Remote Control (PC)

Remote Control (PC)
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Game Name: Remote Control
Platforms: DOS
Publisher(s): Hi-Tech Expressions
Developer(s): Softie, Inc
Genre(s): Game Show
Release Date: 1989

Remote Control was, and I believe remains, MTV’s only game show. It was their little experiment in trying to branch out their programming and create a quiz show that would appeal to their younger viewers. For the most part, it worked pretty well. But its legacy really hasn’t maintained over the years. If you were around then, you might remember it, but it never quite ran long enough or was popular enough to attain legendary status. If you were born after 1985, you probably have never even heard of the show.

This game won’t give you any reason to go seek out lost episodes on YouTube. The show’s concept of intermixing straight question and answer categories with skits and special challenges was original and worth translating over to video game form. The PC attempt handles this better than the miserable NES version. But it’s still not a great representation of the show, or a fine game on its own. You Don’t Know Jack captures the spirit of the TV show better, and has nothing at all to do with it. This version just kind of does the show lip service.

We’re the Uncle Jesse looking dude on the left.

The basics of Remote Control are here. Three contestants face off over a collection of classic TV and 80s music trivia. The questions aren’t overly difficult, and are mostly about characters or plotlines that you would know if you’re familiar with the show in question. Certainly, none of the trivia is meant to be obscure or incredibly challenging. Categories are hidden as channels on the host’s oversized Zenith television, with three questions of increasing value per channel. Since a category isn’t revealed until a contestant selects it, there is one bogus channel per round that leeches points from the score of the contestant that selected it.

There are two main rounds, with the lowest-scoring player removed by the end of the second round. The remaining players face off in a “Think Real Fast” round; generally where the host replaces a word in the name of an old TV show with a completely unrelated word (like “Who’s The Bass?” where the contestants are expected to ring in and answer “Boss”). The winner here gets nothing at all except the satisfaction of a job well done. High scores or win streaks aren’t even maintained.

One to three players are supported, with the computer adequately filling in for the rest. The AI can and will answer questions incorrectly, and replicates a human player as well as something without personality can do. Three human players must share the same keyboard, but are assigned individual keys to ring in. All answers must be provided by parser, which makes the game more challenging and infinitely more enjoyable that its NES counterpart. Contestants have 20 seconds to type their answer – plenty of time – and the parser seems standard and competent enough. It accepted my bastardized spelling of the Sesame Street character “Snuffelupagus,” which I derived entirely from phonetics, so that’s good enough for me.

She’s recounting events of her favorite 1980s soap opera. You have to name the show.

Many of the skit channels are replicated here, so it’s a bit closer to the show’s humor instead of a stiff, standard trivia show. You’ll have characters appear at the bottom of the screen for these, and ask the questions in a markedly different manner – like “Shakespeare TV” where the Bard describes 80s shows in Victorian language. It does well to break up the monotony of a Jeopardy! format. Even without having visits from Joe Piscopo and Adam Sandler on the screen, the cold text becomes a little more fun with these channels.

The rest of the questions are asked as text on the Zenith screen, with occasional commentary from the host. He does not resemble Ken Ober, instead he’s more of a mop-headed ginger. He’s less creepy than the guy in the NES, but still not terribly funny or engaging. His introductions to the channels are about the best parts he offers, especially for the ones that most need explaining, like “Narc, Narc” or “Brady Physics.”

Graphics are colorful CGA, with lots of yellows for skin tones and blue for the background. The recreation of the contestants’ stage is really quite good, and manages a decent variety of detail and color. The recliners and scoreboards are close to the actual colors on the show, and the shelf of bric-a-brac adds a welcome sloppy look to the basement set. Characters are actually drawn pretty well. The heads are oversized, but allow for unique facial details. Each contestant does look like the kind of 80’s kid who would be on the show, and the guest characters certainly look the part as well. Way better than Gametek’s pants-wetting attempts at drawing humans. Sounds are PC-speaker based and consist of pulses for questions typing out, bleeps for correct answers, and a bloopy intro theme.

It’s worth noting that the game is surprisingly buggy. At least one of the categories would drop out during each round in every game I played for this review. In each case, the results are the same. The host would give his introduction to the category, then that same introduction would type out as the question. You can ring in here and type anything at all for a correct answer and free points. If you return to that category, the second and third questions would simply be a blank blue screen that again accepts any answer as correct. I mean, I like free points as much as the next guy, but these buggy categories are kind of a bummer. There are also small issues, like the computer contestants sometimes answering in code, or that penalty channels like the Home Shopping Network never display a unique prize you’ve “won” (or maybe they just didn’t program them). The game’s still playable, but definitely earns a groan each time one of these errors pops up.

I liked the show when it was on, and probably would have enjoyed being a contestant, so I guess I’m the target audience for this game. It would have been a bigger deal for me to play it when the show was hot, and I recognize that, but the presentation of the computer version still feels lacking. It’s neither very auditory or visual when the show certainly was, and the result is some questions befitting of the show that you answer in a very bland manner. Better than the NES, probably the best video game version you’re going to find, but still not as fun as even watching the MTV original.

 

The Good

Best video game version of Remote Control, but not a great deal of competition. Typing your answers (instead of multiple choice) helps add some challenge and fun.

The Bad

Needlessly buggy. Dull presentation.

 

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