A Notoriously Hard Game Show That Everyone Loved
If you grew up in the early nineties, you probably remember a game show on Nickelodeon where kids ran through a temple and tried to win a trip to Space Camp. That show was Legends of the Hidden Temple, and it was wayyyyy harder than I remember.
I watched it all the time growing up and I LOVED IT. I remember throwing myself in front of the TV and watching kids beat themselves against obstacle after obstacle in an effort to prove they were the masters of the temple. I remember wishing to be on that show — and if given the opportunity, I would totally still go. Let me be clear: I am not an athletic person. I am a string bean with a personality and I get winded just looking at a treadmill, but I still want it so bad. I want to go to Space Camp.
But, watching clips and episodes on Youtube, I began to wonder: was it really worth it? Sure, you might get to go to Space Camp or the Bahamas, or maybe Six Flags (yeah, you probably don’t remember that one — it was the lamest prize), but these kids usually came out humiliated and shaking. It was never pretty. After watching episode after episode, something became very clear to me. No one wins this show.
I wanted to see if I was right, or if the internet just has some deep-seated love of watching children fail (let’s face it, it sort of does). To be sure, I started to do some digging…and the deeper I dug, the deeper the rabbit hole went. Apparently, out of the 120-episode run of Legends of the Hidden Temple, only 32 teams ever won. That’s just over a 25% chance of beating the Temple, and those are pretty low odds.
This rabbit hole led me to quite a few facts I didn’t know. Apparently by the time kids got to the temple run, they had already been through an entire day of filming. Nickelodeon liked to film 5-6 episodes in a day. These kids had been on the lot, struggling through challenges for hours. No amount of snacks and juice boxes can bring back your energy or your pride after all of this. Not to mention the kids were paired up when they got there and had never met each other before in their lives. Being a preteen around your friends was hard enough — relying on a complete stranger in what you thought would be a fun game was not.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s start at the very beginning. The moat crossing. Six teams enter, only four can make it across. Getting two kids across that pool in whatever ridiculous manner they had devised that day dashed a lot of hopes early on. But at least they got to go home instead of fighting their way through the rest of the challenges only to lose at the last minute.
If you passed that, you got to the Steps of Knowledge where Olmec gives a very fast, very confusing history lesson to the kids and expects them to remember enough of it to answer questions. Whatever writer over at Nickelodeon came up with Olmec giving vague hints instead of speaking straight was a legitimate sadist. Preteens don’t exactly have the cognitive power (after struggling across the moat) to focus on unraveling BS like that. Again, two teams get kicked out and we are down to the final two.
Then they forced the remaining teams through three challenges to win protective Pendants of Life which were the only thing that stopped a Temple Guard from grabbing you — wait, I’m getting ahead of myself again. The challenges were usually physical and tiring. They sapped all your energy long before you ever reached the famed temple. The team that won the majority of the three challenges got to go on to the most convoluted end round of any game show ever– and it was my (and most kids’) favorite part.
The Temple Run
You might remember the temple run for its nonsensical layout, incredibly complicated rooms, and the anxiety of watching kids struggle at what you thought were easy tasks. Olmec gives a two minute run down of every room and gives vague hints about each one which these poor, tired kids were forced to remember. They had already struggled through the moat, beat the trivia section, and worked their way through three rounds of exhausting games. I don’t think I could remember any of that stuff by that point.
And then they were thrown into the maze where each room requires you to do something in order to continue. Usually, it was an elaborate game of hitting switches or putting one thing into another. These challenges seem easy, but as I’ve gotten older I have realized something: whoever built that dang temple did it on an adult scale.
They didn’t think that MAYBE the 10-14-year-olds that would be running through it might be a little smaller than the adults putting it together. Which explains a lot about why those kids had such a struggle getting through some of the tasks. Not only that, but also by the time they got there they had almost no energy left, they were confused and lost and — OH YEAH!
MASKED ADULTS WERE JUMPING OUT AT THEM! Nothing, I mean nothing, was scarier than those temple guards. Imagine this: you’re 10, Kirk Fogg is doing his best to help you, and you’re trying to remember all of those cryptic things that Olmec told you. But you’re lost in these rooms not designed for your small body and you’re trying your best. You’re hitting switches with the wild abandon of a monkey in a button factory and finally, you get into another room — BAM! A temple guard jumps out of the darkness and drags you away. If you’re lucky, you have a Pendant of Life which makes them leave — until the next one jumps out.
I would have turned into a crying ball on the floor and gone catatonic. The temple guard would have had to pick me up and carry me out to get me to leave. The game was already hard enough, why add the random obstacle of A COSTUMED ADULT SCARING YOU SO BAD YOU CRY to the mix? Apparently, almost a tenth of the kids who got scared by the temple guards cried. That’s so many.
One kid got so scared she vomited in the pit of despair– which is a pretty apt place to vomit if you have to, I guess. The Temple Run was traumatizing.
I vividly remember yelling at kids who couldn’t put together the Shrine of the Silver Monkey, only to realize now, years later, that this was one of the last rooms of the temple. These kids are exhausted. The pedestal is too high for them to see what the hell they’re doing. They might as well be trying to solve the meaning of life at this point. The lighting is wacky and they’re holding three pieces that look basically the same. Good luck, kid.
So What Does It All Mean?
The harsh time limit makes the whole thing basically a moot point. Remember how I said only about 25% of teams finish? Well, that’s a bit of a false statistic. It’s true that of the teams that make it to the temple, a fourth of them succeed. BUT then again… 6 teams compete in the game, and of those six, only one gets to go to the temple, and of the ones that make it, only 25% beat the Temple Run.
So what that means is, if you break down the numbers, only about 4% of all competitors ever win Legends of the Hidden Temple and go to Space Camp. So again I have to ask myself…was Space Camp worth it?
If you ask me — yes. It absolutely was. Sure it was hell getting there, and sure you were pretty much guaranteed to lose. Sure you were likely to be humiliated on TV, in front of your friends and family — not to mention the Nickelodeon reruns. Sure a temple guard might traumatize you for life — but if given the chance to play?
I absolutely would.