Nickelodeon Arcade is an American children's game show created by James Bethea and Karim Miteff and hosted by Phil Moore, with Andrea Lively announcing. It aired on Nickelodeon from 1992 to 1993. In the first season, the shows were taped in December 1991 and aired in early 1992, airing originally during weekend afternoons, and ran reruns until September 28, 1997. It was taped at Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando.
On the show two teams of contestants played two initial trivia rounds, with the winner advancing to the "Video Zone" to play against the evil "Game Wizard" of the day.
The show's format combined video game trivia with contestant-interactive virtual reality. The virtual reality games were designed by Bethea and Miteff for Bethea/Miteff Productions and programmed by Curt Toumainian for Saddleback/Live Studios and Dean Friedman for InVideo Systems. The show was the first in America to regularly intermix live action with animation using a bluescreen. The InVideo game, "Eat-a-Bug!", which aired in Bethea/Miteff-produced segments during 1989 on Nickelodeon's Total Panic, was one of the world's first regularly televised virtual reality games.
The program's theme music and game music was composed by Dan Vitco & Mark Schultz, and produced by Schultz. Additional music for the games was composed and produced by Dean Friedman. Mikey's "walk" melody was composed by James Bethea, who also sketched the original designs for the characters of "Mikey", the Wizards and several game "enemies".
All of the custom games and contestant scoring used on Nick Arcade were implemented on Amiga computers.
Each round would start with one of the following 30-second video games:
- Meteoroids: Space shooter where players moved targets trying to zap the most flying targets, which included asteroids and ships.
- Laser Surgeon: Same shooter-type game as Meteoroids, but with an inside-the-body theme.
- Post-Haste: A side-scroller race-type game where players controlled a mailman trying to dodge obstacles; inspired by Paperboy. The winner was the player whose mailman moved the farthest.
- Jet Jocks: Same as Post-Haste, but with players controlling jet skiers avoiding obstacles along a river.
- Crater Rangers: Same as Post-Haste, but players controlled ATVs, avoiding obstacles on the moon; also a side-scrolling game.
- Brainstorm: Players tried to defend a brain's neurons from an electrical impulse that ricocheted side-to-side; comparable to a sped-up Pong. The team whose side took the fewest hits won. This game took on an inside-the-human brain theme.
- Battle of the Bands: Same dodge-game as Brainstorm, but with an On-Stage Concert theme using speakers and a sound wave bouncing from side to side.
- Star Defenders: Same dodge-game as Brainstorm, but with players protecting their spaceships from a comet.
These custom Face-Off games were developed by Saddleback/Live Studios, as well as Psygnosis, creator of the Lemmings video game series. Psygnosis has since merged with Sony Computer Entertainment and is now a part of Sony's European branch.
The winner of the face-off won 25 or 50 points (depending on the round) for their team. If the face-off ended in a tie, a toss-up question was asked. The team also earned control of "Mikey, the Video Adventurer."
After the face-off, a cartoon character called "Mikey" would be navigated over a thematic game-board by the teams. One team was Yellow and the other team was Red. The game-board was divided into 18 squares, and Mikey was moved around the board (in every direction, but not diagonally) toward a "Goal" space on the board. When new squares were landed on, various events would be uncovered, including trivia quizzes, video-based puzzles, bonus instant-win prizes, automatic point-adding squares, enemies and "Video Challenges." The latter involved one player of the team playing one of five video games in an attempt to beat a certain score or accomplish a certain objective within 30 seconds.
The following home systems were used in the Video Challenge:
- Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
- Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
- Sega Genesis
- NEC TurboGrafx-16
- SNK Neo-Geo Advanced Entertainment System (AES)
- Custom games, including the face-offs, were implemented on Amiga computers.
The object was to get Mikey to the Goal, as discussed above. More often than not, the round would end prematurely due to time constraints. In such cases, Mikey was moved directly to the goal, and a question was asked; the first team to buzz in with the correct answer received the "Goal" points. Round 2 was played the same way, but with point values doubled.
Mikey's World had 11 different areas of exploration. These areas included:
- Pirate's Cove- An old-fashioned port area including a skull-shaped island.
- Cape Cosmos- A space center that transported Mikey into outer space, where his adventures began for the players.
- Camelittle- A medieval-themed area where knights, princesses and dragons roamed and fantasy became alive.
- Specific Ocean- An underwater exploration area where the denizens of the deep abound.
