Video Game: Smash TV

"Big money! Big prizes! I love it!"

In the far flung future of 1999, violence is the biggest draw in entertainment. The game show has become the dominant force in television. The most spectacular, gruesome, and rewarding show, topping the ratings, is Smash T.V.. Contestants are armed and sent into a closed arena, where they fight for cash, glory, and unforgettable prizes including (but not limited to) brand new toasters, more 2600" televisions than you ever thought possible, and a year's supply of good meat.

You are the next lucky contestant!

Yep, that's the plot in a nutshell. The game is basically a graphical update of designers Eugene Jarvis' and Larry DeMar's earlier Robotron 2084, while also borrowing heavily from The Running Man (it can be considered a Spiritual Successor to both).

From The Running Man, it borrows the Deadly Game and Blood Sport aspects, and the quite phenomenal volumes of carnage. From Robotron, it takes the Mooks, Shoot 'em Up styling, two-joystick control scheme, and - most memorably - the Nintendo Hard-ness. Co-op play makes life a bit easier, but not much.

Originally developed by Williams Electronics and released to arcades in 1990, it turned up on several home computer systems and consoles before making the jump to X Box Live Arcade - the first version that allowed co-op online play.

Total Tropage!:

  • Action Bomb: Mr. Shrapnel.
  • Announcer Chatter: The host pops up to spout one of his catchphrases every few levels.
  • Attack Drone: It also copies whatever gun power up you're using, for twice the gunnage.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical: The yellow mortar weapon that only appears during boss battles is ONLY meant for boss battles. It also provides free invincibility on pick-up during the Scar Face battle. Trying to aim it at anything smaller than a boss will generally get you killed, as the shells fly high in the air and don't hit anything mid-arc. Despite this, in the arcade version, it can be carried into the next stage.
  • Bald of Evil: Mutoid Man.
  • Big Bad: The host.
  • Blood Sport
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Using the Attack Drone will actually drain your special weapons twice as fast, and the grenade launcher empties at a ludicrous speed. At least new weapons tend to appear every 15 seconds.
  • Bowdlerization: The SNES port removed some of the blood and gibs: the generic enemies armed with clubs still disintegrate into Pink Mist when shot and bosses lose their limbs and become visibly bloodied when shot enough, but normal enemies aren't blown to pieces when shot with heavier weaponry and the twin snakes now explode normally when killed instead of spurting blood. More subtly, the host doesn't peek at the women's breasts either.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The X Box Live Arcade port has a notable achievement: "Game Master - Finish the game without continuing on the default settings." Yeesh.
  • Catchphrase: The host's "Big money! Big prizes! I love it!", and "I'd buy that for a dollar!", the latter a Shout-Out to RoboCop.
    • Which is in turn a Shout-Out to C. M. Kornbluth's story The Marching Morons, which had the recurring catchphrase "Would you buy it for a quarter?".
    • "Bingo!"
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: Contestant 1 has light skin and wears a blue outfit; Contestant 2 has dark skin and wears a red outfit.
  • The Computer Is A Lying Bastard: At launch, the arcade version taunted players with a message stating they didn't collect enough keys to access the Pleasure Dome-except the Pleasure Dome didn't actually exist. As detailled in this Polygon feature, the outcry was such that the development team relented and programmed the Pleasure Dome in later revisions.
  • Deadly Game: And yet no matter how many times they are brutally murdered, the players don't seem any worse off for wear by the time they make it to the end of the course.
  • Double The Dollars: All scoring is doubled whenever there are two players active.
  • Dual Boss: Die Cobros, a pair of giant cobras that are the third major boss of the game.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: And how!
  • Excuse Plot: Seriously, did you read that stuff up there?
  • Eye Beams: Mutoid Man. The M.C. Boss simply fires eyeballs at you.
  • Film At Eleven: Smash TV is a TV show, and lines of this type appear as the room's title as the players enter a room - including the actual "FILM AT 11".
  • 500,000 Points and Every 1,500,000 Thereafter: And damn, will you need them! Notable in that scoring that much won't award an extra life immediately, it will instead change the next item spawn into a 1-up, making it entirely possible to miss.
  • Flip Screen Scrolling
  • Goofy Print Underwear: The M.C. Boss. Rather than exposing his ribcage (as with Mutoid Man previously), shooting his chest reveals a pink polka dot undershirt.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Aside from Eugene Jarvis (the main designer of the game), Smash TV was programmed by Mark Turmell (NBA Jam, NFL Blitz), and features character designs by John Tobias (Mortal Kombat).
  • Home Game: One of the prizes, probably a nod to the home game in The Running Man.
  • Immune to Bullets: Many bosses can only be defeated by special weapons. Your regular bullets just bounce off them!
  • Losing Your Head: Mutoid Man's head gets blown off. Don't worry, he has a spare.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Most enemies - and you - explode in a large pool of blood.
  • Made of Plasticine: You explode into gibs if you step on a land mine, if you get run over by a tank, and if you get shot by certain types of enemy fire.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Clubbed to death, blown up, shot, electrocuted, run over...
  • Mercy Invincibility: A free forcefield power-up, see Ramming Always Works below.
    • Higher difficulty settings make this wear off almost immediately.
  • Mooks: Most enemies, actually.
  • More Dakka
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Both contestants are shirtless muscle dudes, but since all the action is gunfire...
  • Nintendo Hard
    "Good luck! You'll need it!"
    • The arcade version is nearly impossible not to die in, mostly due to slow movement speed without the speed powerup (which has a short duration). The arcade Smash TV is probably designed this way intentionally to eat up quarters. Other ports are mostly difficult for being bad ports. Despite this, one of the developers claims he can finish it in one coin. Having a second player helps a lot, since half the enemies go for the other player, so two players playing with one quarter each is a more achievable goal. If you have no extra speed and miss a powerup while playing alone, death is usually not far behind in the later levels.
    • That still doesn't manage to explain how evil this game is. Individual rooms in arenas 3 and 4 will run you over 10 minutes each, and later enemies will start to run much faster than you.
    • Home versions of the game were a lot more popular; the game was no less hard, but seeing as you got unlimited continues and didn't need to waste quarters, it helped a lot.
  • Nitro Boost
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: You'd be surprised what you can squeeze past, though.
  • 1-Up: These randomly appear. At times, the game will appear to be rather generous with these free lives.
  • Palette Swap: Some of the Mooks, and the final boss - The Host - is a head swap of the first.
  • Power-Up: Standard shoot-em-up fare.
  • Ramming Always Works: The forcefield power-up (including the free one after you get killed) kills enemies other than bosses on contact, so you can charge into one group while shooting at another.
  • Schmuck Bait: EVERYWHERE. And what's worse, you have to go for it most of the time; without powerups, you quickly get chunked.
  • Shoot 'em Up
  • Shout-Out: RoboCop, the Atari2600, and several more.
  • Shows Damage: The bosses tend to fall apart over time- not surprising, given the number of bullets they absorb.
  • Smart Bomb: "BINGO!"
  • Snake People: Loads of them abound in the third stage.
  • Spam Attack: The grenade launcher.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Robotron2084 and The Running Man, as noted up top; also has its own Spiritual Successors, Total Carnage, The Grid, and Monday Night Combat. On a side note, Smash TV programmer Mark Turmell said in an interview that Robotron: 2084 is one of his favorite games.
  • Spreadshot
  • Turns Red: Somehow, completely skeletonizing Scarface makes him even more dangerous.
  • The War Sequence: The entire game is basically one huge long one.
  • Undesirable Prize: Oddly subverted in the first studio, wherein the contestants seem to be more excited over winning toasters than any of the other prizes offered.