GamesMaster: A Retrospective – Series Five, Part Two

Time for part two of series five of this (already taken me around fifteen months… So far) rather big retrospective look at GamesMaster. With some great, celebs and some barely qualifiable celebs too. Plus there’s the, always a highlight, Christmas special to look forwards to as well.

Episode Ten

Gladiators hard? Don’t Make Me Laugh! is the name of this multi-part, episode length challenge. And from the hit TV show Gladiators are the tight spandex wearing Panther and Cobra. First, GamesMaster selects the punch ’em in the face, Victory Boxing (Saturn) as the game. With only one round to prove how ‘hard’ they are… But Panther and Cobra are not going to be punching each other. No, Pushpa and Spyros, two non-celebs have been selected to go up against the highly trained ‘athletes’ to see who is the hardest, the Gladiators, or the everyday folk. But guess what? News first. Nintendo’s N64 console is given a little preview ahead of its Japanese reveal, along with some of the launch titles. On-rails shooter, Time Crisis (Arcade) is given a quick look at. Then there’s a bit on legendary filmmaker and game-fan, Steven Spielberg launching online gaming platform, Starbright World. Starbright was designed specifically for serious/terminally ill children to connect and play with other similar children around the world. Then it’s back to the Gladiators hard? Don’t Make Me Laugh! challenge and first, Panther is taking on Pushpa in this single round boxing match. Pushpa wastes no time and knocks Panther down in just 14 seconds, and again in around 1 minute later. With two knockdowns in one round, Panther is in danger of losing due to a TKO… And she does too. Even though Pushpa put Panther on her posterior, there is not golden joystick to award as this is a multi-part challenge with more to come as the episode continues.

So, on to the reviews and isometric shooter Viewpoint (PlayStation) gets a very decent 89%. Pointless beat ’em up Golden Axe: The Duel (Saturn) gets a way too generous 80%. And finally, the action-adventure game Alien Odyssey (PC) manages a 69%. There’s another CD-ROM of the Week segment and Sci-Fi Movie Machine (PC) where you can ‘create’ your very own sci-fi ‘movies’ is explored. Feature time and Dominik is on holiday presenting from Los Angeles. This time he’s looking behind the scenes of Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (Multi-format). Taking a look around the bar set during a filming break, DD talks to Biff Tannen and Luke Skywalker.

DOM AND BIFF

Then it’s back to the Gladiators hard? Don’t Make Me Laugh! challenge once more and GamesMaster has Spyros take on Cobra at WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game (PlayStation). This one is a classic best of three rounds bout as Spyros plays as Doink while Cobra favours Yokozuna. The first round is fairly close, but Cobra wins out in the end. Round two and Spyros wins in a fight that could be described as anything but close. One round each, so on to the decider… Which Spyros easily wins. So with Pushpa winning the first game and Spyros the second, that’s a whitewash that (supposedly) proves that the Gladiators aren’t hard, as Pushpa and Spyros win a golden joystick… One between them.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Eleven

No first challenge as it’s straight into the news this time and Nintendo’s N64 console was shown for the first time in Japan. Sega’s Saturn console gets conversions of a few, previously exclusive, PlayStation titles. Then there’s a look at the American TV show Robot Wars ahead of the airing io the UK version. Still no first challenge yet as Dominik Diamond introduces the reviews. The LucasArts point ‘n click adventure game The Dig (PC) is given 88%. Sega Rally Championship (Saturn) is praised for its 40 FPS and awarded a 95%. 3D shooter Warhawk (PlayStation) gets given 79%. After which… There’s a challenge! This one is called Get That Celebrity On The Phone Now! and as you can probably guess, it’s a celebrity challenge. Using cutting edge modem technology, Virtual Pool (PC) is the game chosen. GamesMaster sets up a standard nine-ball game of pool and it is non-celeb Melanie taking on snooker supremo Ronnie O’Sullivan. As this is the first-ever GamesMaster challenge using a modem, Melanie is in the studio… Sorry, Heaven while Ronnie is at his home and the two have to play pool against each other over the interwebs. Melanie breaks and pots the white ball, which Ronnie uses to sink a couple of balls. The two then take it in turns to do some really shit shots, until Ronnie clears the table, leaving just the final nine ball… which he misses. Melanie is left with a somewhat easy pot, which she misses. The missing of the nine ball continues for a while until Ronnie O’Sullivan finally puts it away to win a golden joystick. Some tip-top telephone action there.