- Forgotten Desert- An Egyptian-style area that harbored mystery and intrigue.
- Slurpy Gulch- A traditional lawless Wild West town with a southwestern feel.
- Volcano Jungle- A rainforest jungle with a live volcano and a village nearby.
- Creepyville- A haunted mansion near a spooky swamp.
- Mikey's Neighborhood- A normal suburban neighborhood, home to Mikey as well as a bully nicknamed "Game Over."
- We Got'Em Mall- A shopping center near Mikey's neighborhood.
- Time Portal- A vortex that Mikey traveled through, visiting his neighborhood both in the past and the future.
There were eight different types of spaces Mikey could land on:
- The Four Ps ("Points, Puzzles, Pop Quizzes and Prizes"): Note that all point values listed below were doubled in the second round.
- Points - The team that moved Mikey was automatically awarded 25 points (50 in Round 2) and kept control.
- Pop Quiz - A question was asked that related to the area Mikey was traveling. The teams could buzz in in the middle of the question. If a team guessed correctly, they earned 25 points (50 in Round 2) and control of Mikey. (Note: In early episodes, the team in control of Mikey would choose one of four categories.)
- Prize - The team that moved Mikey won a prize and kept control. Any prize the team received was theirs to keep, regardless of the game's outcome.
- Video Puzzle - Different puzzles were played. The team that solved the puzzle received 25 points (50 in Round 2) and control of Mikey. Examples of video puzzles:
- "Video Repairman": Identifying the artist in a music video with a scrambled picture.
- "What Was That?": A video of an object being destroyed was rewound, and the object was to identify it.
- "Credit Crawl": Credits appeared identifying a person, place or thing, and the object was to identify it.
- "Fast Forward": A sped-up video clip was shown, and the object was to predict the outcome beforehand. In the first season the teams were given three possible answers. Each team would use a Magna Doodle to write the answer they thought was correct. In season two, this Video Puzzle was played in a manner similar to The Price is Right. Each team used their Magna Doodle to predict how much of a certain activity could be accomplished, within a set time limit, by the person in the video. The team that came the closest without going over received the points and control of Mikey. If the teams were tied in prediction, they both scored the points, but the team that moved Mikey last would get control.
- "Robot Vision": A thermographic video clip depicting an activity.
- "Hyper Channels": A montage of original TV-style clips identifying an actor or musician.
- "Video Text": A basic rebus puzzle, usually forming a phrase.
- "Flash Frame": A montage of images was flashed rapidly, and the object was to recall 3 of the 5 themed objects.
- "Hidden Camera": A miniature video camera was placed somewhere, such as in a trash can or a grocery bag, and the object was to guess the camera's location.
- "Instant Replay": Contestants were shown a short video on the monitor, and when it ended, they were asked a question about what they had seen in the video. The team that correctly answered would get the points and control.
- "Split Screen": Images of an activity being performed, initially arranged in a "matrix" of very small tiled images on the monitor, were shown to the players. The pictures would gradually become larger, and the first team to correctly identify the activity would get the points and control.
- Video Challenge - One of the contestants from a team chose one of five video games on stage to play (each of which could be played only once during an episode). The goal was to beat the "Wizard's Challenge" (renamed "Expert's Challenge" in Season 2), which was usually to achieve a certain score within 30 seconds for the game chosen. The other team member had three seconds to write, using a Magna-Doodle, how much of their score they would gamble that the partner could complete the challenge. If the player met the challenge, the wager was added to their score, and the team kept control of Mikey. If not, they lost the amount of their wager and the other team gained control. Teams could wager any amount from zero to their current score (or the value of one question in that round if the team had less). In the event the other team member wagered more points than their current score, the wager was rounded down to their current score, only if the challenge was won. They could only choose a game once and when it was chosen, the sign darkened on it.
For obvious reasons, only games with constantly visible on-screen score displays were used. In a manner similar to Starcade, a telestrator box was placed around the score display, to make it "stand out" to the home audience.
Each mockup arcade cabinet actually had two systems inside, each powered on and playing the same game: One had the game running in its "attract" mode, and the other was cued up to and paused at the point where the producers wanted the game to begin. When a contestant chose a game, the input was simply switched on the monitor (this action was edited out).
