So here we are, at the start of the very, very long retrospective looking back at the greatest gaming TV show ever, GamesMaster. Just before I get into this, you’ll have to excuse the rather average/grainy quality images throughout this whole retrospective. GamesMaster has never been given a home release or a clean up, so I’m having to use old VHS recordings and almost 30 year old footage to get these pics. It’s the best I can do.
Originally aired on the 7th of January, 1992, kicking off with a (for the time) very nice CGI opening title of, who I assume, is the GamesMaster himself sitting on a throne. Series 1 was set and filmed in an abandoned church (St Paul’s Church, Dock Street, London). Presented by the foppish and very cheeky Dominik Diamond who wastes no time in tossing off and slipping in as many double entendre and sly sexual references as he can.
Series 1 consisted of 10 episodes and featured celebrities such as Jimmy White, Annabel Croft, Barry McGuigan, Eric Bristow and others, all trying their gaming skills at some of the newest games on the market.
A mysterious and cloaked monk would bring the golden joysticks to the winners of the challenges in this series and was played by gaming media pioneer Dave Perry, who would become an integral part of GamesMaster and part of one of the show’s most infamous moments… but I’m getting ahead of myself here. First up, every episode from series 1.
Kicking off with the first challenge is Daniel from Edgware, who has to finish the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) and collect 50 coins all in just 2 minutes. Despite Daniel messing up and initially missing a pipe housing some hidden coins, he does manage to complete the challenge with 14 seconds to spare, winning the very first GamesMaster golden joystick.
Games reviewed are movie themed, The Terminator (Mega Drive) which scores a 87%. The Addams Family (NES) gets a 63%. And finally, the greatest point n’ click adventure game ever made, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis which receives a very worthy 93%. Then next up is a feature on customising the Nintendo Game Boy. Moving onto the first celebrity challenge. A game of footie on Manchester United Europe (Amiga) where Simon from Bishop’s Stortford takes on then Wimbledon F.C. and England striker, John Fashanu. Simon playing as Liverpool beats John playing as Manchester 2-0 to take home that golden joystick.
Then it’s the turn of the GamesMaster to deliver his hints & tips on Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive), Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (Amiga) and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES) with that infamous and annoying whirlwind thing. Episode 1 ends with the final challenge, a shootout on Mad Dog McCree (Arcade), the first ever live action laserdisc game. Tony from North Wales is the man who has to shoot the varmints in this Wild West light-gun game. Tony finishes the challenge with ease to win the golden joystick and ends the first ever episode of GamesMaster.
Golden joysticks won – 3
First up is a challenge on Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive). Being given 2 minutes to collect 150 rings and finish the first level, Alex from Stanmore, decides to show his cocky side. Thinking that 150 rings is too easy, he asks for the challenge to be upped to 160 rings. Seeing as the level only has 163 rings in total, collecting 160 in 2 minutes is no mean feat. Of course he does it because this is Alex Verrey here, who would soon become known to many British gamers as ‘Big Boy Barry’ (more on that later).
Reviews this time are all beat em’ ups. Starting with The First Samurai (Amiga) which gets a very respectable 90%. Pit-Fighter (Amiga) doesn’t do so well getting a 59%, which I think is about 59% too much. Then Double Dragon II (Game Boy) receives 70%. The feature this time looks at gaming peripherals such as the Power Glove, Quickjoy Footpedal and the Sega Action Chair… all utter pants. The celebrity challenge is next and Paul goes up against former British heavyweight boxing champ, Garry Mason at Sonic Blast Man (Arcade). A game where all you have to do is punch a pad as hard as you can to score the hardest hits. Of course the professionally trained and experienced boxer loses (how/why? I don’t know) and Paul wins his golden joystick.
GamesMaster shares his help on games such as Strider (Mega Drive), Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) and Robocop (NES). Then onto a challenge on one of my all time favourite games, Lemmings (Amiga). Given 2 minutes to save 91% of his lemmings, Robert from Leicester is the guy for the job… oh, he also has to do this on one of the hardest levels in the game and he was only told this 5 minutes before filming began too. After a slightly mistimed exploding lemming, Robert loses a few rodents and only manages to save 87%, Robert is the first non-celeb to fail a GamesMaster challenge.
Golden joysticks won – 2
The first challenge of this episode is on Mega Man 2 (NES), an already tricky game made even harder here, Nick from Muswell Hill has to finish one of the most difficult levels in the game without losing a life and in under 3 minutes, including defeating the end of level boss. But Nick misjudges a tricky jump midway through and plunges to his death, failing the challenge.