DOM AND RONNIE

The feature is an N64 special and takes a look at all thirteen games in development for the just unveiled in Japan, Nintendo 64… which DD keeps calling the Ultra 64 (which was the working name of the machine) despite the fact the images clearly show that it is called the Nintendo 64. Kind of interesting to see some of the games still in development that were different when released, including slightly different names. Like Blastdozer (Blast Corps) and The Legend Of Zelda 64 (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time). Dominik keeps calling the N64 ‘the most powerful console’, was it? Actually, I don’t really care. There’s a quick look a the console and of course, the now famed controller. Then there’s a detailed look at Super Mario 64, despite being only 50% complete at the time. And that’s it for this very light on content episode.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Twelve

Oi! Bloke In Suit Fancy A Fight? is the name of the first challenge. GamesMaster selects Doom (PC) for this one and three businessmen in suits are pitted against a champion Doom player called Dave, who looks about 7-years-old. A simple deathmatch with the three suits against the pro Doom player. But first… News! Sega’s Virtual On (Arcade) is given a quick look at. The Digital Beastie (PC), an early website where you could create a monster and fight other players is explored. The TV show Space: Above and Beyond is also given a bit of attention… No, I don’t remember it either. Anyway, it’s back to the Oi! Bloke In Suit Fancy A Fight? challenge and David takes on the three suits in deathmatch Doom. Dave wastes no time in grabbing the chaingun and goes in search of his first victim. It doesn’t take too long for Davis to get his first kill (frag) and take the first suit out of the game. There’s a lot of walking around looking for each other, until David finds and kills number two. Then there’s more walking and searching until he finishes off number three. David wins this very dull challenge.

DOOM WIN

Time for a few reviews and Tintin in Tibet (SNES) gets 86%. Virtua Cop (Saturn) is given an impressive 95%. Then Hebereke’s Popoitto (Saturn) is given a puzzling 57%. R ‘n B group E.Y.C. (no idea?) are the celebs for this episode and they have to play a classic bout on Super Bomberman 3 (SNES) is the game of choice. Last man standing wins. the three members of the band Damon Butler, Dave Loeffler and Trey Parker (not South Park Trey Parker) have to try to blow each other up. Trey manages to kill himself in about 4 seconds and goes out. Damon takes out the AI player, leaving just him and David left. Then Damon decides to walk into a dead-end and David traps him with a bomb to win a golden joystick. Then we have a feature looking at the first-ever greenscreen, virtual TV set… which is really boring and ends the episode.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Thirteen

GamesMaster selects Virtua Fighter 2 (Arcade) as the first challenge and a trio of contestants have to beat as many AI opponents as possible, playing only one round each. Whoever beats the most opponents wins, easy enough but GamesMaster throws a spanner in the works by adding an extra challenge. The challengers have to win their fights without taking a single hit, even so much as a slight tap means they are out. The three fighting for victory here are Hatim, Gordon and Joel. News time again and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Arcade) is looked at. The Keanu Reeves flick Johnny Mnemonic is given a quick glance. Then a concept for a virtual supermarket from Sainsbury’s is explored where people would be able to order their shopping online and have it delivered to their door… As if! Back to the first challenge that Dominik calls Virtually Perfect, with each player using the Akira character and up first is Hatim as DD still insists on calling the game Virtua Fighters. Hatim wins the first round as Gordon steps up to the game and wins his round. So play switches to Joel, who very cleverly wins by knocking his opponent out of the ring. All three make it to the next scrap. Hatim back in control and he wind his round with ease. Gordon next and after getting in the first attack, he’s hit by a four-hit combo and goes out of the challenge. Joel needs to win this round to stay in and he does just that. It’s fight three and Hatim goes first, where he makes very short work and wins the fight in just 7 seconds. The pressure is on Joel now but he also wins with one of his round outs in just 4 seconds, it’s a very even matching between the two. So, it is onto the fourth fight, which Harim wins, though there were a couple of close calls. Joel and boom, another ring out victory. Harim must be feeling the pressure now as he messes up and gets hit, he’s out. However, this doesn’t make Joel the victor yet as he has to win his fight. Ring out? Yup, Joel wins a golden joystick.

