It could only happen in America. Only they could come up with a television show in which ordinary, everyday people put their bodies on the line in a series of extremely physical games, against superhuman musclemen and women with unlikely names like Nitro, Thunder, Ice, Blaze and Laser.
Oh sure, we had our own version, hut lets he honest, it was a bit of a flop wasn't it? I mean, all credit to good old John Fashanu and that Swedish bit who used to do the weather, but it just wasn't happening I'm afraid.
Strange as it may seem, I have actually given a good deal of thought as to why Gladiators failed to emulate the success of its stateside rival, and have come up with a theory. Everyone was just too, well, nice I suppose. Let me give you an example of what I mean. What was that big hairy one called? Dog. No. Wolf. That was it. Wolf has just absolutely creamed Dave, the seven stone Home Economics teacher from Leighton Buzzard, into the nearest wall. Now, does he snarl some incredibly witty and frightening put down at him as he lies in a heap on the floor? No, he picks him up, dusts him off and says "Bad luck old chap, you almost had me there!".
Gladiators did not work for the single reason that the producers failed to recognise one simple fact. Viewers enjoy seeing other people come a cropper. Hands up everyone who only watches Ski Sunday in the hope that one of the competitors falls flat on his face. I personally enjoy nothing more than seeing someone miss a gate, overcompensate, lose balance and go tumbling uncontrollably down the side of a mountain. What is even better is if they crash into the side, get their head caught in the orange safety netting and are yanked back by the throat, legs akimbo. Serves them right for wearing those pink suits I always say!
Anyway, I'm rambling, but now you know my opinion on Gladiators the TV show, on to the game. American Gladiators features all seven sensational events from the show. All your favourites - The Assault, Joust. Human Cannonball, The Wall, Atlasphere, Powerball and The Eliminator are there for you to take part in, giving you a chance to battle the characters you have either grown to love or hate, from the safety of your own armchair.
Each event requires a different set of strength, strategy and timing. This means that in each of the events your joystick will respond differently, making reading the instructions essential if you are to get anywhere at all. You can choose to compete head to head with a friend or the computer, or take part in a tournament in which up to eight people can compete against each other.
It has to be said, on first sight, American Gladiators is pitiful. On your first run through the game you will not be able to control the fits of laughter that sneak up on you at various moments of mediocrity. The events seem to last about ten seconds as the Gladiators wipe the floor with you, and to be honest you are quite glad they don't last any longer.
From there on in the game only gets better, and as you begin to work out what is happening, and can actually give your foes a run for their money, the game begins to grow on you in a non too pleasant manner. What is even more frightening is that it continues to do so for quite some time.
I'm sure Gametek would be the first to admit that this product is not going to win them any awards, in either the field of technical excellence, or gameplay. What it is going to do is win them a lot of friends. This has obviously been programmed with a younger market in mind - the game has been made more friendly on the pocket by being released in a lower price bracket. This will make it more attractive to kids who enjoy the show, which will no doubt give a healthy boost to the sales.
The best way to play American Gladiators is get a few mates around, let them have a bit of a practise to make sure they know what they are doing, and settle yourself down for a riotous evening.
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