Monday, 24 January 2011


I am becoming more and more fascinated with the dungeon crawl genre of fantasy and this post will no doubt be the first of many focusing on this oeuvre. Click on the tag in the footer to see the others.

The clikerty-click world of the interwebs reminded me the other day of the existence of the show Knightmare. This was a British children's television series broadcast in the late 80s and early 90s which was, essentially, a gameshow with the trappings of a fantasy roleplaying game. Teams of young contestants would direct one of their number around a dungeon, solving clues and gathering treasure in an attempt to win a prize. The unique aspect of the show was that the single dungeoneer wore an enclosing helmet which meant he or she could not actually see the "dungeon". The environment was added in real-time using chromakey to composite in artwork and CGI. Only the team mates who were directing the poor sod could view the rooms he or she explored, and it was their job to give the schmuck directions. This is explained in far greater detail on the excellent Wiki page here.

I remember this programme only vaguely and re-watching clips on YouTube I can see why. I find it rather dull and frustrating to see some poor child stumble around a virtual set while his squawking team mates try and get him to turn a bit to the right - no more - no back a bit - no, just stand the fuck still. I must, however, be alone in this as the show was immensely popular and attracted up to five million viewers.

The reason I am blogging about it is that it embodies two things I love - the dungeon crawl and the 80s. The first title sequence (there were several) is a great example of 80s animation with chiaroscuro shading and wonderful lighting effects. The sets embody the archetypal dungeon and are filled with portcullises, squeaking doors, magical pools and so forth. The dungeoneer's health is tracked with a little computer-generated animation of a head which decays as stamina is reduced.

If you can get over the fact you are watching a bind child trample around a bluescreen stage, then the clips on YouTube will give you a wonderful insight into this bonkers mix of 80s children's television and classic dungeon crawl.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome watchers of illusion to the castle of confusion...

    Ah, I remember this. Staple diet for my early days at secondary school. There was much discussion that the kids would do much better with 'Spellcasting: F I R E B A L L'.