Legends of the Hidden Temple

Sheer awesomeness all around. So let's start with Olmec, a talking rock... head... god... thing, who has some legend to tell about some sub-Young Indiana Jones artifact that a team of kids have to compete to find (Legends brought to you by Sketchers, it's the S!). And there's a lot of swirling camera angles. Chances are if you're in your 20s and teaching archaeology right now, you have this show to thank.

Next we get to see the teams in dashing yellow helmets and beige cargo shorts. There's the Red Jaguars (usually the jocks), the Blue Barracudas (jocks), the Green Monkeys (nerds), the Orange Iguanas (dorks), the Purple Parrots (losers), and the Silver Snakes (the most badass team of the bunch). They all had colorful T-shirts emblazoned with their sacred golden animal insignia only 90s kids would be able to tell apart (or buy on a t-shirt!). I was always rooting for the Silver Snakes, the kids in the white shirts with the gold, because that was the most awesome team name. If not, then the Blue Barracudas. But you know, for a temple so "hidden," it certainly seemed to get a lot of traffic...

First there was always some pool challenge called The Moat, where the teams simply had to splash through some kiddy wading pool either by swimming through it or swinging across, or jumping on platforms, and Olmec would always be like "when Kirk gives the signal...," and "If you fail, go back and start again!" The first four teams to hit the podium button and set off the gong sound would advance to the next round. The other two would be sent home with Flubber on VHS (the mark of a loser).

The four remaining teams would progress to the Steps of Knowledge, which were basically stairs that lit up when they got a question right. The first two teams to the bottom would advance, and the other two would be sent home with a Nerf football.

The two last teams would then compete in an American Gladiators-style series of Temple Games, involving riding things, shooting things with giant slingshots, climbing walls, balancing beams, and whatever else they could fit into the episode's theme, whether that be the Cross of Coronado or the Broken Trident of Poseidon. The team that won the three challenges would be bestowed two pendants to shield them against future temple guard molestation once inside.

What would happen after that is still the most mind-altering, crazy awesome three minutes to hang on the edge of your seat for in television history (second only to the typical ending of GUTS). The winning team would have to make a run through the temple, and with room names like this, you know it was quite hardcore:

Silver Monkey... it's only three pieces!
"Start out in the Crypt to retrieve the Book of Skeletons! With it, proceed to the Pit of the Pendulum! Swing on the rope, knock over the column, and enter the King's Storeroom! Smash the clay pots, find the key, and the door will open to the Room of the Ancient Warriors! Place yourself in the correct suit of Mayan armor, and proceed to the Room of the Secret Password! Find the correct inscription tablet and shout out the password to enter the Shrine of the Silver Monkey! Assemble the monkey statue and open the Pharaoh's Secret Passage! Climb down the tunnel to the Quicksand Fog and smash through the rocks to the Dark Forest! But beware of the temple guards that hide in the trees! Find the key to the Jester's Court, and match your body to the correct glowing wall paintings to enter the Tomb of the Headless Kings! Attach the correct skull to the skeletons and race back to the temple gate with the artifact! Retrieve it in time, and you get the home stereo, and the dude ranch vacation..."

"The choice is yours and yours alone! Good luck."  Three minutes on the clock, and... GO!

You couldn't watch a minute of that without shouting at the screen. "Turn around! Go up the ladder! No! Go back to the Silver Monkey! Oh get it together you idiot!" Those kids were always getting terribly lost, or confused about how to put that Silver Monkey together, or snatched back to the darkness by the temple guards. They didn't have the benefit of the little map at the bottom of the screen with the pink line of their progress running through it like we did lounging back on the couch on those weekend afternoons, but still, "get it together!" 

Go Silver Snakes!
It would've been the dream of a lifetime for me to test my radical powers of mental agility in the temple, but I know I wouldn't have made it past the Silver Monkey either, unless I was on team Silver Snake. They were still cool, even if they lost.

Hot Wheels Tracks

I had one of those Hot Wheels track systems when I was a kid, and I got to say, they never worked! Okay, they worked, but they were probably more fun to set up and think about than actually play with. First of all, they came with, like, 20 sections of track and the connector pieces were always getting lost. If you ran out of connector pieces, that was it. You had a jumble of tracks you could "kinda-sorta" lay next to one another, but it was useless for high speed anything. Don't lose the connectors!

Secondly, you had to be a serious pro to keep the cars on the tracks. On the slightest bump, they'd go flying off. On the extreme corners, they'd shoot out and get lost behind the desk or under the bed. On the loops, well, you could forget about the loops unless you had one of those motors that could push it up to 88 mph and careen it into something in another time period. The only place those cars never seemed to be though was at the top of the loop, and particularly if they were the heavy car with the engine bursting through the hood.

Thirdly, there were speed problems. I think half of what I know about physics I learned from trying to make Hot Wheels cars go fast enough to take those loops. I had to start them off at a height usually taller than me, like a shelf or something, but not too high or else the car wouldn't grip the track on the way down, and not too low or else it would jam up at the loop or hit the incline and fly off into another dimension. It was very precise.