Racing games get the review treatment this time around. Starting with Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 (Amiga) which gets a stupidly low 68%. Formula One Grand Prix (Amiga) receives a very deserving 89%. Then OutRun Europa (Master System) is handed a 52%. A sneak peek at a then up and coming movie tie-in game, Dune (PC & Amiga) is next and is highly praised too. The formula continues as next up is the celebrity challenge. Sahid from Mile End takes on former British ladies number 1 Annabel Croft at tennis. Pro Tennis Tour 2 (Amiga) is the game of choice, which Annabel wins, making her the first celeb winner of a GamesMaster golden joystick. But who wouldn’t enjoy getting beaten off by Annabel Croft?
More hints & tips follow with Alex Kidd (Master System), Cadaver (Amiga) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) all made a little bit easier. Zoom! (Mega Drive) is the final challenge and to mix things up a bit, three members of the audience are selected to play and finish the first level in 1 minute. Scott, George and Dorla (I think, the sound wasn’t very good) are randomly chosen from the audience… all three of them fail, bringing the end of episode 3.
Golden joysticks won – 1
Classic beat/bike em’ up, Road Rash (Mega Drive) is the first challenge of this episode. Richard from Dartford is tasked to complete and win a race on the Redwood Forest stage on the game, punching, kicking and riding his way to victory. After smashing into a car at a crossroads, Richard falls behind and only manages to finish second, failing the challenge… might have had something to do with the stupid way he held the controller too.
Reviews this episode are fantasy games. First up is the gorgeous Psygnosis classic, Shadow of the Beast (Mega Drive) which gets an understandable 59%. Then Populous II (Amiga) is given a much more worthy 94% because it’s one of the greatest game sequels ever made. Finally, Kings Quest V (PC) is handed a 62%. The feature looks at SEGA’s marketing ideas for the Mega Drive. Then onto the celebrity challenge. World Champion darts legend, Eric Bristow is given the game Heimdall (Amiga) where he has to throw axes at a tied in place maiden to cut her hair and free her from her captives in 2 minutes… he fails. Also worth noting that this challenge is the first ‘proper’ appearance of Dave Perry as co-commentator not hidden by the monk outfit… and so it begins…
GamesMaster once more shares his wisdom in the form of hints & tips. Folks having trouble with Duck Tales (NES), Altered Beast (Mega Drive) and Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) all get a helping hand. Then to the final challenge of the episode. Panza Kick Boxing (Amiga) is the game of choice here and siblings, Jason and Lisa have to fight it out. Despite Lisa being knocked down early in round 1, she manages to knock her brother out in round 2 to win the challenge.
Golden joysticks won – 1
Straight into the action with the first challenge. Duck Tails (NES) is GamesMaster’s game of choice here and it’s Scott from Manchester who has to make his way though and finish the icy Himalayas level in 2.5 minutes. Scott claims to be very confident he’ll beat the challenge with ease… and he does, finishing the level with 39 seconds to spare.
Review time once more, this time the games are linked by the word “funk”. ToeJam & Earl (Mega Drive) manages a 70%. Top Banana (Amiga) is given 65%, while Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly (Game Boy) gets 89%. Up next is a preview of the then latest Bitmap Brothers game, The Chaos Engine (Amiga). Which shows an early 3-player version, the final release was only 2-player. Then a quick intro to the GamesMaster Golden Goal competition on Kick Off 2 (Amiga), before the obligatory celebrity challenge. Legendary game designer Archer MacLean has to tackle his very own game with Jimmy White’s ‘Whirlwind’ Snooker (Amiga). Archer goes up against Christian from Nottingham while the man himself, Jimmy White offers commentary with Dominick. Each player is given just 90 seconds score as many points as they can only using the coloured balls. Christian scores 31 points but Archer manages 37 points and wins the golden joystick. Then Jimmy White has to pull off a trick-shot designed by Archer MacLean on the game, just for fun, no golden joystick reward here.
It’s tip time again as people seek help from the main man. Spider-Man (Mega Drive), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) and Shadow of the Beast II (Amiga) all get covered. Then onto the final challenge. Neighbours (Amiga) based on the popular Aussie soap is the game of choice and the aim is to race around Ramsay Street against other residents and win. Taking on the challenge is another celeb (I guess?), Ashley Paske who was on the show itself. The game is terrible, but even so, Ashley is extremely bad at it and fails spectacularly.
And with that, we’re halfway through the first series.
Golden joysticks won – 2
After perhaps the most double entendre fuelled intro by Dominick, up to this point anyway, the first challenge tees off. Top Player’s Golf (Neo Geo) is the game of choice as Mark from Ross-on-Wye (with a handicap of 4) takes up this challenge and has to finish the first 3 holes of the course in level par or below. After a couple of rough shots and landing in the bunker, Mark fails the challenge.
