Clarissa Explains It All: The Game
From its premiere in 1991 until the series ended in December of 1994, Clarissa Explains It All was one of Nickelodeon's most popular shows. Featuring the then-unknown Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa Marie Darling, the show chronicled Clarissa's exploits as she sat around in her room opining about various problems she was having with school, her parents, and her obnoxious brother Ferguson. Clarissa's platonic friend Sam Anders would often stop by to visit her, generally by climbing up a ladder directly into her bedroom. I am pretty sure that the producers meant for it to be quirky, but it was kind of creepy that Clarissa's parents didn't seem to care that a boy was spending large amounts of time with their daughter unannounced and behind closed doors. Wait, did I say creepy? I meant cool. I wish more girls' parents had been like that when I was in high school. The show was very low budget, so we rarely saw Clarissa in any locales besides her bedroom and living room. As a result, Clarissa would EXPLAIN her problems to the viewers. Some critics would claim that Clarissa really hurt the show by regularly breaking the fourth wall, but I would argue that she never actually did this. Instead, Clarissa was just a typically egocentric teenage girl who presumed herself to be unnaturally important. Despite its limited budget, Clarissa was an entertaining and endearing show. Melissa Joan Hart became a hero to young girls everywhere and the unhealthy obsession of young boys everywhere. This created a problem for Nickelodeon: they had a successful show and no viable way to cash in on it. Clarissa Explains It All was a good show, but it was not a marketable show. There would be no toyline, no video game, no bed sheets. And so it seemed that America's children would be forced to live without the fleeting satisfaction of owning shoddy merchandise with the Clarissa Explains It All logo emblazoned on it. However, this was not to meant to be. In 1994, a company Cardinal Industries released a board game based on the hit show called Clarissa Explains It All Game. Please note that it's not called Clarissa Explains It All: The Game or The Clarissa Explains It All Game, because neither of those titles would sound sufficiently awkward in conversation:
Child #1: Want to play Clarissa Explains It All Game?
Child #2: Want to speak proper English?
But let's move past the grammatically incorrect title to the burning question on everyone's mind: is it possible to adapt a television show about a teenage girl with a lazy eye and bad early 90s fashion sense who rarely leaves her room into a fun board game? Here's a hint - NO. The game is awful, so if you're not interested in a lengthy explanation as to why it's awful, feel free to leave. Everyone else, let's continue on.
Since sitting around in your room bitching about what a dickhead your brother Ferguson is wouldn't make a very good game, your goal in the game is to be the first player to get a car. This objective has very little to do with Clarissa Explains It All, but it would seem that the game is made entirely using production stills and other promotional images. Since one of the classic Nickelodeon logos was a taxi, Cardinal apparently decided to make this game about Clarissa trying to get a car. The company really didn't have much to work with, so I guess that's not a terrible premise. Of course, when a concept doesn't immediately lend itself to a board game, that's usually a pretty big clue that maybe you should give up. Unfortunately, Cardinal didn't.
The Clarissa Explains It All game can be played with 2-6 players, as evidenced by the fact that it comes with six game pieces. I suppose you could also play the game by yourself, but that would just be sad. The game piece choices are all pretty exciting, you can be a skateboard, a motor scooter, or even the world's ugliest pair of rollerskates. These game pieces help emphasize the fact that you don't have a car yet, isn't that fucking cute? At this point, you're probably wondering why the hell you have to choose between garish modes of transportation instead of characters from the show. Ferguson may be ugly as sin, but he's still preferable to a pair of pink and blue styrofoam sandals. Well, there's a reason why you don't get to choose to play as Sam, Ferguson, Clarissa, or her parents Marshall and Janet...
The Clarissa explains it all game isn't *just* about obtaining a car, you have to obtain your driver's license first. And by "your" driver's license, I mean Clarissa's. That's right; everyone plays as Miss Darling. Clarissa's driver's license is somewhat lacking in details. Most other driver's licenses that I've seen include such helpful information as gender, license number, and license class. But hey, it says OFFICIAL DRIVER'S LICENSE right on it, so if you look like Melissa Joan Hart and you live in Somewhere, Illinois, I bet you could totally use this to get into clubs. Oh wait, it doesn't have a date of birth on it either. Fuck. The look of Clarissa's driver's license isn't the only thing that's been simplified, obtaining it is pretty easy too. In real life, you have to pass both a written test and a road test to obtain a license. In this game, all you have to do is a roll a die. Actually, I suppose that's not far off the mark. There are plenty of people on the road who only have licenses because the state trooper administered the road test felt bad for them. So I guess luck does play a role in some people getting their licenses, especially girls. Thank you Cardinal Industries, for telling it like it is.