Review time and Virtua Fighter 2 (Saturn) gets a knockout 95%… Oh and Dominik Diamond actually calls the game Virtua Fighter and not Fighters (plural) for the first time ever. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES) gets another 95%. Then Time Crisis (Arcade) is awarded a 90%. Dominik warms up his best (worst) chat-up lines as it’s celebrity challenge time and one-hit-wonder, Europop singer Whigfield is the lass that has to put up with DD’s leching as Dominik asks Whigfield to marry him. Anyway, GamesMaster has chosen the platformer Yoshi’s Island (SNES) as the game. Whigfield has 2 minutes to collect 32 coins and if she does, she has to marry DD. At the 30 second mark, she’s nabbed 14 coins, at 1 minute she’s grabbed 26 coins. Whigfield is well on the way to having to marry Dominik with only 6 more coins. With plenty of time left on the clock, Whigfield wins the challenge, a golden joystick and gets a husband too.

DOM AND WHIGFEILD

As the GamesMaster wedding is quickly arranged, it’s time for a quick feature. The London Computer Animation Awards is the focus and several of the nominees and winners are looked at and several (for the time) very impressive CGI animations are shown. But then, it’s the event of the episode as Dominik Diamond ‘marries’ Whigfield.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Fourteen

Dominik calls the first challenge PC Impossible and GamesMaster sets the rules. Two celebs have the length of the show to set up and get a game running on a brand new PC. Nowadays, PCs pretty much work out of the box but back then, it was a very different story and setting up a PC to work was the equivalent of working at Mensa. Anyway, the celebrities are Patsy Palmer and Dean Gaffney from London-based soap, EastEnders. This nail-biting challenge gets underway by the opening of the boxes the PCs are in, before removing the manuals, monitor and, wires and so on. Then we are saved from boredom by the reviews. 3D fighter Criticom (PlayStation) is given a still too high 72%. Then futuristic racer Hi-Octane (Saturn) gets itself an 81%. Finally, we get back into the action of the PC Impossible challenge and we are ‘lucky’ enough to be given a replay of the exciting developments of getting a PC set up.

PC CHALLENGE

GamesMaster introduces the next challenge on Duke Nukem 3D (PC) before we all die of boredom due to watching two soap actors set up computers. Three peeps are taking on this challenge and they have to finish a level in the fastest time. Michael, Julian and Sameer are the plucky three trying to race through the level to win a golden joystick. But before the action kicks off, news time. Dominik introduces a competition where you could win a PlayStation or Sega Saturn with games. All you have to do is guess DD’s all-time favourite game to win. I’m guessing Sensible Soccer (Amiga). Anyway, back to the challenge and Michael goes first. He gets off to a blistering start and ignores the bad guys, rushing his way to the end. However, he decides to jump into a laser tripwire bomb and dies after just 39 seconds. Julian goes next… And only lasts 12 seconds before doing what Michael did by jumping into a laser tripwire bomb. Finally, it is Sameer and he’s just watched two people fail miserably, all he has to do is not do what they did. Now, Sameer can take all the time he wants as all he has to do is finish the level, what with the other two blowing themselves up and all. He does it too in 43 seconds, not that the time matters. One golden joystick to Sameer.

So it’s back to the PC Impossible challenge and both PCs have been set up. Now all the celebs have to do is load a game. Both Patsy and Dean are completely flummoxed by installing the game, so we get to watch a feature. Dominik Diamond is in Seattle to take a look at the new and improved Windows 95 operating system from Microsoft… Which is somehow, less interesting than the PC Impossible challenge. Speaking of which, both Patsy and Dean have the game installed, but there’s a memory problem for which they need a boot-disk. Both of them fail, what a waste of time.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Fifteen

It’s the GamesMaster Christmas special. After previous series’ festive episodes with celeb-filled panto challenges, bizarrely beach-themed Christmas specials and more. What madcap fun does the series five X-mas special hold? Nothing, just a compilation of bits from all the series so far. That’s it, nothing much to write about as I already wrote about them when I covered the previous series. Dominik Diamond does a visual penis joke involving a carrot and two sprouts… And that’s about it for this special.

DOM CARROT

There is a look at some of the biggest games released so far through the episode and that’s the only new content that’s not taken from previous episodes that’s not a DD introduction. Nothing much to cover. Next episode please.

Golden joysticks won – 0

Episode Sixteen

GamesMaster sets up the first part of a multipart challenge, Blokes With Bikes. This one involves the contestants having to use an exercise bike hooked up to a PC, where they have to finish a race. Celeb health-nut type bloke, Mr Motivator is tackling this one but not alone. He is joined by a genuine Harley-Davidson rider, non-celeb Andy (biker name, Gringo). The two have to take it in turns to put in the fastest time on the exercise bike race-thing. News first though and the MindDrive, a device that allows you to control your computer with your thoughts, is shown and demoed. The original Resident Evil (PlayStation) is given an exclusive first look before the answer to DD’s all-time favourite game competition is revealed. Yes, I was right, it was Sensible Soccer (Amiga). Even though I was right, I didn’t win. Turns out that the competition from twenty-six years ago was no longer open… Also, I didn’t actually enter anyway. So it’s back to the Blokes With Bikes challenge. Mr Motivator goes first and while he has a few wobbly moments, goes off the track a couple of times, he finishes with a time of 1 minute and 22 seconds. Andy goes next and also has a few wobbly moments but he puts in a slightly better 1 minute and 20 seconds. The biker beats the health-nut at his own game, it’s not over yet as there’s another part to this challenge coming soon.

