Remote Control

Remote Control was MTV’s first attempt at a game show, making its first run in 1987. Like a wild and hip teenage Jeopardy, it played out more like a party and was very successful for its time. Ken Ober was an excellent host, but actually played the straight-man to the insane and entertaining supporting cast of announcer Colin Quinn, fun and peppy Kari Wuhrer, and random appearances by semi-regular cast member Adam Sandler as well as a number of famous “special guests.” Even the lesser-known cast were funny, and the inventive challenges such as “Beat The Bishop” (where contestants have to solve a math problem before a guy dressed as the pope can run a full lap around the set) made the show.

NONE of that is in this game.

The game at least captures the TV trivia of the show.

To be fair, the developers probably carried this game close to as far as they could. Technical limitations would have prevented accurately portraying the cast from the show, as well as the fact that their likenesses would also have to be licensed. They still could have put SOME supporting cast in though, as well as the crazy side challenges and quirky bits that made the show so much fun. Instead they chose to go the direct route and follow a standard quiz game formula – pick a question, answer it, person with the most points at the end wins. You get the bare bones of Remote Control, but none of what made the show great.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s supposedly set in Ken Ober’s basement where three contestants sit in recliners and answer questions about TV trivia. Most of these were questions about episodes of 1960’s shows, the kind that the MTV generation would have grown up with on reruns, or about “current” pop culture. If you wanted to play the game, then it obviously would help if you were familiar with a potpourri of trivia ranging from knowledge of Leave it to Beaver and the living or dead status of classic TV icons (circa 1990), to the “latest” MTV video and an obsessive amount of knowledge about the lifestyle of Bon Jovi.

If you do not so qualify, you’re not totally out of luck. Occasionally there would be channels (categories) such as “Brady Physics” where a real physics question was asked, using the Brady kids in the examples. The game board was a TV mock-up with 9 channels/categories, each category having three questions each. Players didn’t know what the category would be when they first selected it, allowing for random bogus channels like “Home Shopping Network” that deducted points from their score. Thankfully, all of this is in the video game, and rather unmolested.

Giving Gametek a real run for ugliest contestant characters.

At the end of round one, contestants were dumped with food in a Snack Break. That’s in the game, except as an extremely lame earthquake with popcorn kernels bouncing around on the screen. At the end of round two, the lowest scoring player was taken Off The Air in a clever way. Their recliners, with them still strapped in, were literally yanked through the wall and off the stage, or tilted backward while the audience sang. It was the highlight of the show.

The video game has ruined this. Instead of pulling contestants off the stage, they are smote by an errant lighting bolt from an angry God – I’m totally serious. I can only hope that bolt was actually meant for this game. The two remaining players then face off in a speed round, which actually did get translated pretty well. However, the show’s final bonus round for the winning player, played from the Posturepedic Adjustable Bed, didn’t make it to the home console. But the bonus round was identifying the artists of nine music videos, and no one can expect the NES to pull that one off.

The graphics here… suck. The television game board and the background for the contestants are the only decent pieces here. The artists appear to have gone to such great lengths to keep the unnamed host from resembling Ken Ober that he now barely resembles a human. He has one expression through the entire game, and his mouth and arm move robotically the entire time he’s on the screen. The background behind him is not the same basement, but a psychedelic flashing wall of MTV icons (subliminal messaging perhaps?). The contestant characters look a little better, and have about four different expressions they alternate through. Some of them look a little rough, but overall they’re drawn okay. The snack break animation, as I’ve already said, is mind-numbingly stupid. Yeah, it’s the NES, but surely someone could have done a better a job.

Sooo… are you coming on to me?

The controls, amazingly, are the best part of the game. The only reason for this is that you’re given separate buttons; one to ring in and another to select your answer. This allows you to hammer the buzzer without accidentally selecting the wrong answer in your frantic tapping, and is a feature I wish other game show games had used. The sounds… suck. One theme plays through the whole game without much variation. It’s loud, and NES “bleep-bloop”-tastic. The few sound effects are unimpressive; basically just noises confirming a right or wrong answer and a few other environment effects like the snack break/lightning rumble.

Will you find it enjoyable? Well… maybe. The questions are properly in keeping with Remote Control, although much easier since they’re all multiple choice. If you have at least a bit of TV knowledge, or just some common sense, you should wax the floor with your computer foes. Unfortunately, without the exclusive bits from the show, the game comes off too stiff. Though the developers tried to inject some of the show’s wit into the host character, they failed, and failed miserably. He makes attempts to both insult and commend you, but they’re all not funny or just odd, and the game just flops without its supporting cast.

It’s a decent trivia game, but it’s nowhere near as fun as the show. If you’re a fan of the show, then it’s worth checking out – though you’ll be disappointed. If you’re wondering what the show was all about, then the game is horrible, horrible spokesman. If you just want a mildly amusing TV-Trivia quiz game, well, it’s not like you have a lot of other options.


The Good

It… is… kinda Remote Control. I guess.


The Bad

Everything that made the show great has been left at the TV studio.


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