Tagged: Game Shows

Game Show Themes vs. Their NES Counterparts Volume 2: GameTek’s leftovers.

Several years ago, I did a post where I compared game show themes to their NES counterparts. It was one of the more unique posts I’ve done, and I teased about making another part sometime. Well, that time is now.

Like part one, we’re sticking with GameTek’s output. This was originally gonna cover the rest of the NES games, but it would’ve been a bit unwieldy compared to the last one, so I trimmed it down considerably.

The earliest game show games published by GameTek were developed by Rare, as it was likely cheaper to get a contract developer to make your adaptation compared to doing it in-house. By 1990, Rare had moved on to other projects with other publishers, most notably Milton Bradley and Tradewest. But GameTek was the leader of making game show video games, and naturally they needed to keep publishing games based on hit game shows, thus they soldiered on with a bunch of different game studios tackling the other game show licenses.

This time around, we’ll cover the last few game show games published by GameTek. Two of them are shows we’ve seen on here before, but the remaining three are all new, and have their own unique little tales to each. Let’s get started.

Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White (1992)

That’s one colorful wheel.

The NES version (composed by Barry Leitch):

COMPARED TO:

“Changing Keys,” Wheel of Fortune’s theme from 1989-1992 (composed by Merv Griffin):

Our first game is naturally the biggest. Wheel of Fortune really needs no introduction, though this is the fourth Wheel game on the NES. Though I can understand why they did this, which I’ll explain in our next entry.

This is a downgrade compared to before, even with those ugly avatars.

This one is honestly the best of the bunch. Multiple rounds, actually increasing dollar values, even gets the bonus round right with giving RSTLNE for free. A shame the game looks like… this.

This is a bit complicated. For one, the game is credited on most places (including MobyGames) to be developed by Imagitec Design, a small development studio who did occasional contract work. However, the game shares the graphical style with Talking Super Jeopardy!, which was done by people at Imagineering. If I had to guess, Imagineering is the actual developer, with music contracted out by Imagitec. Or in this case, Imagitec’s sole employee: founder Barry Leitch.

This looks a lot less crowded, which is a bit of an improvement.

Leitch composed the music for this game, and it’s somewhat unusual for an NES game. While the theme is pretty close to the show’s theme – albeit a bit too fast – it eventually segues into this breakdown with a distinct arpeggio sound that reminds me very much of MOD tracker music, or something I’d hear on a Commodore 64.

Even the other incidental cues, one of which is a rendition of the four chimes to introduce a new puzzle, has that distinct arpeggio sound. It sounds a bit unusual for a game based on an American game show.

Though, in reality, this isn’t that weird. This is fairly common for European composers who did music for the NES. Listen to anything from Neil Baldwin, Jeroen Tel or even Tim Follin, and this music would fall right in line. Since Barry Leitch was based in Scotland, it all makes sense.

Leitch would also do the music for the SNES and Genesis adaptations of Wheel of Fortune released in the same year, so imagine this guy having to adapt Merv Griffin’s iconic theme song to three different sound chips. Quite impressive, really.

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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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This! Is! JEOPARDY! On handhelds!

One idea I had during my game show research was to cover most of the notable adaptations of game show games, such as Jeopardy! There’s one problem, though:

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That’s… a lot of Jeopardy.

There are a lot of Jeopardy! games. I mean a lot of them. MobyGames doesn’t even list all of them. Plus for a game as simple as Jeopardy!, there isn’t much to say about each one. So I decided to go smaller. Much smaller.

I kinda loved that starburst GameTek logo more than the more famous blocky logo.

Today, I’m gonna talk about Jeopardy! on the Game Boy. Jeopardy! was one of the few game show games that made it to Nintendo’s greenscale handheld in 1991, alongside Wheel of Fortune. Naturally GameTek published this outing, and it boasted “Over 1,500 new questions!” on the box. Though considering the show they should’ve boasted “1,500 new answers,” but I’m not gonna get too nitpicky here.

They need to bring back that Jeopardy! logo with the needlessly long exclamation point. I think it looks neat.

I remember getting both Jeopardy! and Wheel in a combo pack at Target for about $10 each. This was the mid-90s, and Target was chock full of excess copies, so selling one to a young budding game show/video game nut like me was a treat.

These games got a lot of action during vacation trips, such as the one time I went to a resort cabin with my family and was happily having fun with this, and occasionally Pokemon Red. I mean, before everybody had the internet in their pockets, what else could you do?

But enough reminiscing. This is Jeopardy! on the Game Boy.

We’re off to a rough start where it shows these three options: Play against the computer, go head to head, or use a link cable to go head to head. The problem with the last one is that it’s ultimately pointless. Jeopardy! is not an intense head-to-head game like Tetris or Dr. Mario, and you already have a two players on one system option already in place. It just seems like a feature they slapped onto the box just to say they had it.

Notice that so far I’ve mentioned only two players. Well, here’s why.

No Alex Trebek? Disappointing.

As opposed to allowing three players, like every other Jeopardy! game in existence, this game is two players only. This is baffling, considering it probably wouldn’t be hard to support three players on the handheld. Oh well, let’s move on.

Sadly no Alex Trebek in this version. Nintendo Power once described the host as “Guy Smiley” from Sesame Street, but I’d say he more resembles Mr. Game Show‘s dorkier brother. Also, our intrepid not-Trebek is not at a podium, magically reading all the clues from a single question card, and occasionally teleporting to the board when a Daily Double is chosen. This host certainly has some voodoo magic, and we should be afraid of him at all costs.

Jeopardy (U) [BF]_14

As Trebek would say, “pay attention to the quotes.” This is fairly easy even for a $100 clue.

It handles pretty closely to the TV show, having 30 clues separated between six categories, 1-2 Daily Doubles depending on the round, and Final Jeopardy! is in there mostly intact. Though, I can tell the clues aren’t nearly as refined or polished as the TV show’s. Guess they didn’t want to take material from old episodes for reference, which considering there would’ve been six years of shows to go from would’ve been just fine to me. Continue reading…

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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