Category: Game Show a Go Go

TRL Trivia, where You Don’t Know Jack meets MTV.

Let’s talk about MTV. Go ahead, make the “Remember when they used to play music videos?” jokes, get it out of your system. Despite that, MTV was a cultural revolution back in its 80s and 90s heyday. Seeing lots of quirky music videos, then it slowly started expanding to general purpose music programming, such as Beavis and Butt-head and game shows like Remote Control. Eventually MTV’s various TV shows eventually got video games of their own in varying levels of quality, most of them bad.

Remote Control the game show is awesome. Remote Control the video game, however, is not.

Remote Control the game show is awesome. Remote Control the video game, however, is not.

As we entered the internet age, music videos became infrequent, and we were subject to various shows like Celebrity Deathmatch, punk’d, and Jackass. These shows went further and further past the original “Music Television” concept and ended up being more about general pop culture than anything. Nowadays we’re subjected to reality shows involving teen moms and people from the Jersey Shore, with maybe some music videos in the middle of the night. But let’s forget about today, and travel back to the year 2001, when times were much simpler, and it was more about the music.

Total Request Live, or trl for short, was a show that was part music videos, part talk show, and part “random teenagers screaming over the music video telling us how this Christina Aguilera song is their favorite song of all time.” It lasted several years on MTV before finally ending in 2008, which is surprising considering the state of the network at that point. TRL was where Carson Daly got his start, which eventually lead to him hosting a podunk late night talk show on NBC that no one watched unless they fell asleep after The Tonight Show and forgot to turn the TV off.

In 2001, publisher Take Two Interactive decided to cut a deal with MTV and make a game based on trl for the PC audience. Enter TRL Trivia. (or as it’s stylized on the box: MTV trl trivia.) I’ll give you three guesses which game this is meant to be like.

If you guessed this game would be a You Don't Know Jack clone, congratulations, you win this old HitClips thing I found in my bedroom. Enjoy the terrible sounds of *NSYNC's It's Gonna Be Me.

I worry about the lady on the outside building on this cover. At least it resembles what the TV show probably was back then.

This game holds a silly memory with me. I saw this game at a Big Lots many many years ago. It was always found in the discount bin with copies of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men and Tiger Woods PGA Tour: The DVD Game. I saw it go from $10, to $5, to $3, and eventually down to $1. Despite seeing it at the same damn Big Lots for years, stupid me didn’t buy it.

Eventually that Big Lots got renovated, and that game disappeared from the bargain bin. Either somebody actually bought it, or it finally went straight into the dumpster. Eventually I found two (!) copies at a family thrift store nearby from that Big Lots. I’m going to pretend the copy I bought is the same one from that Big Lots of years past, but it probably came from a different place that had also thrown it out because nobody wanted it.

TRL Trivia was developed by Hypnotix. Outside of satire games like Deer Avenger, Outlaw Golf, and Panty Raider: From Here to Immaturity, they’re not known for making anything straightforward like a trivia game, unless you count their adaptations of stuff like The $100,000 Pyramid. Knowing what I found out, having them do a trivia game is weird considering what else they’ve done, but let’s see how they handled it.

A typical question on TRL Trivia. I actually got this one right!

A typical question on TRL Trivia. I actually got this one right!

Sadly, our host is not Carson Daly, but instead a guy named Brian McFayden. It’s a bad sign when your host is only known as an MTV VJ and a small time news anchor. He also looks like an *NSYNC reject on the back of the box, but considering the time period, I’ll let that slide. However, McFayden isn’t hosting this alone, we get questions handled by Dana Fuchs, which is probably not the same Dana Fuchs who sung in Across the Universe, but I’m not 100% certain. All McFayden does is praise the contestants for getting multiple right answers, chide the contestants on wrong answers, and call the contestants strange nicknames like “Friend 4.” He does a passable job in this case.

This makes me wanna play Tic Tac Dough instead.

This makes me wanna play Tic Tac Dough instead.

So TRL Trivia is a blatant You Don’t Know Jack knockoff. Two of the rounds are based on the traditional Jack format of multiple choice questions, and the Speed Round is their take on the Jack Attack. But there are unique rounds in TRL Trivia. At least, as “unique” as you could make a trivia game anyway. There’s a Timeline round where you arrange the answers in a proper order (such as “Arrange these movies from oldest to newest”), and a Guess Who round that’s like multiple choice, but gives you four clues instead of a question.

