Now that the immersive version of The Crystal Maze is open to the public in London, we got thinking about which other ’90s gameshows we’d like to experience for reals. Crowdfunders, do your worst.
Like Game Of Thrones made on an Atari ST, this long-running CITV show saw a plucky kid navigating peril-filled dungeons, collecting items, solving puzzles, avoiding pits and answering riddles for witches and jesters – all while wearing a comedy-sized Viking helmet. Three friends, meanwhile, would sit in a different room with Treguard, a sort of medieval Jeff-from-Byker Grove, issuing precise instructions about what the blinded ‘dungeoneer’ should do next. As with The Crystal Maze, this show was hard as nails – one wrong move and you were dungeon meat. Only eight teams ever made it to the end and the prize – a plaque, medallion or statue – was hardly worth the effort. But the glory – oh! The glory. Those winning kids probably had statues of themselves built in their hometowns. There’s already a comedy stage version of Knightmare, but one you can actually play would be brilliant, even if deciding which team member gets to be dungeoneer would be trickier than an encounter with Granitas the Wall Monster. Also: best theme tune ever.
Initially this inspired, tropical Crystal Maze rip-off for kids was all about using brains and brawn to collect bananas from mazes, cliff faces and underwater treasure chests. But bananas must have been deemed somehow inappropriate, because they later became silver and gold monkey statues – collectibles which bought contestants varying amounts of extra time in The Temple of the Jungle King. This was itself a thrilling, Indiana Jones-inspired series of cobwebby tombs where the players had to solve puzzles and get out in time to score sweet prizes like bikes and MP3 players. Meanwhile, jovial presenters (which included Dom, off of Dick & Dom) dressed in khaki and talked about the will of the ominous Jungle King with largely straight faces – but if they made Jungle Run for adults IRL, they’d probably do well to base their mythology on the proper dystopia of Gorillaz’s ‘Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey’s Head’.
Yo-Yos, Sonic and back-to-back Simpsons and Fresh Prince on BBC Two were both pretty cool, but no form of ‘90s entertainment was quite as intense as kids’ game show 50/50, in which 50 pupils from rival schools would compete in games that required brawn and physical prowess to bring back the coveted glass trophy. The glitchy soundtrack, hazardous inflatables and dizzying camera style made the show unbelievably thrilling. “WHY WAS MY SCHOOL NOT CHOSEN?”, you’d scream at your TV set. It was bonkers stuff. Except when The Brainbuster round came around – that was straight-up terrifying. Getting a question wrong in front of your mates in a classroom? Embarrassing stuff. But on a game show with kids across the land watching? That’s a life-altering moment right there. Imagine the piss taking potential when done as an adult.
The theme tune of ITV kids’ game show Fun House featured a man who sounded like Vincent Price fruitily promising “a real crazy show”, while it was hosted by mulleted Pat Sharp and his troublingly attractive assistant ‘The Twins’, Melanie and Melinda Grant. A strange affair, in retrospect, and that was before the contestants dived through gunge and spun each around on spinning wheels on some kind of demented treasure hunt. The best bit was always the go-kart race at the end, which would surely be a joy for full-grown adults to live out, drunkenly and dangerously. Fun House actually came to life, briefly, last year. For one day only, host Sharp, Melanie and Martina invited families to partake in the game show at a Wacky Warehouse in Lichfield. Austere and minimalist, it looked like something that got cut from Alan Partridge for being “too depressing”. Let’s do the job properly, then. Throw some money at the thing and get the trio off the Student Union circuit, back where they rightfully belong: fulfilling our nostalgic need to relive our childhoods.
Playing in lifts shouldn’t be encouraged. Particularly not in a dodgy tower block in north London. What if you got stuck in there or something? But in Incredible Games, the 1994 Saturday morning game show, riding up and down in an elevator is dead fun. Each floor you get out has some kind of challenge to play like swimming around in a big soup bowl full of Alphabetti spaghetti. Or being on a chessboard with a scary Knightmare-esque bloke in a cloak trying to get you. The gamesmaster/lift king was played by David Walliams. We can’t really remember how you win, or what happened to you if you lose a challenge, only that it was brilliant and it needs to come back immediately.