If you were not fortunate enough to grow up in the 80s and 90s, you missed out on the golden age of Nickelodeon. Shows like You Can’t Do That On Television, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Hey Dude, Doug, Ren & Stimpy, Hey Arnold, and Are You Afraid of the Dark are straight up iconic. Then of course there was gak, the green slime toy sold by Nickelodeon that would make a farting sound when you pushed it back into its container and could strip the paint off of your other toys. No, seriously. I draped it on some of my action figures once while playing, and it stripped the paint from their faces. Definitely safe to play with.
Gak was a term used by the one and only Marc Summers to describe the green goo poured on contestants playing Double Dare, a game show that originally aired from 1986-1993. The game pitted two teams against each other. The beginning of each round featured a physical challenge, like “How Many Pies Can You Catch In This Oversize Pair of Clown Pants?” The winning team would win control of the trivia round, which followed the physical challenge. There were two trivia rounds, each of which consisted of ten questions. The team with the highest score at the end of the trivia rounds would move on to the obstacle course, a series of eight obstacles that had to be completed in 60 seconds. Players had to grab a flag while completing the obstacle, and team members alternated obstacles until the end. Said obstacles involved things like picking a giant nose filled with slime to find the flag, a “1-Ton Human Hamster Wheel” which featured lights that had to be lit by turning the wheel as fast as possible, and “Down The Hatch” which required contestants to enter a huge mouth and then slide down a bed of gak. Beat the obstacle course, and the team earned a whole mountain of prizes. It was a fun and frenetic show and no doubt resulted in a lot of kids destroying their homes after insisting that their parents by them their own gak.
Very interesting you might say, but what the heck does this have to do with video games? You are correct. I’ve digressed a bit, but fear not because it was all leading up to this: a video game version of the game show was released for the Commodore 64 and DOS in 1988 before before making its way to the NES in 1990. Game play was EXACTLY like the game show. In the original show, if you didn’t know the answer to a trivia question, you could dare the other team to answer. If they didn’t know it, they could double dare you, which would instigate a physical challenge. The same would happen in the video game. Physical challenges in the game typically consisted of setting the trajectory and speed of a projectile. Challenges included things like bowling with cantaloupes or throwing bananas into the moving hands of a gorilla. The obstacle course at the end involved tapping the correct direction on the keypad and then hitting jump at the right moment to leap up and capture the flag. Virtual prizes like bicycles, television sets and more were yours for the taking if you managed to win the game.
Was it a good game? Well, that sort of misses the point (a clever way of saying not really). The point was, YOU could be a part of Double Dare. If that doesn’t sound awesome to you, I’m going to have to ask you to call your Mom and have her come pick you up. And stop playing with my gak.