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"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 TV. 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 2,600" televisions than you ever thought possible, and a year's supply of good meat. And if you do well enough, and find enough keys... you may just get into the Pleasure Dome.

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 Xbox Live Arcade - the first version that allowed co-op online play.

It also received a novelization from the Sega magazine Sega Force

Not to be confused with the Super Smash Bros. series, the Smash television show, Smash Williams, or the act of smashing your TV.

See also Nitro Ball, a game with a similar, equally ridiculous premise.

Total Tropage!:

  • Action Bomb: Mr. Shrapnel. Walks slowly around the arena before exploding almost at random.
  • Adaptational Hairstyle Change: In the game, the showgirls who appeared have shoulder-length hair. In the Sega Force novelization, the images showing two of them has the girl on the right of the host with long-hair that reaches past her back while the other one has a large portion of hair go over her right shoulder.
  • 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, effectively doubling your firepower.
  • 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 Scarface 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.
  • 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 10 seconds.
  • Bowdlerise: 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. Additionally, the contestants will simply keel over dead as a result of actions that would commonly gib them in the arcade version. Ironically, the phrase "Now decapitate Evil M.C.!" goes unedited in the SNES port.
  • Cap: With the exception of the Genesis port, players are limited to have nine spare lives at any given time.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Good luck! You'll need it!"
    • "Bingo!"
    • "Big money! Big prizes! I love it!"
    • "I'd buy that for a dollar!" is a Shout-Out to RoboCop (which is in turn a Shout-Out to Cyril M. Kornbluth's story The Marching Morons, which had the recurring catchphrase "Would you buy it for a quarter?").
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Force fields start out green, but then they turn red when they're about to dissipate.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: Contestant 1 has light skin and wears a blue outfit, while Contestant 2 has dark skin and wears a red outfit; similar to Max Force and Hit Man from NARC.
  • 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. Only problem, the Pleasure Dome didn't actually exist. The game was such a quarter muncher that Williams didn't bother to even program the Pleasure Dome into the game! As detailed in this Polygon feature, once skilled players (and arcade owners) realized that the Pleasure Dome wasn't in the game, they caused a big enough outcry that the development team relented and programmed the Pleasure Dome in later revisions.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: All end-level bosses cannot be harmed by the default gun. You are forced to pick up power-up guns to damage the bosses. The Die Cobros (aka twin snakes) are not end-level bosses.
  • Damage Discrimination: None of the ground-based enemies will ever trigger any of the mines strewn about the studios.
  • 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.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the game, it is possible for both contestants to survive the entire show. In the Sega Force novel, Ashley dies giving his life to save Jim.
  • 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.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Completing the first stage in the SNES version gives you the message "That was Easy! Now try Normal" before taking you to the high score screen.
  • Excuse Plot: Seriously, did you read that stuff up there?
  • Eye Beams: Mutoid Man. The Evil M.C. simply fires eyeballs at you.
  • Eye Scream: Some of the player's death animations will show eyeballs flying among the Ludicrous Gibs. Also, as stated above, the Evil M.C. weaponizes this trope by shooting his own eyeballs at you.
  • Film at 11: 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!
  • Flip-Screen Scrolling: Does so when you go from one arena to another.
  • Foreshadowing: In the novel, as Ashley and Jim get into the studio, Jim notices when Jasper Powell emerges from the ground that there was a cable behind his leg that connects into the floor. It turns out to be a smaller body double of Jasper who was a giant cyborg with tank threads in place of legs.
  • Game-Over Man: On Game Over, if you do not continue, Mutoid Man bellows out a "NO WAY!!!!" followed by an Evil Laugh.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: The Evil M.C. Rather than exposing his ribcage (as with Mutoid Man previously), shooting his chest reveals a pink polka dot undershirt.
  • Gorn: The introductory text states that TV has adapted to the more violent tendencies of mankind; the numbers of dead contestants, thousands upon thousands of grunts, hundreds of Mr. Shrapnels killed, two humanoid-tank hybrids dismembered, and millions of gallons' worth of bloodshed serve to drive that point home.
  • High-Pressure Blood: The red stuff gushes from Mutoid Man and Evil M.C. when they're both defeated.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: The player's hitbox is mercifully quite small. You'd be surprised what you can squeeze past.
  • Home Game: One of the prizes, probably a nod to the home game in The Running Man.
  • Immune to Bullets: Many bosses (e.g. Mutoid Man) can only be defeated by special weapons. Your regular bullets just bounce off them!
  • Kaizo Trap:
    • Even after decapitating Mutoid Man and the Evil M.C. a second time, touching its tank during its death animation, even if stationary, turns the contestants into Pink Mist. Might be a justified design choice considering the base of the boss is undergoing a chain reaction destruction.
    • After killing the Final Boss, you still have to avoid landmines (there are several waves of bonus prizes to tempt you) and then make it to the exit (an unkillable homing drone shows up after a few seconds to chase you out, same as any other level).
  • A Lady on Each Arm: The host is always seen with two bikini clad models. (Win the game or earn a high enough score, and one of them appears — alone — in the credits, then with your character.)
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": Completely averted; step on one and and your avatar's body parts go FLYING!
  • 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 large pools of blood and disembodied limbs.
  • 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.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Both contestants are shirtless muscle dudes, but since all the action is gunfire...
  • Named by the Adaptation: All the characters aside from the first three bosses and Mr. Shrapnel were nameless characters in the game. The Sega Force novel identifies the main duo as James "Jim" Lucas and Ashley Mitchell while the host is named Jasper Powell.
  • 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: Picking up boots will speed up your character.
  • No Ending: As Williams thought that nobody would ever be able to finish it, original versions of the cabinet didn't have any way to reach the Pleasure Dome (despite the game still informing you that you need keys for it). Eventually, however, complaints came in from arcades that determined players were angry at the lack of any reward for beating the game. The company soon released a software revision that allowed players to access the Pleasure Dome and finish the game properly.
  • Noob Cave: The first stage (the aptly-named "Arena 1") is loaded with invincibility powerups and three-way shots that make it easy for even beginners to clear without issue.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Your supermuscleman is instant meatsauce if any hazard touches him.
  • 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. Additionally, all the gift-wrapped prize boxes come in red, yellow, and green.
  • Power-Up: Standard shoot-em-up fare. Triple shots, rockets, forcefields, you name it.
  • 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. Additionally, items will occasionally cover up land mines, thus making them even more dangerous to collect than sticking with what you already have!
  • Sprint Shoes: Items can be collected for extra movement speed.
  • Tank-Tread Mecha: Two of the bosses have appeared this way; Mutoid Man and the M.C. Both are giant Meat-Sack Robot humanoid bodies mounted on tank treads.
  • 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; the contestants seem to be more excited over winning toasters than any of the other prizes — including brand new cars — offered therein.
  • X-Ray Sparks: The contestants' skeletons start flashing upon touching an orb or shot by a laser.
  • Zerg Rush: How enemies will attack in every level, attempting to overwhelm your character from cages everywhere in every corner.

"Coming soon... even more carnage!"