Even in a 500-channel universe, Concentration still has a place on the tube. It's a bona fide classic that can't die completely, especially when it still has some life left in it and would still work today. Of course, just as the original NBC morning version gradually introduced a few new innovations, and the Jack Narz and Alex Trebek revivals added their own end games, a 21st Century Concentration could stand a few new ideas as well, and I'd like to take this opportunity to offer mine.
For openers, there's the game board. Given the many problems the old electromechanical boards posed, no one would surely go to the trouble and expense of creating a new one today. On the other hand, it was disconcerting to some viewers of the Trebek revival (and maybe some folks who attended the studio tapings) that there wasn't even an actual game board in sight. So to achieve an acceptable compromise, how about a wall of multiple video screens, such as those used at Harrah's Casinos or the now-defunct Warner Brothers Studio Stores? There would be 25 screens, each holding its own number, then flashing off and then on, showing a prize/Take/Wild Card, then flashing off and on once more to show a part of the puzzle, with the with the entire rebus taking up the whole surface. The seams would be present as in days of yore, but not nearly as intrusive.
Pictured above is my first design attempt at an updated "video multi-screen" game board, with the short lines and dots around the frame representing neon tubing and light bulbs. Most of the exposed squares are self-explanatory; Random Cash and Double Cash are explained further down. This board design drew mainly negative reviews (although I see no problem with the number screens or the info hiding "behind" them), so a second version is pictured below:
THE GAME PLAY
Before the game begins, the old familiar cry of "Let's play Concentration!" is put into use again, but this time it's a signal for the numbered squares to fill in to some music cue, covering a full wall-screen shot of the host or the contestants. In the first game, there are eight matching pairs of prizes, two Wild Cards, four Takes (this time, a Take is simply a Take; no more having to match a specific color as players on Trebek's version had to do), and one more natural pair called Random Cash. The remaining single odd space is taken up by a single "prize", Double Cash. Here's how these new squares work.
If a natural match is made between the two Random Cash squares (or with a Wild Card, in which case the second Random Cash square is exposed, as with any other prize), the M.C. pushes a button on his podium, activating a four-digit display (see drawings below), each digit space containing the numbers 1 through 9 which flash rapidly, then the contestant who matched the Random Cash squares is asked to stop the four flashing displays by means of four individual buttons on his/her own podium, starting from the far right, from the home viewer's perspective, and continuing to the left. The result is a randomized cash amount, such as $7592 or $1861; naturally, a player would want the last number to be a relatively high one. If the amount ends up being anything from $9911 up to $9999, it is bumped up to an even $10,000. Whatever the case, this cash amount is then shown on a Ferranti-Packer-type display just above the players' prize boards, with an indicator light on either side lighting up to show whose side it's on (see additional drawings below).
The set shown above goes with the early red-framed puzzle board; the two areas shown below go along with the revised version. The vertical blue neon outline seen above the host's podium is the bottom tip of the show logo with the Concentration letters squished into a block.
Because of the odd number of squares of the board, there is only one Double Cash square, and this can only be matched with a Wild Card. If this occurs after the Random Cash amount is established, the amount is then doubled, with the maximum potential prize being $20,000. It then goes to the side of whomever matched Double Cash with a Wild Card, via the appropriate indicator light. If Double Cash is matched before Random Cash is, the player gets a $500 cash bonus which is theirs to keep and go home with, no matter what (an opponent matching a pair of Takes can't claim it); then if Random Cash is matched afterward, the resulting amount is doubled immediately. However, if both Wild Cards are used up before Double Cash can be matched, the host must ask for its location on the board to be revealed, whereupon it must be replaced with this pitiful little message which remains exposed until the puzzle is solved:
Finally, regarding the Takes, a player who matches any two of them can, as on the Trebek series before, save it for later or use it immediately. But unlike the prizes, a single Take square matched with a Wild Card does not entitle a second natural Take to be shown. Occasionally this would mean that one final odd Take could remain "matchless" on the board; if this happens, then a second "No Match" card pops up in its place. All other classic Concentration rules apply during the round.
For the second round, a new car replaces Random Cash as the ninth prize, and a third Wild Card is used instead of Double Cash. The car, if matched, shows up on the F-P display, perhaps depicted as a symbol of a car that "drives" to either side of the display depending on who claims it via a match or a Take. As in the first round, one remaining odd Take square resulting from specific uses of the three Wild Cards is replaced by the "No Match" square. (For the time being, it escapes me how a player wound up winning the game after two rounds if each player got a rebus right; that info will be included here later).
THE NEW BONUS ROUND END GAME
Past discussions online of which end game better lent itself to Concentration in its two previous incarnations fell into two categories:
(1) "Double Play from the Jack Narz version was the definitive end game. Remember what the object of the game was--to solve the puzzle!"
(2) "No way...Alex Trebek's car matching end game was more challenging, and reflects the name of the game: Concentration!"
Now, now...everybody calm down. For my new version, how about an end game that combines elements of both previous end games? Look how well a two-stepped bonus round worked for Match Game. I call this portion the Money Match, and the idea to slightly modify it came from a helpful individual on the Invision board (thanks to him); an illustration appears below:
The Money Match bonus round uses the same 25 square board as the main game. The clock display at left center is the result of some chroma-key wizardry, and the large dollar signs occupy spaces where dollar amounts were matched; these would then be removed to partially expose the puzzle underneath.
First, the player is given 60 seconds on a clock to match seven pairs of matching cash amounts ($50, $100, $150, $300, $400, $500 and $1000) depicted on a 16-square board, with a pair of Wild Cards in the remaining two spaces. If time runs out before all seven matches can be made, the total amount of cash claimed via matches goes to the player, who must then, in the second phase, solve a rebus puzzle in ten seconds from portions exposed once the matched cash amounts on the board are removed, in order to win either ten times that amount, or possibly the car from the second main round if it went unclaimed at the end. If a player can make all seven matches in the first phase with more than five seconds remaining on the clock as it stops, he/she gets all the remaining time to solve the puzzle.
"This is Burton Richardson speaking for the all-new Concentration..."
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The Narz years (coming later)
The Trebek years (coming later)
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