Looking back at THE ADVENTURE GAME

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Wil makes it past the Vortex. Doogy rev...


You can just imagine the meeting back in 1980 when the concept for The Adventure Game was pitched to the BBC - "So shapeshifting dragons will be kidnapping celebrities and transporting them via London Underground to the planet Arg. Once there they will be made to play logic games for the entertainment of a cross aspidistra called the Rangdo." - Sounds great. We'll have four seasons please!

The Adventure Game was the brainchild of Patrick Dowling (he'd previously produced shows like Vision On, Take Hart and Why Don't You...), he had an interest in Dungeons and Dragons and wanted to create a show that would capture that mood. Dowling wrote and produced the first two seasons of the show, and also introduced the series 2 episodes. The Adventure Game came from the same era of 'challenge' style shows which also bought us Now Get Out of That and The Great Egg Race, it showed celebrities thinking, and in many ways it's style was a precursor to The Crystal Maze.

Some guests took to The Adventure Game much better than others - Richard Stilgoe and the frighteningly intelligent Graeme Garden stalked the hallways of Arg, attacking the various puzzles with frightening tenacity, seemingly born to rescue eggs from tubes by inflating balloons, chewing straws and boiling kettles, and worryingly happy stood around chatting to the Argonds in backwards languages or semaphore. So basically, if you were a bit of a geek you were likely to excel on The Adventure Game.


Unfortunately, for every Graeme Garden there was always an assistant weather forecaster or kids TV presenter who was made to look incredibly dim. And to be fair, they were the ones that made The Adventure Game so enjoyable. Watching the likes of Bonnie Langford and Keith Chegwin trying to work out the intricacies of the Drogna, the planet's seemingly hard-to-follow currency based on shapes and colour, was a joy. I'd be there shouting at the TV because it really was quite logical. The value of a piece was calculated by multiplying the number of its sides by its colour in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). So a red circle was worth 1 point (one side and the first colour of the rainbow - 1 times 1 equals 1) and a blue pentagon would be worth 25 points (5 times 5) and so on. See, simple. Yet put Noel Edmonds in front of that challenge... well all I can say is how anyone can ever trust him to act as an intermediary with the banker on Deal Or No Deal is beyond me!

Lots of things to do with The Adventure Game were anagrams of the word 'dragon'. I've already mentioned the Argonds, the Rangdo (ruler of Arg) and the Drogna. Then there was Dorgan, who was a small aggressive dog, Ron Gad, the backwards speaking Australian bloke who looked an awful lot like Bryan Brown (it wasn't him), and of course the classic salute "Gronda, Gronda", heard in school playgrounds up and down the country in the early 1980s. The show had a brilliantly clever humour to it, and shares a similar sci-fi feel to the works of Douglas Adams. Patrick Dowling had actually asked Adams to write the show but the offer came just after Adams had already agreed to write a TV series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so he passed.

So no Douglas Adams then, but The Adventure Game did however feature one of the main actors from Star Wars! Kenny Baker, the man who played R2-D2, was responsible for the moving aspidistra version of the Rangdo. You probably recognised his work, shuffling across the floor like a leafy Dalek. Here he is on the left...
...and on the right you might spot a purple jumpsuit clad Moira Stewart. Yes, before she became famous as a newsreader she was a dragon on The Adventure Game. I wonder if she still puts that down on her CV?

The challenges varied from episode to episode, but the final task was always the same. Guests had to cross a hexagonal lattice game board and compete against the Vortex if they wanted to return home. The hook was that although we at home could see the Vortex, the players had no idea where it was. After they moved to a new space, so would the Vortex. Each contestant was reminded that "The Vortex won't walk into you, but if you walk into it....", and if they did walk into it they were zapped and evaporated. In my house it was amongst the most exciting 5 minutes of the week!

With the use of logic, guesswork, and an occasional green cheese roll (thrown to an empty space to see if the Vortex was waiting there) the team would attempt to get safely across to the shuttle, waiting to transport them back to Earth. Otherwise it was a cold, lonely walk home. And it's a long long way from Arg to Earth.



From it's BBC Micro graphics to it's surreal off the wall humour, The Adventure Game was one of those shows which once viewed would never be forgotten. Surely it's ripe for a remake? In these days where we're used to watching z-list celebrities eating kangaroo testicles or the likes, the chance to see them actually have to think about a challenge would be refreshing. Which member of Steps would be the first to figure out the Drogna? Could Peter Andre outsmart the Salamander? Which former Blue Peter presenter would turn out to be a mole? (I've still not got over the evil Lesly Judd reveal). Would Anton Du Beke be able to sooth Rangdo with his favourite sweets? And how many of McBusted would fall foul of the Vortex and end up making the long walk home to Earth.

Trust me BBC, if you don't do it SKY will!

Geek. Lover. Fighter. Dwarf. Follow Wil on Twitter.
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