- Enemy - An animated enemy, which changed with the setting of the game board, "attacked" Mikey, and the team that moved Mikey lost control. The Enemies included:
- Game Over, the town bully in "Mikey's Neighborhood" who would hit Mikey in the face with cream pies. Game Over also appeared in the "WeGot'Em Mall," the "Time Portal" and on the beach in the "Specific Ocean."
- Silly the Kid, a baby armed with baby-bottle pistols in "Slurpy Gulch"; a spoof of Billy the Kid.
- A Witch Doctor in the "Volcano Jungle", who would blow up a voodoo doll of Mikey and then let it fly off and deflate.
- Two Giant Smooch Aliens, creatures with pigtail wigs and big lips, found in "Cape Cosmos," that would surround Mikey, kissing him until he became dizzy and powerless.
- A Fire-Breathing Dragon in the medieval realm "Camelittle," who would burn Mikey by breathing fire on his shorts.
- A Ghost who would scare Mikey away in "Creepyville."
- A Djinni (Genie) in the "Forgotten Desert" who would cast a spell on Mikey, turning him into a chicken. (Note: He reappeared in the "Enchanted Flight" stage of the Video Zone in Season 2, casting lightning bolts on the player.)
- A Hammerhead Shark, found in the "Specific Ocean," who would flatten Mikey with his hammerhead, turning Mikey into a coin with his face on it. The Hammerhead Shark also appeared in the underwater areas of "Pirate's Cove."
- Blackboard the Pirate, a pirate shaped like a chalkboard, found in "Pirate's Cove," who would attack Mikey with a ruler sword (he actually faced the screen and approached it as he attacked).
- Time Bomb - In the rare occurrence that Mikey moved to a space that had already been landed on, a "Time Bomb" would occur. The team controlling Mikey had 10 seconds to spell a word, alternating letters back and forth between team members. If a team correctly "pong-spelled" a word, they kept control; otherwise, the other team would gain control. Regardless of the outcome, no points were awarded. The "Time Bomb" occurred only on a couple of occasions (one episode had at least two uses of the "Time Bomb"). In an attempt to prevent this event from occurring, host Moore would dissuade teams from choosing to move to a square that had already been occupied, or simply tell the team that they could not make that move.
- Goal - The Goal worked in two ways. If the team that moved Mikey moved him to the Goal, they alone were asked a question based on a category their opponents chose from a list. A correct answer earned 50 points (100 in the 2nd round) and the Goal for that round. If they answered incorrectly, the opponents got 1/2 the points (25 points in Round 1, 50 in Round 2), and the Goal by default. If time ran out before Mikey reached the goal, a sudden death Pop Quiz question was asked for 50 points (100 points in the 2nd round). Usually, because of time constraints, the Goal was not reached by teams, and so the sudden-death situation was played frequently.
The team with the most points at the end of two rounds won the game. If the game ended in a tie, a 100-point tiebreaker question was asked. The winning team advanced to the Video Zone.
The Video Zone
The Video Zone was a live-action video game with three levels. Using a video monitor to see themselves, the contestants would be on a sound stage, climbing ladders in front of a blue screen attempting to achieve previously explained goals (which was always to get three of an object) for each level of the game.
As in a traditional video game, players could be "damaged" by hazards and enemy characters. If they lost all of their power (five units, as shown by an on-screen gauge), they would have to start the stage over and repeat its objectives until successful. In addition, each level contained a 'power-up' that appeared periodically that, when touched, gave the player an added advantage in that level -- destroying all onscreen enemies, freezing enemies for 5 seconds (rendering them harmless), restoring the team's power meter to maximum, etc.
The team had 60 seconds to clear all three levels. Each item touched won the team $50 to split, and each level cleared won a prize of increasing value. Successfully beating the Wizard in the final level won the grand prize, which was usually a vacation. If time ran out before the team completed the game, a "laugh"-like sound played, the screen faded to red, and "GAME OVER" appeared on the screen.
- Jungle Fever: A jungle setting where the player climbed palm trees to obtain three bunches of bananas at the top while avoiding coconut-throwing monkeys, as well as toucans, piranhas (seen once the player was above the waterfall) and snakes. The player could go behind the waterfall, or touch a golden idol to cause a rope to appear to help cross the waterfall safely.
- Alien Moonbase: An intergalactic mechanical building where the player had to turn off three anti-matter reactors, while trying to avoid steam vents, an insectoid and a laserbot. Touching the main computer immobilized the aliens for five seconds and activated a "light bridge," which made the reactors easier to reach.
