80s TV Gameshows as Computer Games | Nostalgia Nerd

[intro load[
*clackety sound of tape loading*
TV Gameshows.
They used to be an almost integral part of
our lives, didn’t they?
They were the average person’s connection
to this glorious world of media.
The doorway through which any one of us could
have a chance of being broadcast to the nation.
This was before the days of Youtube, or even
the internet, and really, the thought of being
on one of our 4 terrestrial TV channels was
the peak of excitement.
[Crystal Maze Theme]
Of course, the vast majority of the population
never appeared on a show, but it didn’t mean
we took any less pleasure in seeing our fellow
neighbour, battling against other normal people,
“The category is Science… Select”
“Two Please”
perhaps to win a caravan or maybe somewhat
of a lesser prize.
“for hour after hour of fun, how about this Croquet set”
“IIIIN 2!”
Oooooh, a Commodore 64. That’s not bad!
But if our chances of getting on these shows
themselves was low, what was the next best
[80s Synth]
Well, computer adaptations of these shows
of course.
I mean, if you could play it on your Spectrum,
you were essentially on the TV anyway, and
for just a few quid per game, there was nothing
to lose.
Or was there?
[Game sounds]
Here I’m going to sample the delights of 4
such games, ranging from the kids TV series,
Knightmare, through afternoon viewing of Countdown,
the late evening Krypton Factor and all the
way to the weekend excitement of Run the Gauntlet.
As these are decidedly British TV shows, we’ll
need the most British of machines, a ZX Spectrum,
and a decent amount of tea to get us through.
Right, let’s get cracking.
“Welcome watchers of illusion… to the castle of confusion”
A welcome break from another cherished CITV
show, Fun-house
Knightmare was a show which ran from 1987 to 1994, feeding the fantastical
imaginations of British kids (and probably
adults) throughout its 112 episodes.
“Squiredom is the reward for surviving the dungeon. For silver precedes Gold”
I remember getting back from school, grabbing
a suitable snack and being riveted by the
action and adventure unfolding before my eyes.
The premise was pretty simple.
Four lucky hopefuls would find themselves
in Treguard’s, castle.
One of these intrepid folks would then need
to don the Helmet of Justice and enter the
dungeon of despair, where they were confronted
by room upon room of computer generated graphics
(which were generated on various machines
including an Amiga 2000 and a Spaceward Supernova),
along with real life obstacles and actors, within the blue screen environment
Clearly, the dungeoneer couldn’t see this
themselves, and so the hat also acted as a
blindfold, only allowing the adventurer to
peek out of the bottom and collect items.
The other 3 contestants would act as the eyes
and decision makers for the dungeoneer, whom
they viewed on a screen, which emerged from
a chest, or something.
It made for incredible, if often frustrating
“Just turn.. just keep going until we say stop….”
“Warning team. You should have taken the magic lamp when you had the chance”
A port – if you can call it that – for popular
British micros was therefore inevitable.
[dungeon music fades]
[new funky dungeon music]
The problem was, it was far more frustrating
than incredible, especially in 8 bit form.
Released in 1987 by Activision, this is the
closest many of us could get to the Knightmare
experience, and it really was a Nightmare.
[Ear piercing music]
After the ear piercing rendition of the TV
tune we find ourselves in a cell, with an
old prisoner hobbling about, and one of the
most upsetting navigational methods I’ve encountered.
To start movement is assigned to the 6,7,8
and 9 keys, which is… almost perverted…. but you can
get used to.
But then we have a clunky, bumbling system
of inventory and action selection, which really
sh*ts on your parade.
Not only do we have all options here, regardless
of whether you can use them or not.
I mean, I definitely don’t want to OPEN OLD
Do I?
But the system of addressing them is slow
and clunky.
You have to use the shift key to cycle through
the first operator, press enter, then do it
again for the second.
You can speed it up by typing the first letter,
but when you’ve got seconds to lob rocks at
enemies, it’s really not ideal.
But, to be fair, none of that really matters,
because the vast majority of gamers, never
got out of this pissing room.
I mean, there’s no clue at all, other than
this dude, the occasional babbling nonsense from Treguard, and whatever that is on the floor?
Ahhhh, that other blob must be food.
It’s actually a Rock, which instinctively
I threw at the Old Man, but then you really
are stuck, because we need him to progress.
The answer is actually to give this chap your
food, and your water, and then ASK him, and
then he gives you a spade, which you can then
use to magically disappear through the floor
with in the next room along.
Once you’re out there’s all manner of critters,
bats, sword wielding bastards to deal with,
and you’re gonna die, a lot.
