As you might recall, about two weeks ago I came across one of the most disappointing toys of my childhood, Domino Rally, and had a reckoning with it. Well, it’s happening again. But this time, I found the Double Dare game. You know how in that movie, Jumanji, the kids find the board game by following the ominous beating sound of the drum? That’s exactly what happened to me as I wandered down the thrift store aisle.
There, on the shelf, was a banged-up and faded-yellow box. There was no way it could have all of the pieces. Like Domino Rally, it had approximately 36946575670 of them, all made of cheap plastic. But as I opened it up to inspect it, I was surprised to see the game looked well-taken care of. I guess that meant one thing. It was time for another reckoning.
So let’s back up a minute. The year is 1986 and Double Dare is a children’s game show that puts the fledgling cable-network, Nickelodeon, on the map. Two teams of kids compete by answering trivia questions and winning physical challenges that often involve slime and whipped cream. No—let me correct that—they always involve slime and whipped cream. Teams that win the trivia and challenge rounds move on to the obstacle course, which host Marc Summers coins “the messiest minute on television.” I’m sold. I’m hooked. I’m obsessed.
And so was every other 1980s kid. Double Dare tripled Nickelodeon’s ratings and spawned countless other gross-out game shows, lunchboxes, toys, video games—and what is perhaps the most shockingly crappy board game in the history of the universe. I am not exaggerating.
This is the Double Dare game:
As a kid, I didn’t know what I was expecting when I opened up my brand new Double Dare game. I mean, it wasn’t like I was expecting oversized-clown-pants for catching whipped cream pies that were thrown personally by Marc Summers. Maybe I was just expecting a free-pass to play with the cans of whipped cream in the refrigerator. But what I wasn’t expecting was a box full of cheap plastic and chunks of foam.
Does this sound eerily similar to Domino Rally? It should. Double Dare was manufactured by none other than Pressman Toys, maker of Domino Rally and the sole reason I grew up to become a cynical and disillusioned adult.
For a moment, similar to my Domino Rally post, I considered having a full-on reckoning with this game. I’d strap that sad little makeshift helmet to my head and the wife would throw foam balls at me as I tried to catch them in the affixed basket. But we all have our limits as human beings, and I’m pretty sure I have reached mine.
And that little makeshift helmet really is the centerpiece of the game. They refer to it as the “versatile stunt helmet system,” which is a really rich way to describe several pieces of thin, flexible plastic that snap together. There’s a main head strap, two plastic chin straps, and a thin piece of plastic that is supposed to somehow function as an eye protector. Nevermind that the whole thing will constantly slip off your head and/or just fall apart.
Then there are four peripheral attachments for the helmet. Then there are four foam balls and three foam rings. And that’s it, folks. That is the Double Dare Game. But wait. The box promised one hundred incredible challenges:
How on earth are there one hundred physical challenges to be had in this game? How many variations on tossing foam rings/balls can there be?
But the challenges also involved items to be sourced from around the house, like toilet paper tubes and toilet paper. Yes, this game expected kids to play with toilet paper. When you’re thirty-two years old and looking back on it, it’s all mildly amusing. But when you’re seven, it’s literally soul-crushing.
In the box, I even found five little squares of toilet paper, a toilet paper tube, a plastic fork, an egg carton, and some rubber bands, meaning the previous family who owned this game actually attempted to play it, which makes me feel either depressed or awkwardly sentimental, although it’s probably the same thing.
Maybe you’re thinking it’s not all that bad. So what, you think, it involved a bit of imagination. Maybe you’ll force your kids to play this the next time they complain about not having the latest iPhone.
But you have to remember this game probably retailed for about thirty bucks back in the day. And what you get for that money you could essentially re-create with some ping pong balls and plastic cups. Hell, I regularly came up with more compelling physical challenges on an average Saturday morning, rolling down the staircase zipped up in a sleeping bag or simply attempting to pet the evil family cat.
Finally, here is the back of the box. If it wasn’t the 56456959066 pieces of plastic, or the horrible foam balls, or the mere fact that helmet wouldn’t stay on my head that forced me to bury this game into the closet of shame, it was this picture, which I offer with no further commentary: