Thursday, 8 July 2010

Nineties Nostalgia: Incredible Games

I tried starting a blog called Nineties Nostalgia a while ago, inspired by various discussions I'd had with other people around my age about TV shows, toys and the like from our childhoods. One thing I found interesting about these discussions was how I could easily chat away and find so much common ground with different people simply because we'd grown up in the same era - we all remember The Spice Girls, Fun House and so on, even if we've grown up to have wildly different interests today. Unfortunately I couldn't really write enough posts to justify a new blog for it, so NN will just have to be an occasional series appearing on my "regular" blog. So...

Push my button! The first '90s TV show I'll be looking at for fun is the children's game show Incredible Games, one of those shows that people remember but struggle to remember the name of. This aired in the mid '90s on CBBC (back when it was a segment of BBC1 and BBC2 rather than a channel in its own right) on Sunday mornings and Tuesday afternoons. In a nutshell, imagine The Crystal Maze for kids, or a futuristic Fun House, and you get a rough idea.
Incredible Games was set inside a skyscraper with a jolly, talking lift (played by David Walliams in the first series and Gary Parker in the second) taking a team of three contestants up the building. On each floor, the kids faced a different challenge, which would test them mentally or physically (and often looked like a lot of fun).
One of the most famous games was The Dark Knight, which was a bit like the life-sized wizards' chess in Harry Potter. The kids had to make their way across a giant chessboard with alternating moves forwards and sideways, while avoiding capture by the Dark Knight. Whenever people try to remember this show, they often describe the Dark Knight as being like Darth Vader, as well as talk about how scary he was. Although he sounded a lot like Mr Vader, his costume looked a bit lower-budget than that of Luke's father, but the set probably cost a few bob as it featured squares lighting up to show the contestants' previous moves (these lit squares were the only thing the Dark Knight could see) and fireworks going off when a contestant made it safely to the other side of the board.
I spent ages trying to remember what it was that the Knight used to say, because I could remember his voice but not the words... it sounded something like "ah-ooooo" in a Darth Vader type voice. I managed to conjure up a memory of him saying, "Eranu!" but immediately realised that that couldn't have been right as he probably wasn't played by Vic Reeves. Now I realise that he just said, "Moooove!" Funnily enough, he was played by the man who also played Tinky Winky in Teletubbies. A versatile actor I suppose.
If kids were unlucky enough to get caught by the Dark Knight, he would cover them with his cloak and they would disappear. In the second series, they would reappear in giant laundry baskets in the basement, where their teammates had to find them.
The Dark Knight segment of Incredible Games is not to be confused with a game in Knightmare in which kids guided an avatar around a computer-generated dungeon (For some reason, some people confuse the two!). The other show that people sometimes confuse with Incredible Games is Terror Towers. They all scared small children at the time so I supposed it's easy to mix them up.
As well as the dreaded Dark Knight, other famous games included The Victorian Schoolmaster (He would ask the contestants questions and they had to answer with the answer to the previous question. Every time they got it wrong, the teacher would tip buckets of gunge slightly; if this happened three times, the kids got gunged) and Alphabet Soup (The Crystal Maze meets Countdown: the contestants went into a kitchen and shrank, then two of them would swim in a soup bowl and fish out magnetic letters, which the third would use to spell out words on the fridge).
If the team won enough points, they could go Through the roof (i.e. up to the Penthouse suite of the tower block) and win prizes. In the second series, they had to search the Penthouse for keys to the prizes (a bit like Fun House or Finders Keepers).
Some children's TV is never as good as you remembered it, but I think it's safe to say that Incredible Games actually was as good as I remembered, at least if the celebrity special from series one with Keith Chegwin, Phillipa Forrester and Roland Rivron is anything to go by (although I don't remember David Walliams' lift sounding so much like a pre-House Hugh Laurie).
More info:
The Eye Shield