‘Where am I?’
‘You’re in a room…’
‘Get out, get out…QUICKLY!’
It could signal the opening lines of a horror movie but in reality, hearing these lines repeated frequently as a child brought nothing but joy (and a small amount of embarrassment…) to my youth!
Did any of them ring a bell? I hope so because for the third installment of my throwback to TV glory days, it’s all about spellcasting…
The idea that Joe Bloggs can come in off the street and walk away with a cash prize or a ‘prestigious award’ is very appealing. Game shows are a staple on TV – whether it’s a bog standard quiz or pitting your culinary wits against challenges in Bake Off. However, most of my favourites from growing up had a similar theme: a bit of treasure hunting, puzzles to solve and a physical, sporty task.
So, let’s kick off by going back…waaaay back…
FEEDING PLANTS IN OUTER SPACE
Come with me to the Plant Arg, inhabited by the shape-shifting Argonds (that looked suspiciously like dragons!) I don’t remember much about The Adventure Game as I was very young, but what I do recall was a weird plant that made bizarre noises! It needed feeding with tokens, collected by contestants who had travelled to the Argonds’ home turf.
Aimed at kids, it had some cutting edge effects going on too: the last challenge was a cat and mouse game of direction. Moving around a board, blind, that traversed an ‘open void’ into space, one false move could see you being evaporated by the invisible Vortex. Unless you had some cheese rolls to sling in front of you to see if they got toasted first…
It was edge of the seat stuff, I tell you!
A GAME FOR CLARKE KENT?
Hosted by Gordon Burns and running for almost 20 years, The Krypton Factor was a big hit. The softly spoken presenter was like a kind uncle, who tried to be funny but came off lame, yet everyone loved him!
Much less high brow than University Challenge, I watched it with my Mum (as I did most of these shows) and we taxed our brains, along with the contestants, on challenges for observation, memory, general knowledge and mental agility.
I think I thought we’d be signed up as international spies if we managed to work out the answers (many of the players were military): I think Mum was secretly testing me out for Mensa (disillusioned!) Oh, and then came the physical assault course at the end and I knew I was doomed to fail!
Still, I had better dress sense, even back then, than most of this lot so #winning!
Oh, and you know that horrible plastic packaging that covers many an item these days? I still refer to it as being ‘like the Krypton Factor’ when I fail to open it. Every time!
Treasure Hunt was high-octane adventuring around the British Isles, via top 80s technology – the audio link-up. Players joined presenter Kenneth Kendall (and the wonderfully name Wincy Willis) in a studio where they solved clues posed to them by Skyrunner, Anneka Rice ‘out in the field’.
Why was she a Skyrunner? Because she had a helicopter of course! And amaaaaaazing jumpsuits. I blame her for the shell-suit revolution!
Racing against the clock, she would go where the contestants directed her, based on their interpretation of the clues, and sometimes had to endure tasks in order to receive the next clue from a member of the public.
Anneka was all kinds of amazing – leaping over walls, jumping into rivers (from the helicopter, obvs!) and generally making bright yellow, all-in-one attire sexy. The cameramen that followed her about seemed to think so – there were plenty of bum shots!
By comparison, the contestants were quite dull and often incredibly posh! Plus, whilst Anneka was all girl-powered up, the female players appeared to be very happy if they were anything other than a housewife, like it was an unheard of achievement!
When Miss. Rice left (to ‘challenge’ herself), another Skyrunner took her place – Miss. Croft (sadly not Lara). Annabelle, a former British no.1 tennis player, was lovely and she even ended up in my neck of the woods one episode. Alas, it wasn’t as good anymore – taking the shoulder pads out of the jumpsuits just didn’t cut it!
ON MY FIRST WHISTLE…
Ah Gladiators, you were my cheesy, Saturday-night guilty pleasure! And the guilty pleasure of many a teenage boy if Jet was anything to go by…
A team of ‘Gladiators’ (former body builders, sports personalities and the like) were the main obstacle to overcome by the contenders, as they tackled assault courses and went head-to-head in physical battles.
I don’t know why I liked it so much, it’s not as if I thought I could do better than them (as I did with most of the other game shows) – the Pyramid alone was probably outside the scope of my short legs’ stretching capabilities!
Wolf was the Gladiator everyone loved to hate, being frequently red-carded for hostility towards contenders. And the strong Scottish tones of referee John Anderson’s instructions (Gladiatorrrrrs, rrrrrready!) became a national institution.
But it was Eunice Huthart who was the real success story. After appearing on the show as a contender (and winning), she later returned as Gladiator Blaze and not only took the show worldwide but became a stunt woman, appearing in movies such as Goldeneye, Tomb Raider and The Avengers. Oh and she became such good friends with Angelina Jolie that she’s godmother to her daughter, Shiloh. Living the dream…
A ROCKY HORROR PICTURE PUZZLE
The Crystal Maze was the cool, modern sibling of the Krypton factor. Entering as a team, players were guided around the different zones, such as Futuristic, Aztec (my favourite) or Medieval. There they would undergo tasks in differing categories, to try and win a crystal to exchange for time in the Crystal Dome.
You couldn’t see your team, only hear them. There was a risk of being locked in (it was a race against time) and you were at an even higher risk of being humiliated by host, Richard O’ Brien!
Better known for writing the fabulous Rocky Horror Show and appearing as Riff Raff in the film, the bald wonder would strut his acidic wit about the maze, periodically whipping out his harmonica (the musical instrument of course!) I can’t blame him for the sarcastic comments when contestants were like this one though…
Some other dude took over when Richard left, but frankly he isn’t worth remembering. Which is why I haven’t. However, joy of joys, you can now PLAY THE CRYSTAL MAZE YOURSELF! A full sized replica has just opened in London and teams or individuals can give it a shot, hoping to win enough time to flail around in the Dome and grab a bit of sweet wrapper. Anyone want to join my team?
Love role play? Like a bit of campaigning on the old D&D trail? Still need a pixel fix? Then my final entry, Knightmare, is right up your street!
Aimed at children 8yrs upwards, a team of four dungeoneers would be welcomed by Tregaurd and set forth on their quest. One member of the team would don a helmet (obscuring their vision) and then be guided through the various locations by their team mates.
Along the way, you would encounter foes and fairies, giant spiders and sorcerers. You have to replenish your strength by collecting food and take down enemies or heal yourself by spellcasting. It was awesome!
Oh did I mention I was on it? No? That’s because I wasn’t… but it nearly happened. My friends and I loved it so much that I wrote off to appear on the show and we got an audition! In preparation for the big day, we spent hours commanding each other (actually just me – I’d been elected explorer) around our living rooms, sidestepping left and right to avoided obstacles.
Naturally, like all good method actors, I wanted to immerse myself in the experience. So what did I use to obscure my vision? A bucket on my head of course! I’m sure my friends just thought it was hilarious watching me and weren’t taking it seriously at all.
Which is probably why we didn’t pass the audition. That, and the fact that after travelling across the country to the studios in Birmingham, our ‘skill based test’ didn’t require me to demonstrate my prowess under a plastic blindfold box.
It was a maths test. And we sucked at maths. We lost out to a bunch of boys who had clearly never seen sunlight and probably had lifetime passes to Mensa.
I’m not bitter. Do I sound bitter? *sigh*…
I hope you enjoyed the trip to the game show archives. Which ones were your favourite childhood prize givers? Do let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!
Image Credits: YouTube, Pinterest, telegraph.co.uk, denofgeek.com and gameological.com.