LCD Games of the 80s – Part IV: There’s no L in A-R-C-A-D-E

INDIE GAMER CHICK’S LCD GUIDE: PART IPART IIPART IIIPART IVPART VPART VIPART VII

What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. Previously, I’ve covered twenty-four LCD games (check the links above) and not liked a single one of them. Today’s feature includes seventeen more LCD games of the 80s (and a few from the 90s). I promise that I will name not just one, but FOUR quality LCD games before this feature is over.

Today’s theme: arcade conversions.

PAC-MAN!!
Tomy (1982)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase

Like so many arcade games, multiple companies did LCDs of Pac-Man. Coleco did one too, up next.

Certainly one of the stronger LCD games I’ve done. Is it anything like the arcade Pac-Man? Oh god, not at all. Is it fun? Not really. But at least there’s a concept here that has legs that I’d like to see an actual ROM hacker try to recreate. Here, Pac-Man is always facing to the left, and this is worked into the play mechanics. If you pass over a dot from left to right, you don’t eat the dot, since Pac-Man’s mouth didn’t get it. You must pass over it right to left. It’s a one-off type of gameplay mechanic I’ve never even thought of before that certainly got my attention. Not as good is the super unresponsive controls and how I could never, even after four or five attempts, successfully eat a ghost after grabbing one of the stars. Yea, it’s awful, but I appreciate the unexpected twist.

PAC-MAN!!
Coleco (1981)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase

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Part of their famous table top line, Coleco made some beautiful facades that housed some terrible versions of popular coin-ops. Pac-Man at least is a stronger game than Donkey Kong, but it’s still pretty miserable. The ghosts all look like they’ve already eaten Pac-Man and it’s jarring as all hell. It’s PRETTY close to Pac-Man, but it’s also one of the uglier LCD games and I can’t get over how they look like some kind of virus that has absorbed Pac-Man.

PAC-MAN 2!!
Entex (1981)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase

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This is a little more close to the arcade game. There’s only two ghosts, but it functionally feels like a Pac-Man LCD. It doesn’t matter which direction you’re facing when you slurp up dots. There’s only two ghosts, but the power-pellets work. I kept having a ghost get the jump on me early on, probably because I left the center dots there as the last dots to get. Even though this is the best controlling LCD Pac-Man, I think it’s boring, but then again, I was never really a standard Pac-Man fan to begin with.

MS. PAC-MAN!!
Coleco (1983)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase

WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS! OTHER COMPANIES DID GAMES THAT DON’T LOOK LIKE THIS! IT’S CREEPY!!

It’s the same “organisms that ate other organisms as viewed from under a microscope” look that Pac-Man had, but to Coleco’s credit, this is basically the same game as Pac-Man with more responsive controls. It’s still crap though.

DIG DUG!!
Gakken (1983)
Gameplay Type: Action-Arcade

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Awful. Just plan awful. This might be the worst LCD yet. Nothing works. The enemies get too much a jump on you. In six games I never once successfully defeated an enemy with the pump or kill one using a rock without killing myself. It feels NOTHING like Dig Dug at all and has to be one of the worst games I’ve ever played in my entire life. I don’t dig this. See what I did there? UPDATE 7-18-22: I figured out how to play it. So, you have to actually hold the direction you want the pump to go. So, unlike the arcade game, you can pump enemies above and below you. Once I figured this out, I was able to clear a few levels. Total screw-up on my part and I’ll change my opinion on Dig Dug: from worst-ever contender to merely a cramped slog that is vaguely like the arcade game.

GALAXIAN!!
Coleco (1982)
Gameplay Type: Gallery Shooter

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I’d love to review this for y’all, but I couldn’t stay alive for a single second without being shot. If you die, the aliens don’t stop firing bullets and I respawned right into the path of them. Maybe the emulation is bad, but given my experience with Coleco’s LCDs, I’m not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

ZAXXON!!
Bandai (1982)
Gameplay Type: Shooter

Could be some weird space tennis game too for all I know.

