I think the story is pretty well known, in the last series before the Gordon Burns-helmed Krypton Factor went off air, it was decided to give the show more dynamism by making the final round an apparent test of all of the abilities required, rather than just using the General Knowledge round as before. Courtesy of Tony Goacher, one of the engineering minds behind the technology needed for the round, here’s a typical runthrough:
I wouldn’t normally go into detail with the rules, but this is one of those cases where it’s so vital to the explanation, I feel it’s worthwhile. Considering they treat it as one big computer game, let’s do this GameFAQs style:
Round 1: The Kryptic Rings
It’s a maze in effect, don’t let the drama of the parachute jump throw you. The code may seem difficult at first, but think of the maze as having 5 layers (either specific corridors, or changes in elevation). Starting with the player’s own colour, the correct passage out of each layer (i.e. the quickest route, without blind alleys) is given by the characters seen in each code entry in turn, moving clockwise. The players have been briefed on this of course, not that you’d necessarily pick up from the voiceover. At their exit point, they’re presented with one more character which is used to log into their specific Amiga for
Round 2: The Code/Laser Matrix
The technology here is pretty neat, using the advantage of the Amiga to provide a genlocked secondary display to a gallery (something also used for the touchscreens in the mental agility/observation rounds), a simple key placement/substitution code game is played. Tony’s interface to the gallery allows the players to be reviewed in real time, as well as allowing for output of a given screen into the edit. Once complete, players move to the Laser Matrix, an effective set of tripwires that require timing and agility to avoid. There is no direct connection between the computer and the lasers, which permitted a player to proceed without correctly completing the codes, which resulted in an after the fact disqualification. Tony again provided hardware for the laser system to facilitate the gameplay, if the laser is scattered in a way that means it no longer is received by its detector (i.e. if a player breaks the beam), the gallery is notified and the penalty timer is started. This does not appear to be automatic however, as the time before such a warning is received varies sometimes between runs (and according to the comments on one of Tony’s videos, the warning didn’t come on at all for one player until it was too late). This leads directly into
Round 3: The Response Revolve
Each steel baton the player needs is held in place with an electromagnet, which is disabled when the light is turned on, with each holster activated at random. Although uncommon, the strength of the magnet coupled with the rotation means that it is possible to release a baton from the holster by brute force, although when this was spotted in the one run where it occurred, the player was disqualified.
Round 4: Krypton Mountain
Assemble the ladder pieces and climb to the top, simple.
I haven’t mentioned the idea of purchasing advantages here, simply because the rules changed so often. In practice, the points scored in the main game would by helpers for the various rounds (guides in the Kryptic Rings, presolved words in the code, batons already removed etc). A nice idea, but it wasn’t necessarily clear how each helped, because with 4 players running at once the edit was naturally confused. Compare and contrast with the closest rival – the Eliminator in Gladiators. There the course was clear, advantages were limited to a head start and more importantly, the relative performance could be gauged in a single camera shot because the competitors were running side by side. However, this isn’t automatically a path to success. When the reboot with Ben Shepard initially launched, the Physical Ability course was clearly designed with this in mind, with two sets of two working through a course laid out in the Eliminator style. In the edit, the relative performances were difficult to gauge again, and so for the second series, a 4 person course was designed again, but with clear space to view progress.