Released in 1991
Developed by GameTek
Genre: Game Show
Popularity Level: Ottawa Senators
Leonardite Rating: Independently Nifty

As they met midway on the rings over the ominously padded pit, the gargantuan defender met the challenger. He slid down his torso and on his way into the oblivion of defeat he took the challengerís pants with him.

Iím not sure if I actually remember this happening or not. I may have seen it, I may have heard about it, or I may have completely made it up when I was in second grade. But I always felt like I was on some powerful narcotic anyway while watching the American Gladiators, so itís hard to separate the actual events from the out-of-body experiences. Between all the flashing lights, strangely dressed people, and platforms, the original working title of When LSD and Steroids Collide: Hosted by Larry Czonka seems pretty apt.

Like every child born since 1980, when I see something on television that inspires me I automatically think one thing: I sure wish I could play that on a video game. Whereas past generations started working out or got educated to pursue these goals, everyone my age just figured it was easier to wait for the chance to immerse ourselves with our thumbs. We all lazily laid around for a couple years and eventually GameTek again rewarded our flagrant feelings of entitlement.

After you finish rubbing Promise all over your torso and you securely fasten your jock strap, depending on what event you choose to dive into first, the game is probably going to deliver a jousting pugil stick to your virgin face. If you play Powerball, youíll probably conclude that the gameís creators did a faithful job of recreating the television extravaganza. If you choose the Wall, youíre likely to assume that ďAmerican Gladiator Game ShowĒ was mistakenly written as ďColossal Climbing Labyrinth MigraineĒ on the production order.

And here is where most people write off the game. Just because the Wall went on Nitroís supplement regimen and swelled to insane proportions and just because the Human Cannonball takes place on a Lucifer-designed nine mile track and just because Assault now features Dr. Robotnik floating around in a spaceship firing oranges at your broad-shouldered He-Man, it doesnít mean this game doesnít simulate the show. Oh wait, I guess it does. Of the events listed on the main screen, Powerball is the only event that a person would logically conclude came from the show. The other events were apparently muddled in the translation and that is to say nothing of the Eliminator at the very end of the game, which appears to be a scene from Judge Dredd without the quality acting.

This is where decisions have to be made. Most like video games for their reality escapism, some like them so they can run their character into walls and rest their rumbling controller on their crotches (me), but very few like them for their make-or-break or decisions. Unfortunately, American Gladiators forces you to make one. Are you going to reject this title simply because itís not what you see on TV or are you going to give it a shot as a stand-alone game? If you decide to give it a chance, the odds are pretty good that you will not be disappointed.

It shouldnít come as a surprise to any of you that I became a certified backer of this game growing up in Leonard. If any of you were the cool kids growing up, you are familiar with the routine of the not-so-cool kids looking to make friends with you in any way possible and one such child knew the way to my heart included Nintendo games. Dan (of SI for Kids fame) and I would go over to his house and play American Gladiators for hours on end, until things finally resolved themselves in me purchasing the kidís top loader and all of his games for a ridiculously low sum. But hey, he got to be my buddy.

Ösort of.

To the game itself, the controls are a bit hit-and-miss. There are times where things handle pretty tightly, like in Assault and Joust, but to say that the guys in Powerball handle like they are drunk is an insult to the motor skills of alcoholics everywhere. Moving at incremental 45 degree angles is something that people in most of our family trees wonít do until our aunt misguidedly marries that robot in 2011, but it happens here. To be fair, the Gladiators donít run around with any more skill, but the movements of all the guys are so random and hard to control that even when you ďbeatĒ Powerball, you definitely donít feel like you earned it. Itís kind of like the lottery game of the same name in that way, except that Iíve seen convenience store clerks who could get up and down the Powerball pitch a lot better than the retarded contestants on this game.

The two platform games as alluded to before, are Joust and the Human Cannonball. The I-swear-to-Lace hardest part of the Joust is jumping from platform to platform in your quest to fight the next Gladiator. I understand that this wasnít a part of the real show and I can see why, as Iím sure there were plenty of unnecessary broken legs that occurred when they actually tried it in real life. The Human Cannonball functions the same way, except that you donít have to jump to new platforms in between Gladiators. But the face plants that your guy frequently does are painful to everyone in the house, even those not in the same room. Iím pretty sure there are many laws of physics that are ignored in this event, but if anyone is sitting down with an NES GamePak to analyze the faith shown to Newton, they should be returned to their cages at NASA for further geek analysis.

Assault presents itself nothing like the real show with the Gladiator mysteriously floating around the screen in a magic little cart. Your massively ripped and clumsy man runs around the screen firing shots if you desire, although you can just sprint to the goal line with quite a bit more ease. If you take this route, though, you deprive yourself of the joy of seeing the Gladiatorís hovertank get mangled like a Scion in a head-on collision by earth-shaking three shots from Nerf balls.

The final game is the Wall. Most people that hate this game hate it because of the Wall, which is like saying that most people who hate playing guitar hate it because it is hard to do. The Wall, once you sit down and actually learn how to do it, is by far the best thing on the game. They should have left everything else out of the game and just had twenty different walls to compete in. The four that are included range from pretty close to television to pretty close to a PCP delusion. Seriously, there were some major substance abuse problems in the GameTek offices at the time of this gameís creation. But their unhealthy highs did lead to some pretty sweet levels and a definite challenge for even the studliest gamer.

Of course there is the Eliminator, but this is so confusing and so poorly presented that if anyone has actually taken the time to play all the way through it, please contact me and let me know how you did it Ė that is, if you havenít already been named an honorary Congressman for your efforts.

Bottom Line:

American Gladiators should be purchased for the Wall, if nothing else. So what if itís not like the show? If Czonka doesnít mind, neither should you.

E-mail the Leonardite

It's been a really long time since I entered something into the NES Lair. It's not that I have forgotten this section, it's just that I haven't cared. No, that's not right either, but anyway, I wanted to return on a good note. American Gladiators was a good choice because of my history with it and its ability to present itself as worthwhile. But you want to know what's really cool? The sign behind me in the picture above:

That's a pretty fair price for jerky, I think.

Take some time and think about it: You've been in a building plenty of times where the cost of jerky was posted. For most of you it was a convenience store, for some of you it might have been at your frugal grandmother's. Regardless, how many of you actually have a photographic legacy with such a sign? See, now you're disappointed. Some might argue that I should have posted this picture instead:

I disagree. It's nothing personal, but I couldn't care less about the boobs that you all grab and I'm sure you feel the same about me. And besides, if you were really looking for mammary clutching, I suspect there might be some better photos out there on the internet than this one. Granted they don't feature people as awesome as the Swan and myself, but they're probably wearing a lot less clothes which I guess counts for something.

In the spirit of the page, I really should be including a lot more American Gladiators pictures. Probably something like this:

If you want to talk superstars, just look at the picture above. How luxurious is their lifestyle? I don't want to divulge too many secrets, but I can tell you that Gemini doesn't pay more than $4 for his jerky. Now that's a life to aim for. Excuse me, but I'm off to GNC.

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