I’ve never really cared for Zaxxon, so I was surprised that the LCD is one of the least bad LCDs. Notice I didn’t say “good.” I’d still rather suffer rectal prolapsing than be stuck with this as my only gaming option. BUT, at least this is a semi-competent shooter that feels somewhat vaguely like the arcade game. Shmups might actually work as an LCD. I’d like to try Space Invaders in this format, honestly. Maybe for Part V in 2024 (after making this joke, I posted the next three parts within 24 hours, go figure). Anyway, Zaxxon just doesn’t have excitement to it, which a shooter needs, but at least it’s fair and doesn’t just bleed you out right away like Galaxian does. Not awful, still not fun. Next!!

BURGERTIME!!
Bandai (1983)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase/Action-Arcade

One of the better character sprites for sure, if nothing else.

Burgertime feels a lot closer to getting it right, but like so many LCD games, the enemies just catch you too fast. A really weird aspect here is that the “drop the food” gameplay is here, but you have to press a button to cause the buns and patties to collapse. I don’t know why! Wouldn’t it make sense to just be able to walk across them like in the game? Yea. But, it doesn’t work that way. I couldn’t make any progress because the enemies are faster than you and you only get five salts, but the salts only work if they’re right next to you, and if they’re right next to you that means they’re about to score a contact with you and cost you a life. The #1 thing about LCD games: they shouldn’t try to directly adapt any game that REQUIRES animation. Burgertime does, and it’s unplayable as a result.

MORTAL KOMBAT!!
Tiger Electronics (1993)
Gameplay Type: Fighter

Yea, no. Let it be said: I put in a good faith effort here, but I’ve yet to play a single Tiger Electronics fighting/brawling game that I thought had any value at all. Myself and the computer AI were throwing punches and landing basically nothing. I was surprised at how many moves are offered (the full range: high and low kicks and punches) but the fact that I wasn’t getting a single hit in on the lowest difficulty (the AI beat me to the punch every time) and that all my matches ended with a time-out? I’m FINISHED with this one. Quality Gaming loses. Fatality!!

DOUBLE DRAGON!!
Tiger Electronics (1989)
Gameplay Type: Combative

What Superman should have done years ago.. drop kick Lex Luthor in the balls.

Walk left and punch and/or kick Lex Luthor until he blinks out of existence. Then walk left more and punch and/or kick Lex Luthor until he blinks out of existence. Then walk left more and punch and/or kick Lex Luthor until he blinks out of existence.. occasionally Lex Luthor is inside a door, but then you just punch or kick him until he blinks out of existence. And you thought Double Dragon III was the shits. Oh my God, what a piece of shit game.

GOLDEN AXE!!
Tiger Electronics (1989)
Gameplay Type: Combative

This one broke me. You walk left, and swing at enemies as they appear. If a skeleton shows up behind you, instead of doing the sensible thing, IE turning around, you instead dislocate your shoulders and just swing the sword that way. Good lord!! I started laughing so hard that I thought I might crack a rib. The funny thing about these Tiger games is that LCD games had been around for a decade, and the formulas that worked to create playable, somewhat enjoyable games were well established. They didn’t bother with ANY of that shit. This and Double Dragon are so stupidly brain dead simple that I can’t imagine anyone not under a fog of laughing gas could enjoy them.

KARNOV!!
Tiger Electronics (1989)
Gameplay Type: Shooter

“ARRRHH! I’M GONNA EATCHA LITTLE BIRD! ARRRHH!”

The thing that bugs me about Tiger Electronics games are they’re often so unimaginative. Move left, press fire button, keep moving right. There’s nothing dynamic or thrilling about this. Say what you will about Nintendo’s Game & Watch games, but they feel like there’s challenge and effort made. These are just so lazy and uninspired. This shit would have bombed in arcades in the 70s, and as a release made after a decade of figuring out how to make LCD game? It’s insulting and kind of disgusting, really. Karnov, based on a little-known arcade and NES game, feels so lazy. It’s a move right, jump and shoot game that they copied ad nauseam in lieu of, you know, effort.

ALTERED BEAST!!
Tiger Electronics (1990)
Gameplay Type: Combative

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You walk right and punch things to the left and right of you. There’s almost no gameplay here. BY GOLLY THIS IS A 100% ARCADE ACCURATE LCD! I kid. Actually, this might be the worst of all the punching-based Tiger games I’ve played so far, except maybe Mortal Kombat where literally nothing would happen for several excruciating minutes. There’s a horrible lag to it and it just feels like you’re barely interacting at all. If not for Dig Dug or Galaxian, this would be the worst game I played today.

