As a television show, Remote Control was a fun alternative to the stuffiness of Jeopardy. This MTV classic featured comedian Ken Ober asking a bunch of twentysomethings simple pop culture trivia. The stakes were low, the prizes were barely worth winning and from time to time a very young Adam Sandler would show up. In other words, it was the perfect show for an audience of young stoners waiting for the next Duran Duran video.
Remote Control may have been nothing more than a low-budget guilty pleasure, but it turns out that the video game adaptation is a real contender. Published by Hi-Tech and released in 1990, Remote Control is a surprisingly strong game show game, easily one of the best on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. By focusing on the light-hearted elements and making the questions easy to answer, somebody finally got the game show style right.
Book smarts aren't going to help you here, because this is a game testing your television, movie, music, wrestling and pop culture knowledge. You're way more likely to get a question about Marky Mark than Mark Twain. There are nine categories on the board, each with three different questions. Much like Jeopardy and every other trivia game you've played, the object is to earn as many points as possible before time runs out.
Because the game came out in 1990, most of the trivia questions are from decades ago. You'll see lots of questions about All in the Family, the WWF, the Joe Piscopo-era of Saturday Night Live, the Brady Bunch and hair metal. This will no doubt be a challenge for younger gamers who can't tell the difference between Gunnar and Matthew Nelson.
Even if you're too young to remember a time when MTV played music videos, Remote Control can still be a lot of fun. The host's silly jokes are occasionally witty and the game moves fast enough to forgive any mistakes. Best of all, each question gives you multiple choices. This means you won't have to type the exact right answer; Remote Control encourages you to take wild guesses.
Sadly the game isn't without a few problems. For one thing, the game's graphics are abysmal. It's not so much the character designs, but rather the gaudy colors they chose for decoration. The host blends in with the busy background, which is more than a little distracting to the eyes. Remote Control should have taken a page from Jeopardy and placed everything on a black background; it would have improved the overall look of this 8-bit adaptation.
I also ran into far too many repeating questions after only a few plays. I don't expect an NES cartridge to hold thousands of questions, but it's a shame when three games in you are seeing the same question over and over. Still, there are enough new questions to keep people going for at least a few hours.
Whether with a friend or by yourself, Remote Control is worth playing. The fast pace and solid gameplay make this the game show adaptation to beat. Best of all, some of the 1980s era questions are genuinely clever. Remote Control is the one place where you'll be rewarded for knowing something about Madonna!