You choose one of 6 or 9 categories and play five questions at 500-2,000 points each, which are usually based on boy bands, movies, pop culture, other facts and miscellanea circa 2001. Hope you’re familiar with 98 Degrees, O-Town, and Almost Famous, otherwise you’re not gonna do very well here.

Guess Who is kind of different take on the quiz, but it’s still the same. In fact, this is probably ripping off something from You Don’t Know Jack too.

Another big change is that TRL Trivia supports up to four players compared to Jack‘s three. Problem is the buzz-in keys are now Z, M, the up arrow, and NumPad + keys, which is cumbersome compared to the common Q-B-P setup that You Don’t Know Jack used. I guess they didn’t want people huddled up so close to the keyboard.

Instead of “screwing” your opponents to answer a question, the bonus options for you are resetting the clock, passing on the question, or asking for a new question. Like in Jack, you only get one of each. The only remotely useful one is the new question, the time extension doesn’t help unless you just can’t think of an answer, and you’d only use the pass if you buzzed in by accident, making it pretty useless.

The key of what made the screw an interesting choice in You Don’t Know Jack was to challenge a friend who might not know the answer. Since all of the helpers in TRL Trivia help you rather than challenge an opponent, it feels a lot less ruthless and a bit more banal.

The other interesting game mode, Timeline. Remember these bands? It’s the worst kind of nostalgia here.

Besides that, there isn’t a whole lot to say about this. At one point you could submit questions to a site for a possible expansion, but I see nothing about said expansion ever being released, so I can safely say it was canceled. The only other thing I could talk about is how the disc comes with a demo for Tropico that’s prominently advertised in the installer. Oh, and the wonderfully rendered 3D recreation of the TRL set.

Man, what is with me and writing about games with cheesy-looking 3D graphics lately?

Man, what is with me and writing about games with cheesy-looking 3D graphics lately?

TRL Trivia is a late ’90s-early 2000s era pop culture trivia game. Not really as funny as You Don’t Know Jack, and the subject matter wouldn’t be interesting to teens, nor people my age. It’s average, and all it made me wanna do is play You Don’

YEAAAAAAAAAH DIS IS BOBBY! I LOVE THEM HYPNOMIX GUYS! I CHOSE TRL TRIVIA BECAUSE IT'S A TRIVIA BOOOOOOOOOOOOOMB! HOLLA FROM MY P-TOWN HOMIES! PEACE!

YEAAAAAAAAAH DIS IS BOBBY! I LOVE THEM HYPNOMIX GUYS! I CHOSE TRL TRIVIA BECAUSE IT’S A TRIVIA BOOOOOOOOOOOOOMB! HOLLA FROM MY P-TOWN HOMIES! PEACE!

Outburst: A board game changed to a game show.

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.

I always wondered what those circles meant to convey…

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.

This is probably the best Monopoly video game in existance. And it was made by Westwood Studios. Yes, the Command & Conquer guys.

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.

I actually scanned this in myself as there’s no good quality images of this on the internet that weren’t like 200×200 or something ridiculously small.

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.

A sample round of play. Clearly I wasn’t thinking like the writers of this game were.

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.

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Game Show Themes vs. Their NES Counterparts.

Woflogocomparison

Okay, it doesn’t fit one-to-one, but you get what I’m going with this, right?

There’s two things that I love fondly that I grew up with: Video games (natch), and game shows. I’m not exactly sure what gravitated me towards game shows: Could be the flashy sets, the catchy themes, the thought of people winning $25,000 in mere seconds; but whatever it was, I was hooked. I still enjoy the classic game show every now and then, even though my interest in the genre has waned in recent years.

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The rare sunburst logo. The common white and blue logo wouldn’t show up ’til the 1990s.

Since I like game shows and video games, having the two come together sounds amazing. It’s my version of a peanut butter cup. There were a whole bunch of them on the ol’ NES, almost all of them published by GameTek, a US-based software company. I think the game show games were their only hallmark, though they did publish games like Frontier: Elite II and Corridor 7: Alien Invasion, as well as working on publishing Robotech: Crystal Dreams before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1999. There were some NES game show games published by other companies, such as Hi-Tech Expressions, but the less said about those games, the better.

Now, there’s a fair share of game show games on the NES by GameTek, including four different editions of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, as well as Double Dare, Hollywood Squares and many others. What most people don’t know is that some of these were developed by Rare. Yes, that Rare. Donkey Kong Country Rare. Banjo-Kazooie Rare. Kinect Sports Rare. For those who don’t find that as surprising as I do, Rare is a games company based in Twycross, England. All the game show adaptions that they had made weren’t as well known on British TV at the time, so to have a company based in England to do American TV game show video games is funny. I would assume the production companies would send them episodes of the show as well as the rules of the game so they understand what they’re trying to make.

