?The BBC has given us so much over the years, although much of it was filmed on video and the picture quality is for shit. But the world would definitely be lamer if we never had a chance to watch Monty Python or Doctor Who. Thank you, BBC, for providing us with some good TV! In fact, some of your shows are so good, they’ve been running for over 50 years.
Earlier this year, the folks at BBC announced that they were planning some upcoming videogames based on hits like Doctor Who and Top Gear. While some of us were saying, “About damn time,” a lot of people forget that the BBC has already been a source for a bunch of good and not-so-good video and computer games throughout the years — and not all of them based on shows you might expect. Here’s 10 highlights.
10) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The original Douglas Adams book was turned into an interactive text game in 1982, but due to some bullshit legal case it got buried. Two years later, as a tie-in with the 1982 television series on BBC, the Infocom text-based adventure game came out. And it was crazy. Hitchhiker’s Guide goes down in history as one of the most frustrating experiences in gaming history, really only playable if you’ve seen the show or read the book. It was insanely hard, virtually unwinnable, and 100% text. Fans ate it up.
9) Fawlty Towers
?British quiz shows tend to last forever, while British comedy series manage to make it through a dozen episodes or so before vanishing. John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers was one of these comedies, managing 12 hilarious episodes of a hotel comedy before bowing out. So how to keep the fun going? Computer game! Aside from standard features like show clips and a desktop customizer (imagine Fawlty Towers icons), it came with three hotel-themed games. In one, you move guests around your hotel, based on certain criteria (no unmarried couples in the same room!). In another, you drive around town, picking up guests who have gone to other hotels. In the last, you’re just John Cleese who wants to eat toast without being bothered. It’s available on Amazon for less than a lotto ticket.
8) A Question of Sport
?Remember what I said about British quiz programs lasting forever? A Question of Sport is one of those examples. It’s been running continuously on the BBC for over 40 years, making it the longest-running quiz program in Britain. A computer game naturally followed, in 1988. You answer sports questions, which makes it near impossible for anyone playing today. How does anyone remember key snooker players from 30 years ago?
7) Wallace and Gromit
The stop-motion animation of Wallace and Gromit has been shown all over the BBC, as well as their own short films. They’ve also made appearances all over the video game world, with a PC game in 1995, a major console sequel to The Wrong Trousers on in 2003, a playable version of Curse of the Were-Rabbit on Xbox and PS2 in 2005, and four episodic games on Xbox Live and PC that came out last year. Online reviews are in the “okay” range for all of them, but expect more of them to follow in the future.
I believe the British like to call it “rubbish.” FightBox was one of the biggest flops in BBC history, with an embarrassing number of viewers (6,000 per episode at one point). It was like Battle Bots/Robot Wars in that contestants created a computerized 3-D fighter beforehand and then pitted it against other fighters in what basically was a lo-tech PVP level in a bad videogame. The show failed hard and the game for PS2 and PC did the same. I’d speculate that was because you could get the same experience with any number of other fighting/adventure/RPGs and it was based on a show that no one saw.
?If you don’t know about how awesome Q.I. is, please take a minute to go on Youtube and educate yourself. It is, without a doubt, the smartest show in the history of ever. Know-it-all Stephen Fry hosts a panel of well-known comedians and asks the most impossible questions ever. You learn a lot, and the interactive DVD game brings the smartiness home. While not a traditional console game, Q.I. lets you play a few rounds with Fry as host in what ends up being a combination pub quiz and the hardest college exam you ever took.
4) Monty Python
The first Python game was a 1984 text game that replicated most of Holy Grail without actually crediting Monty Python for any of it. Try finding it. Legit releases followed in the ’90s, with the popular Complete Waste of Time which was a combo of screensaver, clue-finding, mini-games, and videos. There was a Monty Python adventure game in 1990 where you steered a Terry Gilliam-esque protagonist through a world filled with generic Python crap (big feet falling from the sky, Spam, dead parrots, etc.). Meaning of Life and Holy Grail both became CD-ROM games, based faithfully on the films with new material recorded. And then there is the SPAMalot catapult game, which can still be found here.
3) Strictly Come Dancing
Americans will know this show by its American title, Dancing With the Stars. Lots of British shows get the American treatment, and yes, the Wii/PS2/PC games are based off the American version. So why did I include it? Because the celebrities that approved their likenesses for it are absolutely no one you’d want to play a game with. Harry Hamlin? Gold medal speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno? Joey McIntyre? And who besides the readers of TR would want to play a game where you’re John Ratzenberger?
2) Doctor Who
BBC’s release of new Doctor Who games (starring the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith) is a big deal, but the good doctor already has a slew of games under his belt. Early games were text-based, quest-based, or spinning games like Frogger and Pac-Man with a Doctor Who-twist, but some great games showed up in the ’90s. Dalek Attack was a fast-paced arcade shoot-em-up where you can choose which incarnation of the Doctor to play as (it didn’t matter much). The adventure game Destiny of the Doctors in 1997 was the high water mark, with four of the living Doctors and The Master, Anthony Ainley, recording new dialogue and earlier Doctors appearing via impersonators and old footage. An interactive episode is available on the BBC website, and more releases of the current game series are planned.
1) The Young Ones
The Young Ones told the story of a punk, an anarchist, a hippie, and a con man living in an apartment and being awesome all the time. It’s truly some fine TV and it starred just about everyone on the British comedy circuit in the ’80s. The videogame… well, it got the part about the characters right, and the fact they live in an apartment (or “flat”). The whole point is that you choose a character and then gather up your personal belongings and try to move out. While you are doing so, your roommates hide/smash/steal your stuff and speak with many, many speech balloons. The game is not fun. The game is not easy. The game is, however, a pretty neat idea, just because someone had the balls to make a game out of The Young Ones.