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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

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…

Continue reading…

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:

jeopardygames

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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

Game Show Themes vs. Their NES Counterparts.

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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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