Hi everyone! For today, on a special edition of Throwback Thursday, we are going to be taking a look at the NES title “Double Dare”, as based on the game show of the same name. In case you never watched the show before (and if that is the case, where WERE you in the 1980s?) the game is part trivia and part physical abilities. Each game starts with trying to do a physical activity, such as getting an egg in a hole like you were playing golf, or throwing bananas at a gorilla, and trying to get the banana to land in his hand. Whichever player is able to complete the task will get control of the trivia part of the game. Now I could sit here and type out in my own words how the main game was played, but allow me to give you the rules, just like Marc Summers did at the start of every episode:
“Double Dare is the game where daring your dollars can double your bucks. Here’s how it works: I’ll ask you a question, and if you don’t know the answer, or think the other team hasn’t got a clue, you can dare them to answer it for double the dollars. But, be careful because they can always double dare you back for four times the amount. Then you either have to answer the question, or take the physical challenge.”
The questions on the game (as well as the show) had a wide range of trivia. Everything of history to geography, to math to science. To television and music, to video games and food. Of course, since this was a kids game show, the questions were at their level. In the first round, questions started at $10, a dare made it $20, and a double dare made it worth $40. In the second round of questions, the first answer would have been worth $20, a dare raised it to $40, and a double dare made it valued at $80. On the actual show, most of the questions were not multiple choice, but to make it easier, on the video game version all questions were multiple choice. (If you ever played GameTek’s versions of Jeopardy for the NES, you know that typing out the full answer generated some problems, so I think that this change was quite welcomed.)
Of course, who remembers the TV show for the questions? Not many! After the double dare, the team was eligible to take the Physical Challenge, which was a mini game played within the trivia round, where you had to use physical skills to earn the money. Over the years, there were dozens of different types of Physical Challenges on the show. Some of them in one form or another appeared on the video game version. For instance, on Ring Toss, one team member would throw rings, while the other, wearing a hat with a catcher on it, would try to get the ring to land on the hat. (Sometimes, the rings were changed to use eggs for more mess!) Another classic one from the show, was where a pie was put on a catapult. One player would stomp on it to make it airborne, while the other had to catch it in a pair of over-sized clown pants. These challenges are what made the show what it was, and it was very nice that GameTek incorporated many of these classic stunts in the show.
But, what the television show was most famous for, was its final bonus round, the 60 second obstacle course. The winning team had one minute to complete 8 different physical challenge style events, where the object of each one was to “grab the flag” and pass it to the partner. The team members would alternate in completing challenges. Again, a lot of your favorite obstacles from the show were incorporated into the video game counterpart. Versions of the Slime Canal, the One Ton Human Hamster Wheel, Dallas, the Tank, and even a compromised version of the Sundae Slide made it into the video game. I mean, after all, since this is what made the show the most famous, it would have been crazy not to include some of those famous stunts on the cartridge. Kudos to GameTek!
Now, let’s talk technology for a moment. The graphics on the game are typical for the NES style days, rather simplistic. But a lot of detail was made on the games whenever it was possible. The visuals (especially for the obstacle course run) were very well done considering the limitations of the system. You don’t have to assume, you can tell exactly what the challenges are supposed to be. The one thing that I would have changed, which could have very easily had been done, is that since Double Dare was a show about getting messy, I would have liked to see the contestants outfits get more dirty either as the game went on, or at the very least, during the obstacle courses. (The players would be diving into an oil slick, and when they stood up, there were just as clean as when they started. Or if not on the players, maybe a little mess on the ground as they walked around in the slop. I just think that would have made the game a little more realistic.
The music is a somewhat variation of the original theme of Double Dare, that played at the start of the show. If you are playing the game for the first time, you kind of have to keep a close ear on it, because the first few times that I played, I didn’t think it was actually the theme. Think of it as an instrumental of an instrumental. The main beats are not there, but the background beats are very much alive. It’s not a terrible rendition of the theme, but I think a little more work could have been made on it to make it more recognizable. Not to mention, for the Obstacle Course, it would have been nice to have the hard bass of the original course music play while it was going on, instead of the generic sounding music that they used for that segment. I think the original music would have sounded very kick-ass in 8-Bit. Just a shame that it wasn’t even attempted.
At this time, I’m afraid I’m going to have to bring up the part of the video game that is unfortunately the worst part of the title, and that is the controls. During trivia rounds, it’s totally fine, just make a selection. During the physical challenges however, is where this aspect begins to fade. Mostly because you have to play as both team players. There was no option for playing with a friend on the same team. So let’s say you wanted to throw the ring onto your partners hat. You first would have to get your speed and angle of your throw (much like how many early golf games were). Then immediately, you’d have to move the other player to catch the ring. I personally think that this was a poor way of execution. If GameTek was not going to allow for two player teams during this part of the game, then one of the players should have been made automatic. It just gets too confusing a little quickly. (Some of the games are easier than others, such as the Pie In The Pants, but for the most part, it just gets confusing to have two sets of controls in a short 20 second period.
And the saddest part of the controls comes to you with the Obstacle Course, the most famous 60 seconds of them all. The running controls are okay, but it’s when you actually get to the challenge that it starts to go downhill, and FAST. You have to be at exactly the right position, for everything. You literally cannot be a single pixel off when you start the obstacle, you cannot be a single pixel off when you are making your moves, and heaven forbid you are not exactly lined up when you go to jump to grab the flag. Sometimes it will take you at least 2 or 3 tries to jump, even though you clearly were in the correct position. When you are playing a game that is timer based like this one, it’s just not fair to have bad collision detection like this. (If nothing else, the timer should have been longer, at least 65 or 70 seconds, instead of the classic 60 seconds.) This makes what is supposed to be the highlight of the show, and turns it into a damn mess of gobbledygook, which is a shame, because when you were a kid, who DIDN’T want to run the famous obstacle Course?
All in all, the game is an excellent attempt by GameTek to recreate the Double Dare experience at home. GameTek was famous for being THE leader in home video games that were based on television game shows. They released many classics for many systems (as well as arcade cabinets), over the years, before going bankrupt in the late 1990s. Which is a shame, because most of their games were praised for being extremely accurate when compared to the versions you watched at home. (I wonder how today’s game show based games would be like if they were still around, and not all done by Ludia… Ugh.) However sometimes, the need to be accurate can bite you in the butt, and sadly, Double Dare is one of those situations. The game is far from not being playable mind you, you just have to really practice to get the controls down pat. Once you are able to master that, you will have lots of fun playing the classic show right in your living room, and with no messy cleanup to boot! My thoughts continue to be with Marc Summers, and here’s to a speedy recovery!
Random Fact: Did you know that there was another game show called “Double Dare” that was on the air in 1977? It’s true! It was hosted by long time “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek. (However, it was a total trivia game, and there was not a single pie in the face at all during this version!)
Note: Video contains edited music… NES video, actual TV show music!