Legends of the Hidden Temple

I just wanted to rage a little bit and I decided to write about one of my favourite all-time tv shows: Legends of the hidden temple. This show was aired on Nickelodeon from September, 1993 to 1995. It was an adventure-action tv show where 6 different teams competed against each other for the chance to get inside the temple and claim the prizes. This TV show was very popular in Argentina and most of us watched regularly on Saturdays, the same night as Are you Affraid of the Dark? There were many classic quotes and sequences coming from this TV show. I always wondered why those little kids were so so bad at assembling the silver monkey. Were they dumbs? We don’t know.

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The teams were: the blue barracudas, red jaguars, green monkeys, orange iguanas, purple parrots and silver snakes. These teams compete in three different rounds. The first round of the show, called “The Moat” involved a stunt where the six teams had to get across a narrow swimming pool known as the “moat” (duh). Some of the commonly used methods included rafts, ropes, and bridges. All six teams attempted to get both members across and punch a button. Typically, if a team member fell in the water, that partner (or occasionally both teammates) would have to go back and try again until they could get across. The first four teams to hit their gongs advanced to the second round, known as “the steps of knowledge”. This part wasn’t really funny, but in the introduction of the teams you could actually “guess” which teams were going to be able to go through the moat and advance to the next round. Skinny and pale kids? No way.

Olmec (the giant head) begun the “Steps of Knowledge” by telling the remaining teams the episode’s legend. After finishing, he asked the teams a series of questions to test their memories. A team that knew the answer buzzed in by hitting the button (known as an “ancient marking”) on their step with their feet, and their staircase lights up so they can answer (Definetely the productors or people involved with the show ran out of ideas and added this time-filler). Each multiple-choice question had three possible answers. If the team answered correctly, they moved down to the next level. If a team answered incorrectly or went too long without an answer (three seconds after being called upon), the other teams would have a chance to answer. The first two teams to step down to the bottom level by answering questions correctly moved on to the next round. I was shocked of how stupid some contestants were. Olmec had just told the whole legend and kids couldn’t remember easy answers? How stupid were they?

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“The Temple Games” (or the third phase) round was introduced as a turning point in the episode away from the unpredictable oat and mind games of the Steps of Knowledge, where “the glory went to the fastest and the strongest.” Here, the two remaining teams competed for as many pendants of life as possible in three physical challenges. The first season featured more of an emphasis on teams climbing and/or crossing ramps to retrieve objects, while hindered by bungee cords attached to them. Most times the ramps were covered with soap or water to make it more difficult. The second and third seasons introduced more physical activities such as climbing, riding moving or spinning objects, or spinning a giant wheel. The first two challenges, which pitted a single member of a team against another, awarded a half-pendant each, and the final challenge, involving both teams in whole, awarded a full pendant. If a Temple Game ended in a tie, both teams were awarded the pendant value of that game. After these rounds, the team with the greater number of pendants went on to the final round. This part was actually fun to watch since there was a high chance to see some kid getting injured. You know, when you’re young, really young, you have like no empathy for kids from TV shows, mostly because you’re envious of them, so you desire to see some bones crushed or some blood coming from a nose. Normality.

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In the event that the two teams’ pendant totals were tied after the three games, Olmec asked a tiebreaker question to determine the winner. A “tiebreaker pedestal” was brought out, and the first team to hit the button on top of their gong earned the chance to answer the question. The team would have three seconds to answer, and their first response had to be accepted. A correct answer allowed the team to go to the Temple. At this point everything seemed kind of fair, but when the winner team had to go the temple is when things got really unfair. To make a rough stat, only the 30% of the teams during the three seasons have won the prizes, which in my opinion, it’s kind of low for a children TV show. Even more, if you start to think that only 1 team could actually make it to the temple that reduces the numbers even lower. What were they thinking? Or better, who made the castings? Most of the contestants were: 1) Dumb to answer easy questions 2) Not in a good physical shape 3) 1 and 2 4) Kids who never watched the show and they didn’t know where to go inside the Temple 5) Kids that never watched the show and didn’t know how to assemble the silver monkey 6) Rich kids who didn’t care about prizes.

