I coulda been a Blue Barracuda.
As a devoted Nickelodeon kid of the early ’90s, I had reasonable dreams: meet Jim Carrey, read all of the Narnia books, and one day appear on Nick’s Legends of the Hidden Temple. The way some kids picked up football maneuvers from hours of Sunday NFL games, I had a strategy for every opening moat challenge from the action-adventure game show, and precise plan on how to conquer the Temple Run, for when I inevitably made it to the final stage. I would not be bested by the Shrine of the Silver Monkey and it’s wonky foam puzzle!
I never came close to making it on Legends of the Hidden Temple, probably because my parents never applied for me to be on Legends of the Hidden Temple. (Note: I also never met Jim Carrey, but I did get wrecked by The Last Battle.) For years I thought I was over it, even when Quibi announced a reboot.
Then I watched the first two episodes of Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge. I spent every second of it seething and shrieking with joy.
Hosted by Ahmed Best, who swaps CG Jar Jar skin for a fitting Jedi robe, the new YouTube series is an unabashed, carbon(ite) copy of Legends of the Hidden Temple. In the version set in a galaxy far, far away, three teams of two tweens compete in a set of physical and mental challenges in hopes of becoming Jedi Knights. The losers hang their heads in shame and sulk back to the Jedi temple for additional learnings. The winners get their own custom lightsabers to wave around like a-holes — it’s jubilant.
Best, as Jedi Kelleran Beq is joined by droid AD-3 and the astromech LX-R5 to oversee the training, which is broken into three Hidden Temple-y segments. In part one, the three teams compete to assemble their lightsaber hilts by overcoming four obstacles:
- The “Power Pull,” a wobbly strength rope course that sends unbalanced kids falling on their faces
- The “Swing of Strength,” a test of Tarzan might, shape recognition, and screaming directions to a friend
- The “Leap & Lift,” in which players jump on a trampoline to grab some low-hanging Meiloorun fruits and also to have fun because trampolines are a blast
- The “Staber Stability,” a balance-beam course in which contestants slap floating balls with a bamboo stick (which is canon!)
The course is smaller than Hidden Temple’s moat course, undercutting the momentum and physicality of the challenges, but the kids’ hustle — combined with Best’s commentary — makes it feel like a dream come true. Even more than visiting Galaxy’s Edge, this is living Star Wars.
Part two of each episode is, again, just like Hidden Temple. Instead of Olmec telling an ancient tale of morality, AD-3 recounts a story from around the universe with plenty of details the contestants must recall for our amusement. This is where the Star Warsification of the format bests the original: To suss out the answers, one teammate is in a pilot’s seat while the other is working in engineer mode. The sets and lighting bring the fictional backdrop to life, and the task at hand is fully pressurized.
Headsets allow contestants to whisper answers to one another but timing is everything! WHAT WAS THE COLOR OF THE SPACE CLAY?!? Best demands answers with the most enunciated delivery of any Jedi in history. The kids sweat like their lives are on the line, and in hologram confessionals, the losing pairs lament their losses. “It’s a good memory that I’m going to look back at when I’m older,” says one girl who did not get to carry a Holocron into the unknown of the final challenge. What a scream.
The final set piece brings the winning pair to the ultimate challenge: a series of puzzles spread across Star Wars inspired rooms. “Make your way up the Summit Scramble to the Galaxy Globe!” Best shouts at the top of the race. Yes. Absolutely.
Competing against the countdown clock, padawans must complete a Simon-like color pattern challenge, a glyph puzzle scattered across two different divided rooms, another matching game inspired by the trash compactor from the 1977 movie, an uphill ice climb that looked very tough for the nerdier kids, and a light-bridge sequence game straight out of Empire Strikes Back. All the while the kids are being tempted by voices from the Dark Side: Should they get cheat code to advance faster through one puzzle even if it means a later challenge will be more difficult? Some make the right answers, some don’t, and you just know the ones who were like “Sign me up, Darth Sidious!” are getting a talking to afterward.
One of the best part of Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge, and another thing the series has in common with Hidden Temple, is that winning isn’t a sure thing. In one episode, the team that goes to the final round does not succeed in crossing the finish line in the required time, and it’s crushing. This was the one time these kids will get to live the Jedi life in Star Wars Land. That’s a life lesson that isn’t missed on the writers of the series. “Young padawans,” the voice of Yoda says over a loudspeaker, “there will always be trials.”
Except not these ones! This sucks! Give those kids a lightsaber!
Deep breaths. Master Yoda is right. Just because kids didn’t prevail on Jedi Temple Challenge doesn’t mean they’ll fall short in the steeper climbs of real life. But it does mean that, at some point in their 30s, they might watch a new generation compete in an adventure game show and scream bloody murder at the small children who can’t hear their advice on how to effectively bounce on a trampoline. That’s acceptable.
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