- Ancient Tomb: A Mayan temple where the player had to grab three coins on both levels while trying to avoid bats, a statue's hammer, arrows shot from the ground, fireballs and a mummy. Touching a beam of sunlight eradicated all enemies and unlocked all doors, revealing the hidden coins.
Season 2 only
- Monsters on the Loose: A city besieged by alien UFOs, where the now-giant player had to rescue three humans from a UFO's tractor beam, while avoiding such monsters as a giant laser-firing eyeball, a slimy earth creature, and a monstrous cockroach. Touching a power rod released cosmic radiation and temporarily cleared the screen of monsters.
- Haunted Museum: A haunted mansion scene, where the player was required to pick up three statue busts hidden inside moving bookcases, while avoiding certain dangers such as a gargoyle, tentacles, a vampire and the "Hand of Doom." These dangers could be eliminated by pulling back a curtain, thus bathing the room in sunlight.
- Runaway Rail Car: The player traveled on a railway car through a Wild West town and abandoned mines; he or she had to obtain three coins while avoiding vultures, hanging timbers, cactuses, tumbleweeds and rats. If the player touched a green "luck stone," he or she regained full power.
- Nile River Raft: The player, floating on a fast-moving Egyptian river with a wooden raft, had to grab three gems while avoiding flies, alligators, rats, vultures and a mummy. Touching the legendary "Eye of the Pharaoh" Diamond restored full power.
- Mind Maze: A Mayan room gauntlet where the player had to collect three coins while dodging fireballs, spears and electrified squares. If the player touched a "Power" square, he or she became immune to all damage.
- Cliffhanger: Taking place on a cliff with a network of caves, the player had to clear the cave openings to find three coins while avoiding rock slides, snakes, vultures and giant lizards. Touching a TNT device blasted open the cave openings, thus revealing all the coins.
- Food Frenzy: A school lunch room setting where a food fight was taking place. The player had to grab three textbooks scattered on the floor, while avoiding flying food and the gym coach. Opening a locker with dirty gym shoes will stop the chaos for five seconds.
Season 2 only
- Sub Search: An ocean scene with the player in a waverunner; the player had to collect three treasure chests while avoiding dangers such as sharks, eels, giant lobsters, explosive mines and squids. Touching a solar fuel cell, however, restored all power.
- Enchanted Flight: A magic carpet scene, where the player had to grab three rings while avoiding swordsmen, gate traps, cobras, a royal guard, a baby dragon, guard dogs and a genie that shot lightning bolts (the same Djinni from the Forgotten Desert in Mikey's World). Touching a magic lamp restored the player's health.
- Snow Slingers: An arctic scene where the player had to hit three elves with snowballs while dodging those of the elves. The player also had to avoid skiing foxes, and hitting an ice-skating Polar Bear by mistake. Hitting a snowman made it play a song that caused the elves to dance in place for five seconds.
Both players teamed up for the last level, the Wizard level, which was a face-off with one of three villains that rotated throughout the show's run: Merlock, a Gandalf-esque evil wizard who shot lightning balls; Scorchia, a fireball-throwing sorceress; and Mongo, a spiked armor-wearing troll who tossed balls of energy. To defeat them, the players had to touch three orbs before time expired, while trying not to come in contact with the Game Wizard, the ghostly creatures flying around the room, or the beams of lightning, fire or energy (depending on who the Wizard was) that erupted from the ground. If either player touched a spinning hourglass that randomly appeared, the Game Wizard, creatures and the beams were frozen for five seconds, during which time the players could not be damaged.
Upon the Wizard's defeat (if the players succeeded), depending on who the players faced, Merlock would fizzle into dust, Scorchia disintegrated into ash and was blown away, and Mongo would disappear in a flash of light, leaving only his armor behind. Defeating the Wizard also caused the message "You did it! You beat the game." to appear on-screen.
In Season 2, the appearances of the Wizards' rooms were retooled, with Merlock in a room with electric orbs, Scorchia in an underground diamond mine shaft, and Mongo in a dark cave. The premise was the same as before.
Typical grand prizes awarded in the bonus round included trips to U.S. Space Camp, a return trip to Universal Studios Florida, bicycles, video-game systems and Macintosh Classic computers. Throughout the show's run, precious few trips to other destinations (including Jamaica) were offered. Consolation prizes usually consisted of British Knights sneakers, supplies of candy, or video game cartridges.
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