A lot more than they do in the actual gameshow…. even though that’s pretty hard as well.
Each time you get hit, your candle diminishes
faster, which isn’t quite as good as the face
and skull from the real game, but it’s a FEATURE
of sorts.
There are also other familiar references to
the show, such as faces appearing in walls,
and riddles which you have to solve.
But really, it’s a crock of crappppp.
Watching the show is far more preferable.
So, onto the next.
How about Countdown, another afternoon show,
Channel 4 this time, and probably one many
of us will associate with bunking off school.
Either that or lazy University viewing.
Now here’s a show that’s still running today.
Of course we don’t have Carol Vorderman anymore, or Richard Whiteley,
but the premise is exactly the same.
A bunch of people compete to solve maths problems
and get longest words, all before half the
time on a clock runs out.
I never did understand why they bothered having
a whole clock.
“yes Douglassss”
So, this game, it feels much easier to translate
to the Spectrum.
[plodding digital music]
Published by Macsen Software in 1986 – some
4 years after the series began airing, it
was later re-released by TV Games in a double
cassette box presentation, which is quite
Loading is quick and painless.
We’re then greeted with a frankly, terrible
version of the TV theme tune.
[AWFUL SOUNDS]….. well, actually it’s not too bad in the scope of the Speccy’s -lack of- sound hardware
We’re then asked to enter our contestant names.
It makes more sense if you have a friend to
play with, but otherwise you can just go against
It’s not really a concept you can go wrong
We the usual letters game where each player
selects 9 random consonants and vowels and
then tries to make a word using the selected
The longest word wins, although the software
seems to come up with some pretty good words
of its own, and that’s thanks to a fairly
extensive dictionary.
Of course, it doesn’t know every word and
so sometimes you’re asked to confirm the words
you’ve entered.
Two player, that’s easy enough, and although
you could cheat, especially playing against
See, Tenter, that’s the name of someone who
uses a Tent, and REKT is what happens when
you drink too much.
Like Knightmare, we’re lacking some of the
key visuals, in this instance, the massive
Instead we get a decreasing bar indicator.
It’s not really the same is it?
Anyway, onto the numbers round.
Here we pick a selection of high and low number
cards, and then have to reach the given target
using our selection.
This is quite nice, as you get plenty of space
to present your formula, although you have
to present each part in it’s entirety for
the game to accept it.
If the game can do it better, than it’ll show
you, if not, then it won’t.
We get more letters and numbers rounds, before
finishing on the countdown conundrum, where
the first to buzz in gets a chance at the
It’s countdown, it’s not a bad implementation,
but it is a little bland and dry to make it
an entertaining computer experience.
Onto the NEXT.
*eject clunk*
[Krpyton Factor theme]
Ahhhhh, the Krypton Factor, yes.
One of my childhood favourites.
I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy seeing members
of the public pushing themselves through obstacle
courses and crashing planes in a flight simulator.
Here’s a series which started way back in
1977, originally presented by Gordon Burns,
but continued really until 1995, with a brief
re-appearance in 2009.
The concept was to test the physical stamina
and mental attributes of the self proclaimed
hardy contestants, with the shows title a
reference to Superman’s home planet of Krypton.
It’s just, not all the contestants had Superman
like abilities. Well, barely any of them!
But that was all part of the charm.
Each participant had their own colour and
were put through rounds which differed over
the years, but the most memorable for me being
the standard question round, the observation
round – where they’d have to recall moments
from a video clip, the physical ability course
which put them through their paces, and of
course, the flight simulator, where they normally
had to land a commercial airline, without
“just up above is the Hercules refuelling tanker, travelling at about 250MPH”
Good, wholesome family viewing.
So how does the Spectrum version fare?
Released in 1987 by Domark and TV Games, it
benefits from another double style cassette
case, and a decent instructional guide.
This is a multi-load tape, so the initial
section isn’t too bad.
We’re then greeted by the title screen and
some pretty impressive music from the Spectrum’s
little beeper.
[Fairly decent 1-bit Spectrum music]
Now this is a game which was not received
well by the gaming press of the time, and
I think in some respects that’s because from
the off, it actually feels like the TV show.
Look you even get to choose and edit your
OK, so I can’t seem to edit the details like
it says I should, but I still get to confirm
the existing ones.
But anyway, maybe this highlights the main
question this video is asking?
Do TV game-shows actually translate well to
computer game format?
The first round is Mental Agility.
Here a series of numbers are presented.
We simply have to recite them back to the
computer, in sequential order.
Easy enough.
Next we have… well, we have the next mental
agility task of multi-loading the game.
[loading tones]
Oh ffs.
