Tagged: game show

Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune on the Nintendo 64: GameTek’s last hurrah.

Game show video games are fascinating to me. They’re neat ways to enjoy your favorite shows, it can be good practice for how you’d actually do on the show itself, and it’s interesting to see how they adapt certain game shows to video game form. I never understood why some retro gamers balk at these games, a lot of them seem to miss the point why they’re fun.

If you’ve visited the site before, you’ve probably read a few pieces on me talking about game show games in various ways, from comparing game music versions of iconic game show themes to game show-adjacent games. But if you haven’t, let me make this clear: I like game show video games. And once again, we’re gonna talk about them.

Yes, in this image, it’s deliberately off-center. Don’t ask me why.

For a good chunk of the 80s and 90s, GameTek was the definitive game show game publisher in North America. A subsidiary of IJE Inc, the publisher would license various game show franchises – usually Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, two of the biggest game shows in the USA – and put them out on every platform imaginable. Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, DOS, Windows, you name it, they likely published a game show game on a system you had.

They published other stuff too: They helped publish Frontier: Elite II for instance. Hell, their UK branch helped distributed the work of Capstone, “The Pinnacle of Entertainment Software.” Despite this, they will always be the game show game guys to me.

Unfortunately by the late 1990s, GameTek was struggling, and in December 1997 they had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Some of the projects they were making, like RoboTech: Crystal Dreams, got canceled. But in spite of the bankruptcy, they had one last hurrah, by releasing two games that they were mostly well-known for: game show games based on the one-two punch of one Merv Griffin.

Wheel of Fortune – released around November 1997 – and Jeopardy! – released in February 1998 after Take-Two Interactive acquired GameTek’s assets – are the final two game show adaptations published by GameTek. By this time, GameTek was developing the games in-house, forgoing the early NES/SNES days of having contract developers make the games for them. For a company who had a decade+ of game show games under their belt, having their last games be yet another version of Wheel and Jeopardy! was a sad way to go out.

I remember these games because Nintendo Power had covered both games in different issues of the magazine: Wheel of Fortune in December 1997’s issue, and Jeopardy! in the January 1998 issue, of which I owned. It’s surprising to see these games to get a multi-page spread on the magazine.

“Vanna?” I know that these are probably made months in advance but you couldn’t check to make sure that you’re covering the right game show here, fellas?

Why they decided to dedicate magazine space to these two games is a bit weird to me. I know the Nintendo 64 was struggling for a good while, but to give multiple pages about these games makes me think the system’s library was pretty dire until The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Of course, maybe I’m wrong and they always covered stuff like this.

I’m going into these with the assumption that you know what these shows are and how they play, mostly. If you don’t… well, you might wanna catch up on that first. With that preamble out of the way, let’s give these a shot, shall we?


I kinda liked this logo. But only because using the actual Wheel as part of the logo makes it look cooler to me.

I’ll start by covering the one that came out first: Wheel of Fortune. This was one of the first games I got for the Nintendo 64, alongside stuff like Diddy Kong Racing and Super Mario 64. Me being a game show fan meant naturally I was gonna have this game in my collection.

It’s like I’m talking to Vanna through Zoom.

Much like most Wheel games until around 2010, our “host” is Vanna White, the show’s co-host and letter turner. Or in this case, “letter toucher,” as this was released just as the new modernized puzzle board was revealed, something prominently shown on the cover.

This menu definitely isn’t a looker, that’s for sure…

Like most adaptations, there’s character customization, AI opponent difficulty, even the option to play 3-5 fixed rounds of play, or a “full game” which can go for the maximum six rounds or until the game decides time is up and goes into the Speed-Up portion, complete with Vanna giving the Final Spin of the day.

Wheel‘s core format is fairly simple: A puzzle similar to Hangman is revealed, spin the wheel, land on a dollar amount, call a consonant and hope it’s in the puzzle. Wanna know if a vowel’s in the puzzle? You can buy one for $250. Try not to hit Bankrupt as you’ll lose all your money you’ve earned that round. Highest scorer wins.

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Candy Crush: From mobile game phenomenon to short-lived game show.

As someone who loves the world of game shows, I’m honestly amazed that there haven’t been many game shows based on video games. We have game shows based on board games – Monopoly, Scrabble, Scattergories, stuff like that. We had game shows that used a bunch of video games as its base like Starcade and Nick Arcade (ugh). But rarely one adapted from a single video game.

There’s only been one other attempt to make a video game into a game show, and that was the rather short-lived adaptation of You Don’t Know Jack way back in 2000. Cut to 2017, where a major television network greenlit a game show based on a video game property that, while still big, was well past its prime. And it floundered for nine weeks in primetime.

No “saga”s to be found here.

For a brief period in the summer of 2017, CBS aired a game show based on the hit mobile game franchise Candy Crush Saga. Called simply Candy Crush, it definitely fulfilled my curiosity of “what would a game show based on a popular mobile game be like?” But does it actually work as a game show? Judging by how short-lived it was, the answer is “probably not.” Despite that, I’m still curious about it. I’d seen an episode before when it was still new, but I needed to refresh my memory on whether or not it was any good, or if it deserved to be sent to the trash.

Since this game show is based on a hit mobile game, naturally I had to play a bit of the game show’s inspiration first.

A sample Candy Crush Saga game in action.

