The show Double Dare came out on Nickelodeon in the late 80s. The basic premise was that two teams of kids played against each other in both physical and mental challenges. The physical challenges always proved messy, and this show started the network’s strange affinity for green slime. Later, the company Gametek, on a quest to publish NES versions of every single gameshow on television, made a stop by here.
In Double Dare, two teams face off (either one player vs computer or two vs each other) for fame, glory, and nonexistent prizes. Each game starts with a challenge to see who starts first, and these vary from bowling with eggs, to throwing bananas to gorillas, to catching things in your pants. The winner of this challenge gets the first question in the game’s main quiz mode. If the team doesn’t know the answer, they can “dare” the other team. The dollar value is thus doubled, and the other team gets a shot. If they get it wrong than the first team gets the money, but if they don’t know the answer, they have the option to “double dare” the other team. The dollar value is doubled again, and control returns to the starting team.
There’s no “double dog dare” here though, and if the team really has no clue what the answer is they can take a “physical challenge.” If they win the challenge they get the money, and this plays through as a minigame where you do such things as jump on trampolines to grab objects, shoot your partner out of a fucking cannon into a meatball painted on a brick wall, or catch things in your pants.
Shenanigans continue through two rounds, and the team with the most points at the end of round two gets to play through the fiendish Double Dare Obstacle Course, where the two team members trade off doing things like climbing mountains, running through pools of slime, and grabbing flags and shoving them – you guessed it – square in their pants.
For the record, Double Dare loves just two things: slime, and putting objects down peoples’ pants.
Graphics are about what you would expect. You can tell what everything is supposed to be, and there is a heavy cartoon flair. Characters look pretty decent, and everyone has only three facial expressions (the host has but one), normal, upset at losing a question, and hopped up on crack. Seriously, them some happy kids. The host non-infringingly resembles Marc Summers, and the colors resemble those used on the set, but the game is more in spirit of the show instead of a duplication of it.
The most interesting part of the whole game is that the slime that made the show famous doesn’t really get used, possibly due to some issue the hardware would have with trying to make liquids look real. The physical challenges also do not mimic those on the show, but they are at least explained in a text screen and backed up with graphics good enough to make them playable, even when lobbing items into a fake 3-D space. The Double Dare theme is recreated reasonably well, but the short themes for the physical challenges are mind-numbingly out of place. They are horribly generic and sound like leftover themes from a board game conversion.
As far as the game goes, it’s a fair translation. The mechanics of the game are intact, and you get to do basically everything from the show. If you’re playing against the computer then you get a choice of three difficulty levels that actually are distinct and control how likely the opposing team is to answer questions, dare you back, and how accurate they are in the physical challenges. At the hardest difficulty level, you’re going to have a little competition, and the computer will run through physical challenges flawlessly. Lower difficulty levels even things out. The questions themselves are not necessarily just kids’ questions, and there’s some legitimate trivia to be had here. The physical challenges could use more variety, and you won’t have played through the game long before you start seeing the same stuff over and over again. The final obstacle course is also made of the exact same obstacles every time, just in a random order. It’s a small complaint, but the point of the game isn’t the trivia, and when the minigames are just the same old schlock then the game wears out quickly.
And now the key point: whoever designed the controls is a grade-A bastard. I refuse to believe that there wasn’t a better way to handle the minigames. Every physical challenge is controlled by a meter with speed on one half and angle on the other. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing, this is how you control your player. By pressing the left arrow key, the meter starts along the speed side. When you get to the notch you want, you press right and it swings over to the angle side. When you get the correct notch there then you press A and get an action. This reduces every minigame to a simple puzzle to find which two notches you’re supposed to stop on, and it’s a puzzle that blows. There are a few exceptions, usually when you’re required to catch something in your pants, where A launches something and you maneuver your character’s pants to accept it. These are much better games, but a definite minority.
The final obstacle course, amazingly, is even worse, and is played by having you alternate tapping left and right to run. I assume this is meant to simulate the stress and stamina requirements of running. But here’s the real trick: most of the time you will “run” across obstacles, except at the very end when you’re meant to grab a flag. The controls switch on you just to piss you off – you’re now under normal control where left is left and right is right, so by continuing to run you just shuffle in place and lose time. I am convinced that you are never meant to beat the obstacle course. Come close, yes, but complete and win? NEVER. Not that it matters anyway, you still generally win over a thousand dollars of nonexistent prizes, and get little pictures of the stuff you haven’t really won. So hey Gametek, I’d really like my hard-earned BMX bike and pool table now – they look nice.
If you know of Double Dare or actually used to watch the show, then this game might be worth checking out. Otherwise, it’s nothing spectacular and mostly just a lot of trouble. You won’t miss anything by not playing.
Pretty faithful to the show.
I hate you controls, I hate you sound, I hate you obstacle course!