramsay or James Corden has outside their native England. Had I not told you who Carol Vorderman was, you would probably assume she was a fictitious entity like Mavis Beacon.

But I assure you, she’s a real person who endorsed a Sudoku game, and for some reason somebody thought it was fitting to bring it here without any context of who she is or where she’s from.

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This looks like this was made in like five minutes while the Ui designer was taking a bathroom break.

But enough about what person gets to endorse the sudoku game, let’s get back to the game itself. The version of Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku I’m playing on is the PS2 version. Though it did get a PC release, I couldn’t get it to work on Windows 10. I assume both versions are identical in terms of content, but when it comes to something like Sudoku, you can really only change so much. Continue reading…

Come on Down! It’s the Price is Right Electronic Game!

This post is gonna talk about something that isn’t really a video game. I mean, an electronic toy could be considered a “video game” in the loosest sense, but it’s one of those things that is so cool to me that I can’t help but write about it. Plus it’s game show related, and anyone who follows the blog knows I’m a big game show nut.

While I’ve written about cool board game things I’ve gotten over the years, such as the Pocket Player Trivial Pursuit, Pac-Man side games published during Pac-Man Fever, even the first Pokemon-themed Monopoly, I think this fits.

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It’s so weird seeing the familiar pudgy Drew Carey nowadays. Even these days he seems a bit slimmer than how he used to be.

It’s the fabulous, less-than-sixty-minute Price is Right electronic game! Released in 2008, this tries to replicate some of the iconic elements of the classic TV game show. This features Drew Carey on the cover, and was released during the “growing pains” period when Drew took over the show after Bob Barker’s retirement.

While there were some good moments during those first few years, Drew was still trying to find his footing, especially after taking over a show hosted by a television legend. Disappointingly, his voice isn’t in the game, he’s just on the box art.

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The device in all its tiny glory.

This particular one is produced by Irwin Toy, a company that’s been around for a long time and seems to still be kicking around making stuff. They’re not as big as Hasbro, but they’re certainly not dead, compared to Tiger Electronics. They’re kind of one of the B-tier toy companies.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the first electronic game based on The Price is Right. The first one was made by the infamous Tiger Electronics, makers of quality LCD games. While it wasn’t inherently bad, it did try to follow the formula their previous LCD game show games did, but now with lots of unnecessary cards that made it a lot less convenient for the format. Made it a pain to play if you were traveling, that’s for sure.

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Cards, cards and more cards! Try not to lose them.

Up to four players can play in this version of The Price is Right. The electronic game plays like a loose version of the TV show. You input the 3-digit code for each prize or game, and the game goes from there. Cards with a green border are used as item up for bids on Contestants Row. Cards with a blue border are for the pricing games. Finally, cards with a red border are saved for the exciting Price is Right Showcases at the end of the show. Continue reading…

Super Jeopardy! for the NES: Just as fun as the real show!

Game show video games are still one of many genres I’m fascinated by. While Jackbox Games are still plugging away with twice-yearly Jackbox Party Packs, the competition has mostly dried up. Hell, we haven’t had a proper Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! game since the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. (No, those crappy freemium mobile apps don’t count.)

So I tend to go back to the glory days, when GameTek was still around making loads of these games as probably their #1 source of income. I already covered the Game Boy and Game Gear versions of Jeopardy! in the past, and thought, might as well come back to the well once again.

Surprisingly, for the NES, there were four versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune on the system. It honestly would’ve done fine with just two, but it must’ve been a huge cash cow for them to keep making. Either that or being given away as consolation prizes on the show gave them a good reason to do the equivalent of a “roster update” for those games.

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This time, I’m covering a fairly obscure one from the Jeopardy! collection: Super Jeopardy!. Released around 1991, this was based off of the fairly short-lived version that actually aired on primetime TV.

I’m going to assume my audience knows Jeopardy! the game show (here’s the Wikipedia page if you don’t), so I’ll talk about what Super Jeopardy! was.

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The Super logo for this super special.

Super Jeopardy! was a 13-week special Tournament of Champions featuring the best players of the current version of the show at the time (plus one champion from the Art Fleming era because the first Tournament of Champions winner passed away) playing for a whopping $250,000. Instead of playing for cash, they were playing for points in the main games.

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4 player Jeopardy! sounds rather chaotic.

Oh, and the quarterfinals featured an unprecedented 4 contestants playing. Wowzers!

In reality, this was only made as a complementary show for Merv Griffin’s other show, Monopoly, based on the board game. Both shows didn’t last long, because they aired on a Saturday evening on ABC. Saturday is basically the kiss of death for anything on American television, so it along with Monopoly were in-and-done after 13 weeks. Though I bet had Monopoly lasted another season, maybe we would’ve gotten a season of Super Wheel of Fortune or something else instead.

Gametek made two Super Jeopardy! video games. One of which is on the PC, and I almost considered that version, but this video proved me otherwise.

CONTENT WARNING: THE VIDEO FEATURES EXTREMELY LOUD, NOISY PC SOUND, LIKELY DUE TO BAD EMULATION. MAKE SURE YOU TURN YOUR VOLUME DOWN (OR MUTE THE VIDEO) BEFORE PLAYING. I WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR BLOWN SPEAKERS OR DAMAGED EARDRUMS.

So instead, I’ll play the “Talking” NES release. This, along with a Wheel of Fortune game featuring 8-bit Vanna White, were the first Gametek game show games on the NES not developed by Rare, so it’ll be an interesting experience compared to those.

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I’d say he looks more like Christopher McDonald than Alex Trebek.

First off, no Alex Trebek. We wouldn’t see him until the SNES and Genesis era, so we’re stuck with a host that looks like a slimy used car salesman than a game show host.

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