Candy Crush Saga, the first in a long-running franchise by King Games, has a fairly simple premise: Using a board of various pieces of candy, one must try to match three of the same kind of piece by swapping two pieces connected to each other. Every level has a goal: hit a score threshold, eliminate a specific number of pieces, etc. Failure to do the challenge gives you the option of either spending gold bars – the game’s premium currency – to get extra turns, or losing a life and starting the level over. Each level introduces new hurdles to the gameplay, and there’s really no end goal, the levels keep going until you get bored or bother to complete them all, of which there’s over 1,000 levels worth.

I’m familiar with match-3 puzzle games – Bejeweled was played many a time in my high school years – but the sickly sweet style of Candy Crush Saga was a bit off-putting to me. It doesn’t help that a lot of the time the game often played itself, where I’d make one move and suddenly set off massive chain reactions for big points. But I understand the game’s addictive appeal, including how friends talked about the progress they made back in the day.

Hearing some guy go “Tasty” when I do big combos is rather offputting, combined with the ’70s looking font being used everywhere.

Fun fact: Until this article, I had never actually played any of the games in the Candy Crush series. Mobile and Facebook games are not something I dabble in too much these days – save for the occasional blog post like the most recent post about Bingo Story’s cross-promotion with The Price Is Right – but I figured it would be wise for me to finally get in on the game just for a better frame of reference on what the show was about. It was alright, but I stopped at around level 147 due to the game constantly losing connection and making it difficult to make progress. I wonder how far my friends ever got.

But enough about Candy Crush the video game. How the ever loving heck do you make a game show out of it? Let’s find out.

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I mean, you’re certainly not getting someone like Todd Newton to host your big money game show.

This show was hosted by actor/TV personality Mario Lopez. Getting a somewhat-notable TV personality to host your game show is the expected for game shows in the modern age, and does surprisingly well despite not having a lot to do. Naturally, there’s a bit of post-production voiceover in spots, but otherwise he seems nice, friendly, and genuinely wanting to be there. He gets a B+ in my book.

Shockingly, this is not Mario’s first foray into game shows, as he hosted the second season of the oft-forgotten, yet fascinating Masters of the Maze in the mid-1990s. Now that’s an interesting kids game show that nobody really remembers.

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Lexi-Cross: A futuristic game show game from the past.

Game show video games are a fascinating genre to me. Often criticized rather poorly by gamers who quite don’t get it, these sort of games are a fun little piece of entertainment for me. Some of the ones I like are straightforward adaptations of Jeopardy!, Concentration and High Rollers. They may have their own quirks, but they’re enjoyable well enough.

I even like the ones that aren’t based on standard TV game shows. I’ve written about ones using licensed properties like Outburst or MTV’s TRL, for example. But the ones I’m most interested by are the ones that aren’t based on any particular property or license, yet are clearly taking a few ideas from contemporary game shows. This one’s no exception.

Sadly, the host is not a female murder-cyborg who looks like a reject from Rise of the Robots. (Cover courtesy of Mobygames.)

Lexi-Cross is one of the rare video games that’s influenced by game shows, but is not based on a game show or an existing non-game show property. Published by Interplay and developed by Platinumware – mostly consisting of ex-Cinemaware employees – this game came out around 1990 and had been mostly forgotten. Unless you’re like me and you roamed Home of the Underdogs.

Yep, much like Blood II: The Chosen, Strife and several other games I’ve written about on this site at this point, that abandonware website rears its head once again. Home of the Underdogs made me aware of this game back in the late ‘90s. Considered a “Top Dog” on the website, given to games that were highly recommended by the site’s curators, combined with its game show sheen, made me incredibly interested in it.

Before finding it on Home of the Underdogs all those years ago, I had played a demo of the game on a Windows 95 machine. Since Windows 95 machines were just a pinch more powerful than 1990-era DOS machines, in rare cases the game would act rather strange, where the game’s “cursor” would act up and get stuck in a loop before crashing. Even when writing about this game for this article, I still worried of that particular bug occurring again, yet it never did in my several playthroughs of this game through DOSBox.

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She’s so… angular. and robotic.

The world of Lexi-Cross takes place in the distant future of 2091, and there isn’t much of a plot to go on. You meet up with a contestant coordinator as you put in your credentials – your name, date of birth, preferred board colors and your home planet. While I decided to be a smelly human being on Earth for these screenshots, there’s nothing stopping you being an alien from any of the other eight planets in the solar system. Afterwards, you’re whisked out of this room, switching to a camera of the game itself.

It’s just like cyberpunk! Except it looks particularly more dated here somehow.

Our host is Chip Ramsey, and for the most part he just interjects once in a while and gives a brief rundown of the game and not much else. I can’t blame you if you forget that he’s there while you’re playing the game. To me, he looks like a cross between a Terminator and one-time Wheel of Fortune host Bob Goen. Considering how Wheel of Fortune was pretty big by 1990, this makes perfect sense. I’ve seen some people compare Chip to Chuck Woolery, but I’m not seeing it. I even made this joke image to prove my theory:

Seriously, I can’t be the only one who sees the resemblance.

There’s even a small robot model named “Robanna,” who doubles as your cursor in-game. This, combined with the host, shows that Platinumware was clearly influenced by the famous game show involving wheels and letters.

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