In the final round, often known as the “Temple Run”, the winning team took whatever Pendants of Life they had (most commonly, a full pendant and half of the second) into the temple. The temple consisted of 12 to 13 rooms, depending on the layout, each connected by a doorway which may or may not have been open during the game, depending on the setup used that day. One room in the labyrinth had the themed artifact; three rooms held Temple Guards (which were really scary motherfuckers). If the winning team had an incomplete pendant, the remaining half-pendant would be in a room as well. However, if the team had only one pendant going into the temple, there would be no hidden pendant. In that case, if the second player ran into a Guard, the game would end (extremely unfair).

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The winning team had three minutes to retrieve the artifact. One player was sent in first, with a complete pendant. The second player remained outside the Temple gate to watch the first player’s progress. In each room, completing a puzzle or accomplishing a task would unlock a door to another room. When a player encountered a Temple Guard, the player was forced to give up a full pendant in order to continue or if caught without a pendant be taken out of the temple. The second player now had the chance to enter, with all opened doors remaining open and all known Temple Guards nonexistent. If the second player possessed only half a Pendant of Life, a Temple Guard could catch him or her and end the game. To prevent that, the second player would also have to find the other half of the pendant which was hidden in the temple. It was often well-hidden and only a few contestants have found one during their run (everything in less than 3 minutes, yeah, something that children can achieve).

If either player reached the artifact, all remaining Guards “vanished” and all locked doors instantly opened, allowing the player to escape unhindered. Just for getting into the temple, the team automatically won a prize. If they picked up the artifact, they also would win another prize of slightly higher value. If they escaped with the artifact before time ran out, the team won a vacation (sometimes to another country), or a week at NASA’s Space Camp, in addition to the two merchandise prizes.  If you watched the show as I did, you should know that not many teams actually did it on time or were able to actually ensemble the friggin silver monkey artifact. Actually, I can’t recall how many times I yelled at the TV set “That’s not the way you moron!”.

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Generally speaking “Legends of the hidden temple” despite of its insane difficulty, it was a worth to watch show, even these days I have a blast watching it (and I am 30). I think TV  Nickelodeon needs shows like this one, where children can win prizes while doing exercise and getting scared, unlike those ccrappy shows that Nickelodeon airs these days. They should do it like in Japan, where they still air this show and many other shows from the 90’s. I would love to see re-runs or actually a few game-shows with actual content.

In conclusion, if you missed this piece of history, there are many youtube videos about it, go and watch them. I would like to thank to Linda and her great website about this TV show, you can check it here:http://legends93.webs.com . It’s a really old website but always worth to check.

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Balloon Fight – 1984

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In 1984 the talented Mr. Iwata, in his young version, created a game that combined air balloons and action. Balloon Fight has a simple concept in the same style as Joust; you need to destroy your enemies’ balloons and you need to make sure that they fall into the water. If you destroy their balloons but they fall on a platform they will create a new balloon.  In Joust, if you remember, you ride an African bird and you need to destroy others in order to beat a level while you avoid lava pits.

From a game design perspective, Balloon Fight looks like a game that could be designed and programmed in few weeks. So what does it make Balloon Fight so much fun? I believe it has to do with accurate control and game pacing. The controls in this game are certainly well implemented and you need only 1 button to accomplish the main task of going up and down. The more you press the button you go higher, if you release it, you go down. If you go close to the water you can get caught by a giant fish that lives in the bottom of the screen. This is a curious and cute detail, but when I talk with other people about famicom games, they always remember the fish or the game where a fish could eat you if you go near to the water.

