Arcade Mania – Smash T.V. (1990)

smashtv_iconIn the near future, TV game shows will evolve beyond simple quiz questions and embrace a more reality-based format in which contestants are openly hostile towards each other. Don’t believe me? Well, get ready, because the year 1999 is just around the corner!

Smash TV is an arena shooter that is often seen as a follow-up to the arcade classic Robotron: 2084. You play as a contestant in a violent game show in which your objective is simply to survive an onslaught of relentless enemies, all of whom are trying to kill you. If you make it, you’re rewarded with big money and big prizes like toasters and VCRs.

One of the best things about Smash TV is how well it uses its theme as a TV game show being filmed in front of a live studio audience. The crowd cheers and groans with your successes and failures, and the host (seemingly modeled after creator Eugene Jarvis) pops up to taunt you every now and then. The satirical edge of it works quite well.

SNES version
SNES version

Fortunately, the gameplay is also really good. Just like in Robotron, the classic dual joystick controls allow you to run and shoot in different directions simultaneously, which is a must, as you’re constantly surrounded by enemies. Unlike in Robotron, new enemies are always entering the play field, so the intensity is sustained for much longer periods of time. There are also plenty of power-ups and the ability for two-players to help you survive the hoards. The challenge level is extremely high, but Smash TV is the kind of game where you can “get into the zone,” and it becomes almost hypnotic.

I admit I prefer Smash TV over Robotron (and the lesser known follow-up Total Carnage), but I actually didn’t play it a lot in the arcade. I spent most of my time on the SNES port, which is actually really good. I got good enough at it to get to the coveted Pleasure Dome and finish the game on its limited continues. Unfortunately, I no longer have my SNES cartridge.

SNES version
SNES version

Still, Smash TV was ported to many home consoles and computers. The arcade version is also part of Midway Arcade Treasures on the GameCube, PS2 and Xbox.

Eugene Jarvis talked about doing another twin-stick shooter for years. What’s interesting is that his current company, Raw Thrills, has made a lot of arcade games that could be seen as spiritual successors to classic Midway games, yet he still hasn’t returned to the arena-shooter genre. I think it’s time for a true follow-up to Smash TV.

Until then, be prepared.

The future is now.

You are the next lucky contestant!

More info:

Hardcore Gaming 101 – Smash TV/Total Carnage

Screenshots captured from a longplay by Schlauchi.


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