Reviews next and futuristic games are the theme this time around. First up is Alien Breed (Amiga) which scores an understandable 70%. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (Mega Drive) earns a very reasonable 85%. Then Wing Commander II (PC) nabs an underwhelming 59%. The feature this time around looks at the overtly expensive Neo Geo console. Yes, it’s the celebrity challenge next as Capital Radio DJs Pat Sharp and Mick Brown take on Ski or Die (Amiga) and have to battle for the best score on the aerial skiing section and pull of impressive tricks. Mick scores a total of 54.5 for his aerial antics, while Pat after some very shoddy jumps, only manages 40.6. Making Mick the winner of the golden joystick.
Time once more for the GamesMaster tips. Gamers having trouble with The Legend of Zelda (NES), Forgotten Worlds (Mega Drive) and Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll (NES) are all given a helping hand. Then, of course, it’s the final challenge of this episode. Isometric puzzler Brat (Amiga) is the game of choice this time. Michael is the man who thinks he can guide the leather jacket wearing toddler to the end of the level. Getting off to a flying start and looking very much like a winner, he manages to make it near to the end of the level, but a slightly misplaced bit of direction causes him to fail.
Golden joysticks won – 1
It’s a James Pond 2: Codename: Robocod (Amiga) challenge that kicks off this episode. Having to finish the first level in less than 1 minute and amass 50,000 points along the way too are 3 members of the audience. Mark, Julie and Claire all take turns in tackling this challenge. After falling on some spikes… several times, Claire dies and fails early doors. Next up is Mark who doesn’t fair much better, again, falling on spikes… several times before being killed by a snake. Finally, it’s Julie’s turn who also manages to fall on some spikes… several times, yet she does last a little longer than the others before death via snake occurs. No winners on this one.
Time for a few reviews and this time, adventure games are up for scoring. The Immortal (NES) nabs 80%. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (PC) earns itself a very deserving 94%. With Heroes of the Lance (Master System) getting 65%. Then it’s time for a preview of Alien 3 (Mega Drive), based on the movie of the same name. Finishing with a feature looking at gaming music soundtracks in a Top of the Pops style countdown… Xenon 2 Megablast (Amiga) is number 1. Celebrity challenge time next and British wrestler, Kendo Nagasaki (real name: Peter Thornley) takes on David from Hertfordshire at WWF WrestleMania Challenge (NES) with the first person to win via a pinfall. David completely destroys Kendo to win the golden joystick.
Hints & tips next as GamesMaster offers his help for The Legend of Zelda (NES), Strider (Mega Drive) and Mega Man (NES). But before I move on, does anyone know why a wire-frame butt-plug always used to float near the GamesMaster’s head during his segments? This episode’s final challenge is on Thunder Force III (Mega Drive) as Jeremy has to finish the underwater level of Seiren on the game’s hardest difficulty setting. Due to a typhoon of bullets, Jeremy fails the challenge spectacularly.
Golden joysticks won – 1
Strider (Mega Drive) is the game for the first challenge and Chevron from Harrow has to make his way through the first level and finish off the boss in 3 minutes. Some very confident playing, a few minor niggles aside and Chevron destroys this challenge with 45 seconds to spare.
Flight sims are put up for review this time. Birds of Prey (Amiga) lands itself 80%. F-22 Interceptor (Mega Drive) gets 72%. While Knights of the Sky (Amiga) receives a 80%. A preview of ATAC: The Secret War Against Drugs (PC), a flight sim come anti-drug themed shooter is shown. Then onto the celebrity challenge. 1987 Wimbledon champ, Pat Cash takes on his wife, Emily at Baseball Stars Professional (Neo Geo). Simple enough rules, 1 innings each and whoever gets the most runs wins. Pat manages a respectable 5 runs, while Emily a grand total of 0. Pat Cash wins the golden joystick with ease.
The GamesMaster helps out more of the less fortunate with his hints. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES), Alex Kid (Master System) and Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters (Amiga) all shown a little love. Then of course, the inevitable final challenge. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Amiga) is the game of choice and it’s that annoying sliding puzzle thing from this very poor game that makes for this challenge. This is another audience challenge as Dominick selects someone from the crowd to tackle this one. Martin from Stanwell is the man for the job… maybe? No, he fails and only manages to complete 25% of the puzzle before the timer runs out.
Golden joysticks won – 2
Challenge number one from this penultimate show comes from Zany Golf (Amiga). Father and son, Nigel and Adam have to complete as many holes on this crazy golf game as they can without running out of shots. The person who finishes the most holes wins. The opening windmill hole causes a few problems for Nigel, but they both manage to sink their balls with shots to spare. The second hole is an issue for Adam who runs out of shots, while his father manages to putt his way to victory and win the golden joystick. However, a rather funny ‘judge’s decision’ rules that Nigel is too old to be playing games, so the golden joystick is given to son Adam instead.