BY GUM, THERE’S DECENT LCD GAMES!!

SPACE HARRIER II!!
Tiger Electronics (1990)
Gameplay Type: Shooter

By golly, they actually did it.

Do you know what frustrates me most about Tiger’s lazy, shitty, effortless shovelware? They actually were capable of making decent games. Take Space Harrier II, which will now be given the distinct honor of being the first ever LCD game I wouldn’t rather be dead than be stuck with. And mind you, I don’t even like Space Harrier, but this LCD gallery shooter actually works. It feels vaguely like the arcade game and retains the fun. It even has boss fights! How about that? It’s not very exciting and the timing is a bit jank, but this isn’t awful by any stretch, and for kids from households who couldn’t afford a Game Boy, they wouldn’t have to be embarrassed playing this one. It’s fine. Hallelujah!

Q*BERT!!
Parker Bros (1983)
Gameplay Type: @!#?@!

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Well shiver me timbers: Q*Bert makes a great LCD game! Q*Bert by Parker Bros is a close approximation to the arcade game and not too bad at all. Once you get used to the controls (shit, it really is Q*Bert!), it feels like an LCD version of the arcade game. It works! Shifting the cube colors, dodging the eggs and snakes, and even jumping on the discs feels like an animation-free take on the original game. I’d basically rather play anything else, but this isn’t the worst thing to happen to me today. It’d not want to light myself on fire if I was stuck with only this for more than an hour. Good job, Parker Bros. Kids who had this in 1983 wouldn’t have to murder their parents if they were gifted this.

FROGGER!!
Coleco (1981)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

Fitting for a format where cross the road style games are probably the easiest to make quality games for, the king of cross the road is actually the most arcade-accurate LCD game I’ve ever played by a mile, and probably the greatest pure LCD game ever made. It works. It’s arcade-accurate. It didn’t have to compromise hardly anything from the arcade original. Most importantly: it’s actually really fun to play! If you were a kid who got Coleco’s table top Frogger under the Christmas tree in 1981, you were a pretty lucky kid. This is the best of gaming’s worst format, and the only LCD game I’ve ever gotten to say is fun without adding several “buts” to it. BUT, it’s also not my personal favorite..

GAUNTLET!!
Tiger Electronics (1989)
Gameplay Type: Adventure/Combative

Hail the Champion of LCD Gaming. You could say the (puts on shades) Gauntlet has been thrown down. Sorry.

Hey, wait a second.. this isn’t how it’s supposed to work. Tiger Electronics is objectively shit. They’re not supposed to have a genuinely interesting concept, fun and exciting gameplay, and a release that I could find myself playing for fun, on my own time, without doing it for a special feature for this blog. What is happening here? Something is wrong. I’ve slipped into another universe or something. A universe where Tiger Electronics made a good game: Gauntlet.

Is it arcade accurate? No. It’s a totally different take. Basically a third person game, but it features a dynamic 3D maze, satisfactory combat (as far as animation-free combat goes), and it’s fun to locate keys and figure out uses for them. After I finished the final game I played for this feature, I reloaded Gauntlet and kept playing it. That really says it all, doesn’t it? Honestly, the existence of Gauntlet put a smile on my face, but it also infuriated me to no end. That they could get THIS creative with their work and chose not to? Disgusting, really. I’m absolutely floored that anyone longs to see this format make a comeback, BUT, if they had a game like Tiger’s Gauntlet (as opposed to pretty much anything else by them) I could understand how they see their childhood spent getting these LCD games from misguided aunts and uncles who knew you liked those newfangled video game thingies with slightly rosier-tinted glasses.

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedUPDATE: Guess what? The prediction came true.. I found myself playing Gauntlet even more, just for fun. Seriously, I can’t stress enough what an impressive effort this is. There’s even secrets and bonus rooms and more than one breed of enemy. Calling this “shockingly fun” really understates how much I enjoyed this. It actually gives me hope for some of the games that haven’t been included in this now seven part feature. There’s a LOT of hype on Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and others have name dropped Metal Gear, Mega Man II, and more. Look at how many games they made. It’s stunning. Meanwhile, do you know what Gauntlet deserves? My seal of approval.

 

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