What’s even the point.
Once you’ve managed to load the next section,
we have the Observation round, now, this is
where things start to go downhill.
The concept is nice.
It’s like the TV show, but there’s a LOT of
information here and it takes a lot of time
to get through.
Another slightly altered version then follows.
You’re then asked to identify two words which
changed out of the story, and choose the differences
to the image.
It’s quite hard, but actually, after a few
attempts – each with a completely different
story and picture, I did manage to get the
words and most of the visual changes. Maybe this is some kind of early BRAIN TRAINING APP.
Next is Response.
Here we’re using a machine called an Ergobuggy,
and it’s a little strange, but apparently
something also used in the show.
The premise is to cycle forward using both
your hands, controlled by the Q and W keys
and your feet, using the P and L keys.
The problem is, you have to tap them at different
rates to keep the power bar in the middle
of the indicators.
I dunno, I quite like the challenge here.
I mean, it would be better if I was playing
multiplayer… seems a bit pointless on my
But interesting.
After response comes Physical agility.
This is done by assigning different amounts
of power to your Legs, Arms, Strength and
Stamina when necessary.
It’s a break from the Daley Thompson or Track
and Field method of running, that is for sure.
Plus you don’t ruin your Speccy’s keyboard
in the process.
The intelligence round is basically one of
those cheap plastic block puzzles.
Finally General Knowledge, is answering questions,
but then relying on you (or another player)
to confirm whether you said the right answer
or not.
Then the game is over.
Look, I won.
Well, either I won, or Che Guevara won.
I’m pretty sure that’s his face up there.
Marxism Rules!
And so, finally, we move onto Run the Gauntlet.
Now, this is probably the least known show
here, although it still had a decent run of
4 years between 1987 and 1991.
Another ITV production, this one was a more
intensive spectacle, featuring four Worldwide
teams who battled to get through various rounds
of endurance and skill.
Given the intensity of the rounds, it was
probably also the least accessible for general
members of the public.
But it’s OK, because once again, we have the
ZX Spectrum version, in all it’s glorious
multi-coloured finery.
Published by Ocean Software and released in
1989, we get another double cassette box,
with a single cassette inside.
This is a game, I remember well from my childhood.
My brother and I would spend hours trying
to get to grips with the unforgiving nature
of this game.
It was a fruitless task, but at least we have
some nice 128k music, produced by the AY sound
That makes a nice change.
Like The Krypton Factor, this is a game consisting
of multiple, and quite different rounds.
Once you’ve picked a team, for you and your
fellow players, it’s onto the first, randomly
selected event.
Although, when I say random, it’s very much
still within the boundaries of the tape multi-load.
The different rounds are stored in order on
the cassette, so sometimes you’d have to wait
for A LONG TIME for each section to load,
as it skipped over rounds it wasn’t using
on this pass.
Here we have the Water Course.
Sometimes, you get hovercraft here, sometimes
boats, here it’s jetskis, and GOOD GOD THIS
Even when you’ve worked out which way to go,
bumping into something is like a toddler running
full pelt into a bouncy castle.
After that we might get some off roading,
which is probably the easiest round on offer
here, but it’s still bloody frustrating.
If you happen to knock into an opponent vehicle,
then the opponent apparently continues without
issue, whereas you fly off the track and spin
wildly out of control.
The same thing also happens if you drive on
the grass.
Must have those special anti-grass tyres fitted.
This is actually the round I remember most
fondly from youth, but playing it also brought
back those feelings of FAILURE which this
game clearly instilled in me.
Look at those other drivers making it seem
I can’t even turn a bloody corner.
There’s also a running or climbing round where
you get to control your power using a combination
of fire and left/right keys, and then somehow
waggle yourself out of water hazards.
There’s a science to it, but clearly I haven’t
mastered it.
If you play with friends, much like the Kypton
Factor, you have to take turns.
Once you’ve completed all your rounds.
Then you get told how crap you are, and you
can try again.
Or not.
And that’s our games.
This is what it’s like to take a well loved
80s Game Show and squeeze it into the Spectrum.
To take half an hour of entertainment and
squash it into 48 kilobytes of sheer, unrelenting
Probably the best title here is actually Countdown,
but that’s boring as hell.
So what have we learnt.
Well, I’ve learnt that playing interactive
renditions of gameshows I loved, makes the
gameshow taste a little sour in my mouth.
I’ve learnt that I can’t play these games
for toffee and I’ve learnt that I miss watching
Knightmare on a Wednesday afternoon before
I think what we’ve established is that TV
Gameshows should be left as TV Gameshows.
Thanks for watching.
Have a great evening.

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