This review round-up looks at sports games. John Madden Football ’92 (Mega Drive) scores 95%. NBA All-Star Challenge (Game Boy) gets 69%. With Graham Gooch World Class Cricket (Amiga) manages a 60%. The winner of the previously mentioned GamesMaster Golden Goal competition on Kick Off 2 (Amiga) is announced… it was Robert Moss from Hertfordshire if you were wondering. This episode’s celebrity challenge involves former British featherweight boxing champ, Barry McGuigan who goes up against Gary from Aldershot. They fight it out on Final Blow (Amiga) with the winner being the last man standing after being punched a few dozen times… you know, boxing. In the first round, Barry comes out fists flying and manages to knock down Garry with 30 seconds of the round left. Recovering from his beating, Gary comes back strong and puts Barry on the canvas with 15 seconds left and again in the final second of the first round. Being saved by the bell, the fight goes onto the second round. A flurry of punches and an uppercut from Gary puts Barry McGuigan down only 13 seconds into the second round and out for the count. Making Gary the winner of the golden joystick.
It’s tip time again as GamesMaster hands out his help. Metal Gear (NES), Mega Man 2 (NES) and The Revenge of Shinobi (Mega Drive) are all looked at. Final challenge time and it’s Sega European games-playing champ, Danny Curley who takes on this one. To make things a bit harder for the champ, he has to play a brand new game he’s never seen before. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Mega Drive) is the game and Danny has to finish the second and third levels, rescue all 11 the hostages, kill the boss, not lose a life… and all in 2.5 minutes. Danny completely demolishes this challenge with 1:09 still on the clock. Well he was Sega European games-playing champ.
Golden joysticks won – 3
So here we are, the final episode of series 1 of GamesMaster. Kicking off, as always with the first challenge. Classic light-gun game Duck Hunt (NES) is the game of choice and having to shoot his way to victory is a name a lot of older British gaming/YouTube fans should recognise… a young Paul Gannon (though it sounds like Dominick introduces him as Paul Gammon). Getting off to a very strong start Paul scores an impressive 9 out of 10 on the first level, needing another 9 out of 10 on the second to win the prize. Early on, he misses a target, meaning he can not afford to miss any more… Paul misses the very last one and fails the challenge. No golden joystick here.
And just to try and embarrass Paul a bit, here he is on GamesMaster not winning a golden joystick and I have no idea why he’s wearing his watch near his elbow…
As is the norm, it’s review time and adult games are looked at. Deluxe Strip Poker 2 (Amiga) is dealt 60%. Geisha (Amiga) is given 41%. And finally, Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (Amiga) gets an unbelievable 89%. The feature this time around takes a look at the then soon to be released, latest 16-bit console the Super Nintendo Entertainment System… I could’ve just written SNES there couldn’t I? If you’ve been following the format so far, then you know it’s celebrity challenge time. GamesMaster has chosen Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (Amiga) for a game of footie. Playing is Suni from Ealing going up against the man himself, former Liverpool FC and England captain Emlyn Hughes. With Suni playing as Brazil while Emlyn favours England. Suni makes short work of this challenge and completely decimates Emlyn 5-0 to win the golden joystick.
The last batch of hints & tips for this series as people struggling with The Legend of Zelda (NES), Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Mega Drive) and The Adventures of Rad Gravity (NES) are all helped. Then onto the final challenge of the final episode with Decap Attack (Mega Drive). Having to finish the first 2 levels of the game in under 2 minutes is John from Hastings. Managing to fly through the first level with ease, it’s onto the second level with 1:07 still on the clock to finish this challenge. John messes up on a jump and takes a hit from an enemy, leaving him short on time and vulnerable as he can only take one more hit before dying and failing the challenge. But he finishes the second level with 12 seconds left to win the final golden joystick of this series.
Golden joysticks won – 2
As welcome as the first series of GamesMaster was, compared to latter series, this was a little uneven and not quite there yet. Dominik Diamond’s cheeky persona is here, but doesn’t really come alive until later series. The lighting is very drab and dank with a few lasers shooting around and smoke machines making the set look like a really bad early 90s rave venue. I never really liked the original set. The show evolves (for the most part) later on and as the budget increases, so does the quality. The first series is a little ropy and rough around the edges, but for the first dedicated gaming TV show, GamesMaster did well indeed.
And with that out of the way, it’s time to don the smoking jacket and enjoy a nice hot cup of jasmine tea.
Total golden joysticks won this series – 18
Much more to come in series 2… right here.
“You may be wondering why I’m playing with my organ in a crowded church? Well, this is GamesMaster, television’s only video game magazine show. Coming to you from the only church in the country where Harry Secombe is too fat to fit through the door. But nevertheless, we’ve managed to squeeze and ample portion into tonight’s slot.”
– Dominik Diamond