Most teenagers, if they wanted a car, would either get a job or beg their parents to buy them one. Since Clarissa isn't a highly motivated individual or a spoiled brat, she's left with only one option: win one somehow. Luckily for her, the Deals On Wheels Car Dealership is holding a contest to give away one of six cars. All Clarissa has to do to enter is obtain one of the twelve contest keys. If she makes it to the dealership square (START) with a driver's license and at least one key, she can choose a car at random. If the car she picks is the same color as one of keys she holds, she wins the car. If you're the first Clarissa to win a car, you also win the game. And just look at the exciting cars you can win:
Blue jeeps, white Corvettes, green sports cars, purple horseshoes, or red balloons could all be yours! You could also end up with a shitty yellow Volkswagon Beetle. Matching a key with a car may sound easy, but it's not. The cars are placed face down on the board and any time that someone fails to win one, the cars are shuffled and then placed back on the board. Also, there are only twelve keys. So what happens if you win a key but there are no keys left? Easy, you get to take any key you want from any other player. That's probably the best aspect of the game right there: blatant thievery.
MOUSE OVER CARDS FOR OTHER SIDE
In most board games, players roll dice to see how many spaces they will advance for the turn; this is not the case in Clarissa Explains It All. Instead, every turn starts with a designated player reading a Clarissa Explains card. Each card features what Cardinal Industries R&D team assures me is a typical situation that children ages 8 and up might find themselves in, along with the five most popular answers given by however many children the company surveyed. Players then select the number of whichever answer they think is best and write down their own answer as well. When each player has done this, the Clarissa Explains card is turned over each player advances 1-5 spaces depending on how popular their answer was among those surveyed. The players then reveal the answers they wrote down themselves. Any player whose answer matches another player's answer gets to take a key. Players cannot collect more than one key per turn.
If you thought this game is all plastic keys and free driver's licenses, you were damn wrong. Every now and then, Clarissa will have to deal with a major life crisis. And by every now and then, I mean whenever you land on a CRISIS! space on the board. When that happens, you will have to take a Crisis card see what trouble Clarissa has gotten herself into, which could be anything from teenage pregnancy to fratricide to running a prostitution ring. OK, that's not true. These so-called crises tend to be mundane things like accidentally breaking your dad's favorite coffee mug or dropping your lunch tray in front everyone. The severity of each crisis differs, some will send you back a few spaces while other may cost you a key or even your license. However, there is a way out...
You can negate the effects of a crisis with a Rescue card, which you can obtain by landing on specially marked squares on the board. Unfortunately, some Rescue cards are only good in specific crises. For example, if you have a Rescue card that mentions your dad, it can only be used to nullify a crisis involving him. And as if that weren't annoying enough, you can only carry three Rescue cards at once. But it's not all bad; just as Monopoly had the Get Out Jail Free card, there are Clarissa Rescue cards that are good in any crisis. Believe it or not, there are spaces on the board that don't make you pick up a key, driver's license, or card and many of them do completely random things. Let's take a look at some of the better ones...
Ever get hungry in the middle of a long, pointless board game? If so, Clarissa Explains It All has you covered. Yes, there's actually a spot on the board that ORDERS you to eat something. It's a shame that this game didn't exist when Growing Pains was still on the air, because it really could have been a therapeutic experience for Tracey Gold.
I didn't mind the snack space, but this one crosses the line. I don't mind being told when to eat, but I'm not gonna let some fucking board game tell me when I can take a dump. Seriously, what the fuck is up with this? Nevermind, I don't want to think about it. Let's move on.
And now we've moved away from *actual* shit and back to some good old-fashioned bullshit. Being able to move to any space I want is a pretty sweet deal, I'm surprised more games don't have a space like this. Oh wait, no I'm not. You know why? BECAUSE IT'S TOTALLY FUCKING RIDICULOUS. If you need a key or license, you'll move to a space that guarantees one. If you already a license and a key, it's a free shot at winning the game. That's totally not cool.
Sometimes when I'm hanging out with friends, I secretly wish that I was hanging out with other, better friends. For the longest time, there was nothing I could do in situations like that; I was powerless. But now any time I find myself in that predicament, I break out the Clarissa Explains It All game and hope I land on the telephone square. If I do, I can talk to my cool friends for an unspecified amount of time while my lame friends sit there and wait for me to finish taking my turn. Seriously though, I love this space. "We can't expect you to go a whole game without calling a friend, can we?" Yes, you can. This is a fucking social game, you know. If I'm already playing the game with friends, why the hell would I want to call another friend? What would I say to him? Would I invite him over to watch us finish playing the game? Would I let him know that I was playing the super cool Clarissa Explains It All game with friends and he wasn't invited? I really don't know what the designers hoped to accomplish with this space, perhaps they were trying to give me an aneurysm. Mission accomplished, motherfuckers.
By now, your initial suspicions should have been adequately confirmed: Clarissa Explains It All simply does not translate into a playable board game. The worst part is that Clarissa isn't the only TV show to have a shitty board game. Other shows such as Family Ties, Mork & Mindy, and Knight Rider all have equally awful board games crafted in their image. Maybe someday I will review one of them. Then again, maybe someday I'll bang Larisa Oleynik. I like that option better. So until that happens, I am not going to review any more TV-themed board games. If anyone out there ever happens to come across a Larisa Oleynik in good condition, please e-mail me immediately and we'll discuss shipping options as well as your finder's fee. In conclusion, Larisa Oleynik is way better than whatever the fuck I was talking about.
NOTE: I was originally going to have this page play the Clarissa theme song on loop but then I realized it would induce suicide.
Posted by: Syd Lexia
TAKE A RESCUE CARD.