LCD Games of the 80s VII: The Grand Finale

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

Here we go. This will really be the final part for a while, since I’ve run out of material to source from. But, I’ve gone all out here with the most games I’ve ever done for one of these. If your favorite childhood LCDs are still missing.. sorry. Actually, I probably would have done them if someone had emulated them. The issue with that is, someone has to donate a unit to someone willing to program the emulation for this. It’s actually likely they won’t ever get the original back either, because if you want to truly get the emulation and the backgrounds perfect, it might require the physical game itself to be destroyed in the process.

I wanted to do games like Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Super Mario Bros. for Game & Watch, but nobody has done them yet. Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch fetches hundreds of dollars. If I owned any rare LCD, I would donate it for this. The fact is, one day, these will stop working. But, if you donate your rare game now, yea, you lose out on a valuable keepsake. BUT, you’ve also preserved that game FOREVER, for everyone who will ever want to play it. Even shitheads like me who are likely to dump on it in features like this.

I almost added Game & Watch Gallery 4 to this, but I ended up with too many games on here to begin with.

See, no matter what I think of the quality of these games, I’m very happy they’ve been preserved. I love video games, and it’s not cool to believe only the games that I like should be immortalized. LCD games are a not-insignificant part of our heritage, and it’s a shame more haven’t been adapted. I played many of the games featured in the last three parts from the Internet Archive’s Handheld History exhibit. It’s a wonderful selection, but it’s limited to only 75 games, not even a quarter of Tiger Electronics’ combined output. It needs to grow! I’ve played LCD games where I feel there’s educational value for game designers. Look at the Tiger Electronics version of Gauntlet and its outside-the-box thinking on how to adapt it. Look at the genuinely dazzling Bandai port of Frisky Tom. But, even bad titles like Bandai’s Burgertime serve to show why some ideas don’t work. These could easily give inspiration to a new generation of indie developers. So, if you’re sitting on a mountain of Tiger LCDs, don’t just hoard them. Give them to the world

Special thanks to the Handheld Game Museum for their cataloging of these. Check this site out, seriously. My jaw dropped when I saw just how many games Tiger Electronics did.

Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart, to EVERYONE who contributed these games. I’ll try to be nice to them. Okay, that’s a lie, but I’ll be fair, I promise.

LIFEBOAT!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1983)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

indie-gamer-chick-approvedCertainly one of the better spinning plate Game & Watch releases, a duel screen affair where you have to rub your head and pat your belly at the same time. No wait, actually you have to watch both screens and catch people jumping off a boat and help them reach the land on either side of the screen. Game & Watch did tons of these style of games, but Lifeboat is genuinely the only one that I couldn’t put down. Seriously, this should have been done a lot sooner than it was. I wanted to lead-off with the very first Game & Watch I’ve ever said is really good without having to qualify that statement with “for an LCD game.” Nah, Lifeboat is genuinely the best Game & Watch, at least of the ones I’ve played.

TOWERING RESCUE!!
Gakken (1981)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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One of the simpler LCDs I’ve played. You just go back and forth and grab people stranded on a building and fly them to safety. You don’t even drop the ladder for them. It happens automatically. You only get one life, so that’s different, and it ended when I pushed left too much and I crashed into a building. It was the first time I saw the idea of “don’t just mash the button, or else” implemented, and it certainly did it better than Nintendo’s take on the same idea. While I wouldn’t want Towering Rescue today, I imagine it was a decent enough time waster in 1981.

SNOOPY!!
Nintendo Table Top (1983)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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Snoopy is the OTHER game I played that penalizes you for moving too far. It’s a spinning-plate game where you have to smash colored music notes generated by Schroeder’s piano. I wanted to like this, because it’s so colorful and.. I mean.. LOOK AT IT! I very much regret that I didn’t grow-up in an era where “handheld” games looked like miniature arcade machines. Well, except for the fact that they mostly suck. Maybe I dodged a bullet, actually. Snoopy is a TERRIBLE game. It’s very sluggish, and positioning yourself to get to the notes is such a chore. It’s basically a revamp of Nintendo’s previous Game & Watch release Vermin, only you need to hit a button to activate the mallet. If you move too far over, you fall to your death. One of Nintendo’s very worst LCDs (yea yea, I know it’s an VFD).

