Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster
jiggery_pokery

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More about your favourite new Children's BBC sort-of-fantasy-reality game show

Raven's day two is already starting to show the classic signs of the sub-genre, the sub-genre being "pretentious, pseudo-fantastic retrieval-based game shows". Today we had a repetitive game, a weird game, two regular features and the ever-popular unpredictable, illogical rule which appears out of nowhere for no good reason whatsoever. A heady mix indeed.

Repetitive game: one at a time, the six young warriors (suspended to a safety line) climb a tree; the first platform is reached by a rope ladder, the second platform by stakes and handholds driven into the tree. Upon reaching the top platform, jump off - take the Leap Of Faith after which the challenge is named - and grab the treasure ring hanging in mid-air. Contestants free-fall for about half a second before the safety line takes their weight. All the time, the Raven comments encouragingly and even speaks of the courage of the single non-jumping contestant. The contestants were very positive about the experience immediately afterwards in the only interesting post-game interview so far, especially the contestant who might reasonably have been expected to be least positive of the successful ones.

Weird game: the six contestants are divided into two teams of three. In turn, one member from each team climbs into a roughly sumo-ish rope ring, with a neutral stripe down a diametric segment. The contestants, armed with buckler shields, throw flour bombs (effectively, chalky bags of flour) at each other and attempt to deflect the opponent's thrown bomb. One contestant discovers the effective tactic is to throw at the opponent while they are distracted collecting the next bomb. One contestant on one team wins 2-0, the second contestant on the same team wins 1-0 and the third match is not held. All three members on the losing team lose a life. No information on how the teams or the match-ups were decided, making this part of the show faintly dissatisfactory as well as somewhat violent.

Game three: the cleverest piece of game design so far in the show. The leading contestant must play the game (we had co-leaders, so the tie was broken by "which hand is the black raven's feather in?") and must choose an accomplice. The main player stands to lose a life if they fail the game; success brings two rings, which they may or may not choose to share. The game is to solve a riddle and then spell it out by stepping on a series of lettered stones, which is a very familiar game show mechanic indeed. The cunning thing is that there was too little information to solve the riddle today, but it was implied that tomorrow we will return and get the same riddle with a little more information. A good technique to peg back the leader.

Finally, we had the "The Way of the Warrior" obstacle course again. The contestant who was in clear last place volunteered to play, but so did the contestant who played the TWotW course yesterday. At this point we were all informed that if someone plays TWotW twice and loses both times then they are out of the game immediately, regardless of how many or how few lives they have left. No, I don't understand either. A "which hand" draw saw the leader taking part in it; today, he didn't get quite as far as he did yesterday before erring. This second loss at TWotW earned instant dismissal and an unpredictable reprieve for the contestant with fewest lives.

This clearly isn't a great show. It has nice touches - good contestants, good clothing, pretty good camerawork, decent incidental music, a well-suited and positive host who remains firmly in character, a few nice props and a good atmosphere - but suffers from not infusing its games with the required atmosphere nearly enough to convince. It conveys the image of "a fun day out on a children's activity holiday at Center Parcs in medieval garb" far more convincingly than its "mammoth quest" epic fantasy pretensions.

Fifteen years ago, probably even only ten, I would have been all over this show, designing a home game (incorporating six differently-shaped dice) based on only the first day's challenges, coming up with advanced rules for ways contestants can purchase useful items and extra skills with their treasure rings, coming up with ways that the young warriors might eventually replace the host and guide other young warriors through the challenges in the future, coming up with parallel challenges for young would-be wizards instead of young would-be warriors and so forth. There probably is an effective everything-you-might-like-to-do-in-a-RPG-minus-the-role-playing system in Raven yet. (I'd also be trying to work out a proto-live-action-role-playing Raven home game, too.) However in 2002 I'm rather more ehhh about the whole proceedings; there's not much to play along with, let along fan along with, and the whole result is unambitious and underwhelming. Bah. I guess I must just be getting old.

The show somehow needs something more - perhaps a definite enemy that the team can band together against in occasional co-operative games, perhaps something to do with the treasure rings, perhaps some other positive sort of sense of progression other than the "well, you haven't been eliminated yet" aspect. Possibly something as simple as a sidekick for the Raven himself - an Android, a Pickle or a Majieda - might spice things up. That's already a lot to fit into a six-contestants-down-to-two-in-one-week show, though; I do regret that it couldn't have been that bit more ambitious and stuck with the same (decreasing) band of contestants throughout all four weeks. Admittedly the (presumed) repetition of games does allow for a greater budget on them, but there doesn't appear to have been a particularly great sum spent on the games in the first place. Perhaps the show has been shot on a budget befitting its "off-Broadway" status after all.

Definitely more interesting than Ice Warriors, though.

It was the Middlesbrough Gamers Club's Christmas party tonight; I co-marshaled a game of Fuzzy Heroes for about thirty players. It's now got so late that I shall tell you about it - and also about an interesting survey of British sporting preferences - at some other point.
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