DOM BIKER

Reviews next and the John Rambo-esque Lone Soldier (PlayStation) gets a very understandable 60%. Ridge Racer Revolution (PlayStation) is given an 85%. Then Worms (Saturn) scores a 90%. Feature time and Dominik takes a look at the god-awful film, Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. So, back to the Blokes With Bikes challenge and this part sees the roles being reversed as the bike-racer Cyber Cycles (Arcade) is the game of choice. No exercising here, just pure bike racing action. The finish time of the race here will be added to the previous time from the exercise bike challenge, with the overall fastest time winning the golden joystick. Going first is Mr Motivator and he rubs the barriers a few times, before crashing… Several times and wasting valuable seconds. The very rough rides ends with a time of 1 minute and 29 seconds. Andy gets in the seat next and he needs to finish in 1 minute and 31 seconds or less to win. Andy crashes very early on, but he soon gets to grips with the handling and begins to put in a decent performance, using the drifting to slide around the corners. Andy finishes with a time of 1 minute and 30 seconds, just about winning by just 1 second. Andy wins a golden joystick.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Seventeen

Blokes On Film is the title of the first challenge and GamesMaster has picked Nickelodeon Director’s Lab (PC) as the game for this episode length challenge. The contestants have to edit together their own mini-movie, which will be shown at the end of the show. GamesMaster will pick the one he found the most entertaining as the winner of the golden joystick. Going head to head on this directing challenge are genuinely funny nineties comedians, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring. As Stewart and Richard take their places at their PCs, it’s news time. First up is an exclusive offer to join an online gaming network, Wireplay for a pre-launch test. There’s a look at the visually impressive Toy Story (Mega Drive). To finish, there’s a look at the Ariel Robotic Competition (whatever that was). A feature now and the Pixar flick Toy Story is previewed ahead of its UK release, plus there’s a few behind the scenes snippets to see how the film was made. The Blokes On Film challenge is really (not) hotting up as we get to see what Stewart and Richard have been up to.

DOM MOVIE CHALLNGE

GamesMaster introduces a proper challenge next with Total NBA 96 (PlayStation). The two challengers, Linton and Lawrence are to play a single 2 minute quarter with whoever has the highest score being the winner. Linton is playing as the Houston Rockets, whole Lawrence favours Orlando Magic. Linton fouls Lawrence early in the game, giving him two free shots, which Lawrence sinks to make the score 2 – 0. Linton soon strikes back and scores, then he steals the ball and scores again. 4 – 2 to Lawrence. Linton steals the ball again and puts another away with only 28 seconds on the clock. Once more, Linton steals the ball and scores, it’s now 8 – 2 and getting more than a bit embarrassing for Lawrence as the quarter ends with Linton the very clear winner. There’s a quick recap to see how the Blokes On Film challenge is going.

Time for a few reviews and horror game D (Saturn) is given 69%. Next, Time Gate: Knight’s Chase (PC) is given an impressive 92%. Finally, mech-based shooter Krazy Ivan (PlayStation) is awarded a 90%. It’s the not very exciting climax of the Blokes On Film challenge as Stewart Lee and Richard Herring’s films are put up for judgement. Stewart’s film revolves around food consumption, which GamesMaster lambasts with a 1/10 score. Richard’s flick offers a bit of a political satire edge, or a satire of satire as he calls it. GamesMaster is a bit more forgiving with this effort and gives it 2/10. Both very poor efforts, but Richard Herring wins the golden joystick.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Eighteen

This is it, the finale of series five, which kicks things off with the news. There’s an exclusive look at some soon to be released games. Killer Instinct 2 (Arcade), Time Crisis (PlayStation), Soul Edge (PlayStation), Fighting Vipers (Arcade) and Manx TT Super Bike (Saturn) are all looked at. Then it’s challenge time and Iron Maiden guitarist, Janick Gers, is the axeman up for the Blokes Who Sweat Rock ‘N Roll series finale contest. The game is Quest for Fame (PC) that uses a guitar peripheral to play the guitar in the game, predating the likes of Rock Band and Guitar Hero by several years. Anyway, Janick has to impress the audience and get at least six people cheering and dancing by the end of the song, which is Aerosmith’s Eat The Rich. Janick’s first attempt is a failure. His second one, he gets four people dancing and now seems to be getting to grips with the game. By the time the song ends, he has everyone up and dancing to win the golden joystick.

