Old TV Shows
And the guidance did need to be clear and accurate, because this was an adventure with just one chance to win. The game was over if the dungeoneer was in a situation where they would have died in real life, or was captured.
“Welcome, watchers of illusion, to the castle of Confusion!” as Treguard would say. The very first show spent a good few minutes explaining the rules of the dungeon to the first team, who, it must be said, didn’t fare particularly well…
The rules were fairly simple. The only path is forward, there is no turning back, and you can only carry two objects at a time. There was a “time limit” of sorts, known as the “Life Force”, an animated face that slowly fell to pieces, which could be restored by picking up food (and then placing this in the knapsack, where it was “consumed”). This represents one of the most iconic features of Knightmare, and I was greatly disappointed when they decided to ditch it in favour of a walking suit of armour or even a pie.
Quests normally followed a simple 3 level system, each level consisting of an entrance (sometimes a choice to be made here), a few “obstacle” rooms (either good guidance or a puzzle to solve to progress), a clue room (objects and/or magic to be gained to aid progression in a later room) and a well room (down to the next level). Objects, knowledge or spells gained from the clue room may be needed to defeat an obstacle later in the level.
Supported by a cast of about a dozen, including characters such as Merlin the wizard, Casper the talking key, the savage Goblins, Cedric the monk and Folly the Jester. More characters appeared in later seasons, including assistants for Treguard (Pickle and Majida), Hordriss the Confuser, Lord Fear, Sylvester Hands and Snapper Jack to name buy a few.
The real stars, naturally, were the bad guys. Mogdred and Lord Fear were excellent at actually striking fear into the hearts of ourselves as watchers and the dungeoneer and advisors too. But still, I just keep coming back to the deaths.
But that doesn’t change that some of the deaths were exceptionally violent. Some met their fate in one of the “bomb rooms”, where a large bomb would light and consequently explode if the dungeoneer wasn’t quick enough to get out. A lot of deaths were due to poor navigation (straight off a cliff, or rather memorably, the fall down the “Block and Tackle” room… “Sidestep left… I MEAN RIGHT!”), but who can forget the times we saw the “Corridor of Blades” claim a victim?
No matter. Despite changes to the structure of the dungeon and indeed the game. (introducing corridors, the Eye Shield and outdoor locations, changing the Life Force sequence and even the Helmet of Justice, and the awful idea of the Reach Wand), Knightmare will always have a special place in my memory. Probably the best part of all is that no-one ever decided that the game was “too hard” after there were no winners in series 1. Whilst there were winners, there were very very few of them, so winning really was reserved for the elite.
You know, there’s so much to Knightmare, really I can’t mention everything in one review. It’s not possible. Also, it would be fair to say my opinion of Knightmare depends very much on what series we’re talking about. I wasn’t keen on the final seasons, even though there were obvious graphical improvements, I never really liked the Eye shield and taking the quest outdoors. I liked the computer generated and hand painted rooms used in early seasons. But there were certain characters from later seasons who I liked, too. I haven’t even touched on spell-casting, needless to say spells were only given when they were going to be needed shortly afterwards.
Alternatively, there are MANY images and clips from the show available from www.knightmare.com, as well as details of every single quest (the participants, the rooms visited, how they fared and so on).
Get on over there now if you want a quick sample of the best of Knightmare, and if you find you want to see how a full episode or even series panned out, get on the forum and make contact with someone.
According to Channel 4, Knightmare was chosen by the public as the 17th greatest Kids TV show of all time, which is pretty good going when you consider some of the shows it was up against.
On a final note, Knightmare fans might like to check out Fresh Love’s tribute to Knightmare, Bad Dreem, “where all your dreams become baaaaad.”
WARNING TEAM! TEMPORAL DISRUPTION IMMINENT! Oh dear… Temporal Disruption complete… Phase with us once more, and just keep telling yourself, it’s only a game… isn’t it?