Saturday, October 9, 2010

NES Month: Double Dare

Double Dare
  • Publisher: GameTek
  • Developer: Rare
  • Platforms/Release: NES: April 1990
  • Genre: Quiz, Action
  • Players: 1-2
  • Save: None
  • Rarity/Cost: NES: Moderate (US$5-15)
Note: This article was updated on 9 February 2016.

I'll be honest.  I was expecting to give this a really bad review - I did warn you it would be a doozy - but now that I've gone back to it yet again, it is a little better than I remember it.  It's one of those games that is infinitely more satisfying in multiplayer than it is against the computer, so, you can imagine I've been missing out on a lot of opportunity.  I am of course talking about the third and final title of my game show video game mini-series, Double Dare.  The game show Double Dare got its start in 1986 and was one of the first original programs produced by the then-fledgling network Nickelodeon.  It was a game show that challenged two teams of kids, or families, to multiple-choice questions and messy physical games.  The show ran in various incarnations for seven years, and in the year 2000, got a revival called Double Dare 2000, naturally.  And there's even word of another revival series coming to NBC later this year (2016)!  So due to its more varied nature, you'd think Double Dare would be a great fit for a video game, even more than other game shows.  But did it pan out?  That’s what I’m here to find out.

The Double Dare home game first came out for DOS-based computers in 1988, and two years later, Rare ported the game to the NES.  In both versions, you set up your game by HOLY CROW WHAT IS THAT!?  Is that supposed to be Marc Summers?  Maybe if he got posessed by the Mask!
Not-Marc Summers stares into your soul.
Anyway, creepy Marc Summers aside, you set up your game by selecting the number of human players, the computer difficulty (if applicable), team names, and player avatars.  Once all that's done, the game begins with a toss-up challenge.  You play all of the toss-up games, and some of the later Physical Challenges, by manipulating a meter that controls the speed and angle of your thrown, rolled, or putted objects.  First you press Left to start it, then Right to stop the Speed meter and start the Angle meter, and A to stop the Angle meter.  Trial and error can help you get the right values, but the meters move so quickly it's hard to be precise with them.  Gorilla is one of the hardest games - not only do you have to throw a banana into the gorilla's hand, it keeps switching from one player's side to another.  I remember playing this game with someone way back when, and we both got stuck on Gorilla!  Oh, and solo players beware: on the highest difficulty level, the computer rarely makes mistakes, so you're bound to lose the toss-ups if that's the case.  But it's not the end of the world; the winner gets $10 ($20 in the second round) and control of the questions.
Gorilla is too luck-based for my liking.
The quiz portions are the main bulk of Double Dare.  For each question, you get three responses and a Dare.  If you choose the Dare, the other team can either answer the question for double the money or do a Double Dare, in which control goes back to the first team, who must either answer it or take a Physical Challenge, both worth four times the original dollar value.  It's best to Dare if you don't know the answer, or think your opponent doesn't know and will Double Dare you back, but everything's left to chance if you're playing against the computer, so it's tough to Dare effectively.  And yet some of the questions were just designed to make you pass them over to the competition.  For example -- and I'm not making this up -- there's one about the offspring of a sheep and a goat.  And it's a real thing, too!  The answer is "geep".

Eventually you might get completely stumped by a question, or you just want a little variety in the proceedings.  That's where the Physical Challenges come in.  Some of the Physical Challenges play like the toss-up games, with the Speed and Angle meters, but some play differently for some much-needed variety.  Unlike the toss-up games, you're on a time limit, so just because you're not racing against another player doesn't mean you'll have much of a margin of error here, either.  Oh, and if you get a question wrong after a Dare or fail a Physical Challenge, the money goes to the other team.  The two rounds last about five minutes each, but in a one-player game, this can feel reallly long if you're waiting for the computer to mess up or Dare you.

The winner moves onto the Obstacle Course, where you have to run through eight randomly-ordered obstacles in sixty seconds, and collect a flag after each.  This scene is presented in a familiar side-scrolling view, but you can't just hold Right to move forward like in any other platformer game... that would be too easy.  No, you have to mash Left and Right rapidly to move.  This goes against all our instincts as players of platformer games.  I suppose it made more sense on the computer, but console gamers reared on Mario and Mega Man run the risk of getting stuck on this part.

Most of the obstacles are just variations on "keep pressing Right to continue".  Some are short and some are long; the Human Hamster-Wheel in particular is a major time-sink.  And then there are two obstacles, the ramp and the mountain, which require you to climb up by mashing Up instead.  If you stop for even an instant, you'll start to fall down and waste time.  It gets even trickier when you clear the obstacle and have to pick up a flag, because control reverts to a standard platformer setup, where you hold Left or Right to move and press A to jump.  The transition can be jarring; if you don't expect it, you'll find yourself walking back and forth wildly, and you have to jump from just the right spot to get the flag or you'll miss it and waste even more time.  And you don't have any time to waste -- this thing is very, very tough even if you know how to control it.  Like, usually I'm only able to get past the 5th or 6th obstacle.  It's true to the show for all the wrong reasons.

I can't fault Rare too much for doing what they did.  I can't think of any other solutions to controlling the non-quiz aspects without changing them drastically, most of them for the worst.  Truth be told, it doesn't quite stand up to Jeopardy! or even Wheel of Fortune, so maybe that's why I've been viewing it in such a negative light.  But if you have it already, you could do much worse than playing it with a friend -- as long as you both know how to play it.

Control: 1 slime dunk out of 5
Design: 4 slime dunks out of 5
Graphics: 2 slime dunks out of 5
Sound: 3 slime dunks out of 5
The Call: 50% (D)

1"Double Dare - NES Screenshots".  MobyGameshttp://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/double-dare/screenshots.

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