Meeeeeeew.......BAAA-BA-BAAAA, BA-BA-BA-BA BAA-BAAAA! Welcome watchers of illusion to the castle of confusion:
With that theme tune, accompanied by a Dragons Lairesque intro sequence, started the highlight if the TV week for many and, for a lucky few, the chance to actually be in a computer game.
All one needed to compete was the courage to walk through a dungeon blindfolded and three friends with pastel coloured shirts like a packet of Opal Fruits to guide you through the physical and mental challenges. 'Warning team!' The Dungeon Master overseeing this ordeal, named Treguard, maintained a cold detachment on the whole as he encouraged mere children to dice with death in his dungeon. He'd fit the foolhardy adventurer with a horned helmet which obscured all the the wearers feet and a satchel which can carry two items, then sit back and watch the show.
Depending on his mood, he'd occasionally offer a little insight or sarcastic comment to help them on their way. 'Where am I?' Once in the dungeon, the adventurer relied entirely on his three advisers to describe each room, guide them physically through to the next, solve all the puzzles and generally keep them alive. To the blind adventurer, they could just as well have been walking through a lunatic asylum. They'll encounter beings of all kinds: mostly malevolent, from walls haunted my ghouls with a penchant for riddles to a matriarchal ice queen who enjoys tricking others into suicide. The overseeing teammates would need quick thinking and clear, concise communication.
On entering a new room one could be confronted by anything from a giant snake to hurtling fireballs. A spiteful jester or a bomb with a burning fuse. It was a hard place to be going through puberty. Between topping up health (which depleted over time as well as from damage) with the odd crusty meat pie or apple, the life force meter was constantly depleting. Firstly the armoured helmet would be whisked off, then the living skin would be peeled from the skull in chunks, the remaining naked bone would also drop away piece by piece leaving only the wobbly eyeballs which signalled the last knockings a of life when they tumbled one by one from the screen.
In the 8-bit era, the graphical oomph on display for creating the backgrounds and life force meter were a glimpse into an amazing future, when such power would surely be available in the home. But until then we could watch with dropped jaws at the spectacle and wonder at the spirit of adventure, wishing we could take part. Solving the puzzles from the armchair was great fun, as was criticising the decisions and competency of the teams, but ultimately all the viewers were jealous of the players who were actually on the show. Of course, being a computer game, death was only temporary. The losers, which most of the contestants turned to be, were awarded a scroll beneath a gloriously pixelated strobing sky and shown the safe path home.
Naturally there was a home version for the micros of the time, but it was punishingly difficult and didn't really deliver the experience the young viewers craved.
You can find the repeats on Challenge, or if you're less patient, all episodes can be found on YouTube: including a 20th anniversary special made especially for YouTube:
'Temporal disruption complete'