Don't lose these!
The last gripe was anything that involved a jump. Yeah it looks great in the commercial when the car flies off and lands square on the next piece of track, but was that take 79 or 156? Those jumps were made to keep your car off the track as long as possible. To keep it going, you needed more downhills than anything else...something hard to come by if you're already on the floor, but then again, to really get it going anywhere you either had to pay for motors or pay for more sections of track to go for higher altitudes. I think if you ran one from the top of Mt. Everest you'd probably finally score three loops and a complete track run out of it using only normal physics (assuming it stayed on the track).

In fact, it all used to make me wonder (because as a kid these things are more than just toys, but potential reality situations). In my mind, somewhere out there in the Hot Wheels dimension, roads were just constructed as giant loops for no particular reason and every now and then ordinary vehicles might be expected to perform vast jumps and corkscrews as part of their daily commute. Who would build such a roadway and why didn't factor in so much as the thought of how cool it would be if this was how it was in our dimension.

Dedicated devotees in this dimension however have managed to make impressive and lengthy loops of these things that cover whole living rooms and neighborhoods (whether or not it's one continuous track is a subject of intense debate), and others have even made life sized versions featuring real cars. My brother and I though probably used the tracks more to sword fight.

Crossfire, the Game

Crossfire (or is it, CROSSFYAAAAR!!), the rapid fire shoot-out game. Everyone knows the commercial with those Highlander-lite boys on the floating platforms zipping around the clouds of Thundera with the constant lightning and fire and screaming spectators all around gripped by the gladiatorial "ultimate challenge" being accepted. This game made it seem the fate of the world rested on the outcome, the showdown of good and evil, played out from the peaks of Olympus/Valhalla/Hell (or wherever this was) on some small plastic game board that could even call down lightning from the very sky! and vaporize the loser on site! It's safe to say that if you were paying close enough attention, you might've gotten the impression that this game was badass. I don't know, I never played it.

It had something to do with shooting little balls and knocking around some triangle thing and getting "caught up in the.... Crossfire!" One look at it and you know it probably won't be anything like the commercial. And if it was, it'd probably be a big deal. The Pentagon might want to know about it. But truth be told, Crossfire would've made a better popcorn summer blockbuster than a board game (just look what they did to Battleship!). But that's the thing with boy toys. Out of the box, they're fun enough for a few spins and then somehow manage to pile up in the basement. With girl toys, it's a pony and a tiny hairbrush--it's lame on the commercial and lame out of the box, and will probably end up buried in the yard or sucked up in the vacuum, but you know what you're getting and what it does. With boy toys, they know we crave power and aren't very smart, so they don't even have to tell us what it is. Just put a lot of cool stuff on the screen and we'll want it, lame or not.

"Those other boys there look pretty cooling doing...whatever that is... so hoo-rah!


And did I want it? Of course. Did you SEE that lightning?? 

Jurassic Park Cars

Since I've been shopping around for a better car, I've of course been checking out the specs on the cars from Jurassic Park. I was never really into cars, but if you asked the 8yo Me what my favorite car was, I probably would've said "the Jurassic Park car", and since there were two great cars in Jurassic Park, let's see how they stack up.

They see me rollin'...
By "Jurassic Park car," I probably meant "the one with the no doors." They were just so cool and rugged, and door-less, and could purr away through the mud and ferns quite nicely when outrunning a T-Rex. They were actually Jeep Wranglers, and yes some of them had little doors, but any car that was rugged and could outrun a T-Rex would've had me sold, and I'm apparently not the only one. It seems that turning your Jeep Wrangler into a JP Jeep, with decals and all, is an official hobby, and there's even a fan club about it"What dinosaurs does it outrun? Perfect, let's sign the papers!

It was the other JP car though that made the better toy... that being the tour cars that drove themselves. "Look it! A ghost! Ahh!" These turned out to be Ford Explorers, and boy did they shine up pretty in the movie with that yellow-green fade and the red "Dino" paint on the hood. Plus they had that awesome sun roof that was just like one big window. They also had the miracle of "INTERACTIVE CD-ROM! Just touch the right part of the screen and it talks about whatever you want!" Join the future... these were the original touch-screen "smart cars!"  Unfortunately it didn't hold up against the T-Rex very well, but it was a damn tough nut to crack! People also deck out their Ford Explorers to look like the Jurassic Park tour car too.

The reason I said that the tour car was a better toy was because they merchandised it (like anything they could slap a JP logo on). The toy came with a cool rocket launcher on the back and a front section that could pop off.. (No mom, I didn't break it, that's "Dino Damage!"). It was called the Jurassic Park Jungle Explorer set, and I definitely wanted it, just like I wanted anything with a JP logo, but I never got it. You can find it though at this really cool collector's site JPtoys.com, where I also quickly learned how much money these things were, and why "spare no expense!" didn't work on my parents.