GUITAR CHALLENGE

The final reviews of the series next as Assault Rigs (PlayStation) is given a 66%. And X-Men: Children of the Atom (Saturn) gets a bone-crunching 89%. Then GamesMaster sets up the final challenge, Rave Racer (Arcade). This is a simple first to cross the finish line win-type race. The two peeps taking this on are Amar and Cecil. Getting off to a better start, Cecil takes the lead. Amar soon begins to catch up and when Cecil bumps the barrier, Amar manages to slip into the lead. It’s a very close race as Cecil tucks in close behind and he retakes the lead… Only for a few seconds though. Cecil makes a bit of a hash of it and crashes through to a different and slightly longer bit of the track. Sorting himself out and getting back onto the main track, Cecil rejoins just behind Amar. Seriously, this is actually a close and rather exciting race. Cecil really puts his foot down to try can catch up, but Amar crosses the line first to win.

And that is it for GamesMaster and his challenges this series. But before the credits roll, there’s a cheeky little feature. Dominik is in California (again), just on the California/Nevada border. This time he’s taking on the (then) world’s biggest roller coaster, Desperado. This ride was one of the first designed using specialised computer technology too. We get some nice onboard footage as DD rides Desperado and genuinely looks terrified. And that’s it for another series.

DOM ROLLER COASTER

Golden joysticks won – 2


Overall

I think that depending on who you ask, this series is where GamesMaster began to lose its lustre. There was less content all round with fewer challenges per episode, with some of them being downright dull (see the looking for websites challenge from part one or the setting up a PC from this part). Dominik Diamond was slowly evolving from a cheeky but charming host, to a bit of an egotistical prick. I don’t know but to me, DD just seemed to be a bit meaner here and not as charming as he once was. He also came off as more than a little lecherous towards all of the attractive women on the show. There’s flirting, then there’s whatever the fuck Dominik was doing here, he was trying to be too ‘lad culture’ I feel and he just came across as a bit too slimy. Now, I’m not looking back on this quarter of a century-old series and applying modern-day ethics to it. It just feels ‘off’ compared to the previous four series, all of which were older. It’s certainly not the same cheeky Dominik Diamond from previous series, he’s just more lecherous and a bit nasty really. There was a format change that dropped the GamesMaster tips, to make way for content that just wasn’t that interesting really, or a poor excuse for Dominik to go on holiday to provide behind the scenes looks on things that were just not exciting. Plus there was no Christmas special, just a ‘best of’ thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, series five still had some good moments but they were few and far between and series five is rather empty overall. It feels as if the producers just threw it together last minute.

The focus from games began to shift over to other things not game related. Do we really need or want to see the Waterworld live-action show at Universal Studios, a review of the Sandra Bullock flick The Net or Robot Wars on tv? Personally, I’d rather have seen more gaming content on this show that focused on gaming. I mean, this series aired at the end of 1995 and the start of 1996, during the 32-bit generation and the 3D revolution. Sony’s PlayStation and the Saturn from Sega were already out, then the N64 was on its way too, plus there was so much more. It’s not as if there wasn’t a lot of gaming-related stuff to cover, that’s before we get into the still (somewhat) popular 16-bit era before it finally died out. Quite a few episodes felt rather ’empty’ in terms of content with more pointless filler to pad out what little content they had. You know, like Dominik ‘marrying’ Whigfield.

For me, series five was the beginning of the end for GamesMaster. Not a terrible series and to be honest, GamesMaster never had an outright terrible series (no, not even series three). But this was most definitely one of the lesser ones and where GamesMaster began to forcibly try to be a bit too ‘nineties’. GamesMaster was the first-ever video game dedicated show on TV when it first aired. But by 1995-96 when this series was on, there were others doing what GamesMaster did. I think that the producers at GamesMaster felt they needed to diversify to stand out but the truth is they didn’t. There may have been other gaming shows on TV at the time but none of them were as good as GamesMaster was. Anyway, onwards to series six!

GAMESMASTER

Total golden joysticks won – 12

Please leave a reply/comment.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s