David Wise is one of my favorite European composers, next to Tim Follin, Richard Jacques, and Simon Viklund. You could consider this post part of the “David Wise Appreciation Station,” if really you want to.

Since Rare was a small skeleton crew throughout the ’80s, they only had one composer: Dave Wise (pictured). Wise pretty much composed all of Rare’s games solo up until the early ’90s, and seeing him try to recreate some of game show’s iconic themes on the NES sound chip sounds intriguing. Let’s see how well he did on each of them…

Jeopardy! (also includes Jeopardy! Junior Edition and Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition)

Guys, the globe goes *behind* the logo, not under it!

The NES version:

COMPARED TO: 

“Think!”, Jeopardy!‘s theme from 1984-1991 (originally composed by Merv Griffin):

There really isn’t much to say about Jeopardy! as a show. Surprisingly, there were several NES adaptations by Gametek, with new editions out about a year apart from each other.

The theme to Jeopardy! is undeniably the most well-known and iconic game show theme. Merv Griffin’s little think tune eventually became the show’s hallmark theme since the show’s revival with Alex Trebek. Being one of the earliest Rare/GameTek collaborations, this is probably one of the closest. However, the intro – used during the contestant selection in the game – goes up three keys rather than two like the actual theme does.

Mutant David Letterman faces off against two random ladies in this exciting game of Jeopardy!

The rest of the game has random little ditties that play throughout, and none of them resemble cues from the show. The theme is the closest they get, and it’s surprisingly passable.

Now who ever seen a kid with a beard? Especially on Jeopardy! of all shows…

The two later releases of Jeopardy! by Rare, 1989’s Junior Edition, and 1990’s 25th Anniversary Edition, have the same exact music. 25th Anniversary adds a little ditty during the copyright screen, which would also appear in Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition.

There really isn’t much difference between the three editions besides new clues — the Junior Edition might be even harder than the other editions unless you know a lot of 50s-60s stuff — even the 25th Anniversary edition recycles the contestant sprites from Junior Edition, except giving one of the kid models a mirror-universe beard for some reason.

These are alright versions of Jeopardy!, especially by 80s standards. You could do much worse.

Wheel of Fortune (also includes Wheel of Fortune Junior Edition)

This title screen looks so… plain, even by late 80s standards.

The NES version:

 COMPARED TO:

“Changing Keys,” Wheel of Fortune‘s theme from 1983-1989, originally composed by Merv Griffin:

While Jeopardy! is a fairly straightforward game, Wheel of Fortune is a bit more elaborate. Spin a wheel and play hangman, and try to win cash. The 3 (!) versions GameTek released are identical in every way, and are particularly backwards by not having prizes on the wheel, the top dollar value never going higher than $1,000, that sort of thing. Otherwise the game’s pretty spot on to the nighttime “playing for cash” format that started becoming the show’s standard by that point. (Sorry, no shopping for ceramic dalmatians here.)

Welcome to the *WHEEL VORTEX*. Don’t ask what the Boo and Moo spaces are.

Wheel’s theme was another Merv Griffin-composed tune called “Changing Keys,” which was made to replace the original theme composed by Alan Thicke when the show entered syndication in 1983. The theme was arranged a few times over the years by Griffin and later Steve Kaplan, before being completely replaced with a Kaplan composed tune in the early 2000s. A shame, as the later themes are rather generic-sounding.

This is where most of the action takes place. Rather simple looking these days.

In the NES game, Wise opted to use the bridge that played during the show’s credits as the theme, rather than the introduction that was associated with the show at that point. It’s only something the game show diehards like me would notice, but it’s close enough to the main theme that it’s not a bother. Plus you’re likely only gonna hear a few seconds of this before you go into the game itself anyway.

Like Jeopardy!, Wheel had two additional releases done by Rare: Junior Edition in 1989 and Family Edition in 1990. Oddly, Family Edition completely changes all the music to completely original compositions such as this:

It sounds okay, but for a Wheel of Fortune game to lack the famous theme song is a strange omission, especially since the show had still had Changing Keys as its theme by the time Family Edition was released. Maybe this was music for an unfinished Rare game that they didn’t want to go unused? It definitely matches the sound of later Rare NES titles like Cobra Triangle and Battletoads

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