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The game offers single player game,  cooperative gameplay with 2 players on screen and a special mode, Balloon Trip, that is really fun to play when you’re drunk in a party. This mode is an endurance level where you need to get as many balloons as you can before dying. How do you die? Well you need to dodge the “electric stars”, if you fail, you fall into the water and die. The fish is also present in this part of the game.
The cooperative gameplay is really fun and you can destroy the balloons of your partner, so you need to be careful to not clean the same area as your friend. The best tip regarding strategy is to choose a side and stick to it. Many months ago, I was thinking about making a remake of this game adding 4 players in the same screen. I think that would be awesome.

The graphics are simple but you can tell what’s on the screen. That’s quite a trademark from early Nintendo games. They used very clean sprites and spot-on animations. They are not impressive compared with other Nintendo games, but they have a style that it’s difficult to emulate regarding sprite creation. When I started designing and programming games, my main goals was to emulate early Nintendo releases for the Famicom and creating sprites that looked cute and colourful just like those games was one of the hardest things to do.

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In general terms, Balloon Fight is a simple but powerful game that offers many hours of legitimate fun using simple game mechanics and simple graphics and sounds. It can’t be better than that.

Road Fighter – 1985

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Back in the 80’s the MSX was a huge thing in Japan. Many legendary games were first released on this computer such as Metal Gear or in this case, Road Fighter. This Konami arcade port isn’t nothing espectacular or out of this world but it provided a solid arcade experience.

The game is quite simple, you have to race until the end avoiding cars, trucks and other obstacles trying to not run out of gas. You have two speeds: low and high and six levels which included a beautiful beach road and a stunning rocky mountains road. The game offers only two tunes (at the start and at the end), the rest is just hypnotic emulated car sounds.

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Gameplay is quite simple but hard to master, just like many great arcades from the 80s. If you happen to touch a car you can avoid crashing by tapping the d pad in the opposite direction and reducing speed at the same time. Those kind of tricks were hard to pull off in the first tries. The game, sadly, has no ending so there’s not much else to say. If you can grab a MSX copy you wont regret it. The famicom version is also kinda nice but I never cared too much for the label.

 

Golden Axe III

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Today I was looking through my Sega Genesis/Megadrive collection and I found Golden Axe 3. I never own this game as a child but I remember that a couple years ago I bought the game in a “lot-sale” and I got it. I never was a truly fan of the franchise, I recall playing the first game in the local arcade and some on the Master System/Genesis but I never played the second or third game, I think at that point on the Genesis life span there were more exciting and better games.

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Game magazines were not friendly with this Sega Title, for instance Electronic Gaming Monthly said: “Sega of Japan is not going to release this title here in the States – and for good reasons! The graphics are by far some of the most plain looking on the Mega Drive. Plus, the new magic effects aren’t as impressive as before. So, if you are considering purchasing this title from an overseas seller, don’t waste your bucks!” To be completely honest the graphics aren’t as bad as EGM said, at least compared with other early titles, of course this was the 3rd game in the series so they were probably looking for a better looking game but I think it’s okay. Some enemy sprites are used over and over with a different colour but that was a common practice in the videogames industry in the 90’s, so I have no complains about it. The original gameplay was improved adding more attacks and they even added a block move that I couldn’t use it as intended. I think that move is somehow broken or I’m too dumb to block enemy attacks.

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EGM based his review on graphics and graphic improvement but they never commented on gameplay. The character moves smoothly on screen and there’s almost not flickering. Music is great, many people remember the original Golden Axe tunes but nobody talks about GA3 tunes. Some of them remind me bands like Blind Guardian/Stratovarius, 16 bit-power metal. In terms of difficulty, I was able to play in one sit and go straight to the last level (Death Mountain/Castle) but I couldn’t beat the last two “goat-with 4 arms-brothers”. In a second sit I could go a little bit further but still I can’t reach the end.

I have never played Golden Axe 2 so I don’t know how GA3 improved but I think it’s a really fun game with amazing tunes, clearly it doesn’t deserve the hate it received. Hope you guys could try it again.