Tagged: Game Show Games

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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Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune: A strange Wheel of Fortune clone for DOS.

Lately I’ve been on a kick of looking at old DOS game show games. There were a lot of official game show games of the 80s, from the greats like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune to lesser-known classics like Now You See It, Fun House and Remote Control. But what I was really interested in were the game show games made by hobby programmers.

I remember seeing this in a Micro Star shareware compilation disc. I wonder if I still have it…

I was looking for Wheel of Fortune clones, but I could only find two. VGAWHEEL (or EGAWHEEL, I’ve seen both names online) is a no-frills version of Wheel that has probably the prettiest wheel made for DOS. Oh, and it has a cute little theme that plays on the PC speaker. Alas, there isn’t much to say about VGAWHEEL, other than Russell Mueller made a pretty good Wheel clone for DOS.

However, the other one I found is most intriguing. This was made by someone with a rather… silly sense of humor.

Man, this guy even had a BBS line! I wonder if there were aliens on it.

Tommy’s Toys was a garage developer who made games “designed by aliens from outer space.” They made a lot of games throughout the ’80s and ’90s. We’re talking about hundreds of them released over ten years.  Tommy’s Toys pretty much disappeared by the time Windows became super popular, and the designer stopped making games to write books. At least that’s what Mobygames tells me, anyway.

You know it’s a DOS classic when you see that smiley face in there.

The reason I mention this developer is because they ended up making their own spin on Wheel of Fortune. Made during the peak of “I’m a Wheel Watcher” mania, Tommy’s Toys brings from “outer space” clone called Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune. So let’s dive into this alien-made Wheel of Fortune clone, shall we?

Off the bat, there are a few changes from the classic game show. You can have anywhere from 2-6 players, more than the three from the actual show. The manual states you can play against the computer but I’m not sure how. After that, it’s standard Wheel of Fortune, except with a few twists.

Now that I think about it, this reminds me more of another game show…

You can see that the Wheel is not a fixed pattern. It has the common Bankrupt, Lose a Turn and Free Spin spaces that you’d associate with Wheel of Fortune, but they’re shuffled around the board at random each round, making the wheel more devious at times.In a sense, it feels like a hybrid between Wheel of Fortune and the other notable luck-driven game show, Press Your Luck. Thankfully there’s no sign of the whammies anywhere.

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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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