Lifespan: September 1987 - November 1994
Host: Hugo Myatt (as Treguard Dunshelm)
Supporting Cast: John Woodnutt as Merlin, David Learner as Pickle, Mark Knight as Lord Fear
Produced by: Anglia Television/Broadsword Productions
Front Game Rules
Knightmare isn't so much a game show as it is an interactive fairy tale. One kid was the dungeoneer, who was drafted to take part in a quest (usually to retrieve something) while three friends guide him around. Along the way, the dungeoneer would have to collect items, interact with characters, avoid traps, and employ the use of magic.
|Sound simple? Hardly. The entire dungeon is blue-screened, and only the guides can see where the dungeoneer is and what's going on. Moreover, the dungeoneer is required to wear the "Helmet of Justice," which limits his range of sight to what's beneath him. As a result, the guides are responsible for moving the person where he needs to go.
|Along the way, objects and food can be found. The objects can be used to open doors, scare off villains, or bribe guards, but only two can be used at a time. Objects are only useful in the Level they're found in, so once you've made it to the next level, you have to discard any items you have left over. Food is used, of course, to keep the dungeoneer alive. The player's health (or Life Force, as it's called on the show) is represented in the earlier years by the face of a knight. As time goes by, chunks of the knight's helmet float away, leaving a face. After that, pieces of flesh peel off the face, revealing a skull, at which point fragments of the skull break off. Once the skull is gone and your eyes fly off the screen, it's game over. An example of the Life Force progression is below.
|Much of the dungeoneer's time is used in encounters with other characters. Some (like Folly the Jester) are only too happy to help, others (such as Lilith) need to be bribed or supplied with a password, and others still (like Mogdred) can be very dangerous. Wall monsters also guard objects and food in the earlier series, requiring the correct answers to riddles to pass by them. Often times one right answer is enough for passage, two wins some extra information, and three wins another clue or maybe even a spell.
|As for the traps, they range from simple bomb rooms (basically, get out while the gettin's good) to number causeways (get the password and traverse a set of hexagons to the other side) to the dastardly Corridor of Blades (dungeoneer stands on a conveyor belt while giant circular sawblades come at him; guides tell him to hug the left/right wall as they whizz by). Needless to say, getting caught in a bomb blast or falling down a pit is kinda fatal.
|Certain characters (notably Merlin) gave the team the ability to cast spells. Unlike clue objects, these could be used at any time, but each spell could only be used once, and no more than three could be cast during the quest. One of the advisors was given the duty of magician, and to cast a spell they had to spell it out (Example: "Spellcasting: F-L-A-R-E"). To turn the spell off - required for offensive spells lest they turn on the dungeoneer - the caster had to jumble the letters ("Dispell: E-F-L-A-R").
|The dungeon itself is divided into three levels; in the earlier years, wellways were the means to get from one level to the next. Needless to say, the higher the level, the more difficult the traps. Many quests ended up in the death of the dungeoneer; in 8 series, only 8 teams were able to pull off a victory, and the first and third series were completely devoid of winners. Those that were successful won trophies for their work.
|The lifespan of Knightmare could be divided into two eras. The first three series, much of the action took place inside one main dungeon, with the quest being to assemble a talisman or free a damsel in distress. As the years wore on, the show acquire more of a good-versus-evil feel to it, with definite lines drawn between The Powers that Be and the Opposition, and players could choose to redeem a sword, shield, crown, or chalice. Also starting the the fourth series, some of the action took place outside in courtyards and villages. To help give the team a sense of direction, the "Eye Shield" was introduced in series 4, which showed the advisors where the player was going between encounters.
|Finally, attention must be paid to Treguard. At the start of the show, his demeanor was quite ambivalent; he wasn't a villain, but since it was his dungeon that these kids were plodding through, he wasn't going to make it easy on them. Once the Opposition and Lord Fear came around, though, he sided towards good, helping when he could.
Loogaroo Looks it Over
I could go at lengths discussing this show (and judging by what I've written, I think I already have). It really is one of the most intriguing kids' shows to come along. I think the main thing about it is that it doesn't talk down to the kids, nor does it patronize them. Rather, the show tosses them into a completely alien environment, and gives them a chance to think. On paper, the whole concept seems a bit pedestrian - moving the dungeoneer around could be more convoluded than Moneymaze - but you really don't notice it because it's always happening while spears are protruding from the walls or a ghost is in pursuit. The effect this show has had on its fan base is incredible - people are still noticing nuances and analysing quests they had seen years ago. And the acting is superb - although much of it was a bit melodramatic, these guys needed to be good at improvisation should the dungeoneer say something unexpected.
Basically, take the suspense of Millionaire, the acting talents of Whose Line, and the atmosphere of The Princess Bride, and you've got one heck of a premise.
Gameplay: 3 pts.
Host: 3 pts.
Presentation: 2 pts.
Execution: 2 pts.
Total Score: 10 pts.
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