SNOOPY’S TENNIS!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1982)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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Probably the most famous Game & Watch that hasn’t been adapted to any Game & Watch Gallery, Snoopy’s Tennis is, surprise, not actually a Tennis game. It’s a spinning plate title where Charlie Brown lobs tennis balls to one of three channels and you have to hit them off the screen above him. You have to time it right, because if you miss, you have to wait an extra frame of animation before you can swing or move again, which is a nice touch. Occasionally Lucy Van Pelt, the biggest bitch in all of fiction, will block the lane with either a high or low racket that bats the balls back at you. On Game A, it takes FOREVER for the action to get intense, so go straight to Game B, though even that is kinda slow. I get the impression this was targeted specifically towards younger kids, and as a result, it’s pretty slow to get going and overall quite boring. On the plus side, it has the funniest death animation in Game & Watch: Snoopy just goes to sleep. It’s the first time anything related to The Peanuts actually made me laugh.

TURTLE BRIDGE!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1982)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

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While spinning plate type of games are the most common LCD game type, cross-the-road games are the surest bet for quality gaming. Well, relatively speaking. It’s not a sure bet by any means. Take Turtle Bridge, a slog of a game where you have to deliver a package from one side of the river to the other by hopping across the backs of turtles. There’s two catches. #1: fish draw closer to the turtles, who will eventually submerge to grab a bite to eat, and if you’re on them, or jump to them, you die. #2: the asshole who you’re supposed to deliver the package to has his mind wander and he disappears from time to time, leaving you stranded on the bridge and watching for fish while the person finishes taking his dump or whatever he’s doing. It sounds intense, but it’s just a boring, annoying slog of a game. Turtle Bridge has fans, but I’m not one of them.

BASEBALL!! and ENGINE TIME!! and DEFENDO!!
ENGINE TIME!!
Vtech Explorer Time & Fun (198?)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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Vtech Time & Fun is basically generic off-brand Game & Watch that was sold through Sears, actually. They’re one of the most prolific makers of LCDs, some of which directly rip-off Nintendo’s gameplay, only suckily. These games though? Their Explorer line, though, is just desperate. I started cracking-up so hard because it has a compass and a teeny tiny little LCD flashlight built into it. That’s the most pathetic grasping at straws for a competitive edge I’ve ever seen in my life. “Gentlemen, how can we compete with Nintendo?” “I know.. hear me out.. you know how boring camping is? Well..” And it was a whole series of games! While they did a deluxe Baseball model that probably plays closer to the actual sport’s rules, their Explorer Baseball is really just a spinning plate game. Move your batter left and right and hit the balls. There’s no action button, and nothing else to do with baseball. It’s NOT baseball. You just have to intercept the balls, and rarely one will curve. You know, for challenge. It’s far and away the most basic LCD I’ve done in this now seven-part series, but they did the same exact game two more times, more or less. Engine Room has you shoveling coal as it reaches you, while Defendo has you thumping soldiers rushing your tent. I guess they had to skimp on the gameplay and pass the expense on to a tiny toy compass and a flashlight about as bright as lobotomized Kardashian.

ROLLER COASTER!!
Vtech (198?)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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Another in the Explorer series, but the only one that actually had different gameplay. This is a juggler-variation of a spinning plate that’s closest cousin is Nintendo’s Game & Watch legend Fire, which gets closed a lot. Roller Coasters go across a broken track and you have to stand over three channels and juggle them to safety. It’s a toothless bore, but at least it’s more interesting than the other games in the Explorer series. I had planned to ignore it, but then I found a Vtech game that more directly rips off Fire, only it completely botches it..

CONDOR!!
Vtech (1981)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

See the three birds in this picture? The one on the left is about to cost me a life because the very next frame is it hitting the ground. It’s just awful design because it looks like it has one more frame to go before it hits the ground. Vtech’s direct rip-offs of Game & Watch games scream “we don’t understand what we’re doing at all!”

See?

Another straight-up rip-off of a Game & Watch design, in this case a mirrored version of Fire. You’re a caveman, and baby birds fall out of a nest above you, which you then CLUB TO DEATH WITH A HAMMER and then juggle their carcasses to the other side of the screen. Holy crap!! I can’t believe I can say this about an LCD game but Jesus Christ that’s so insanely violent!! Plus, they completely fucked-up Fire. Birds that are higher up on one channel will hit the ground faster than birds lower on another. Like Banana did with Manhole, they took one of the better Nintendo games and made it a lot worse. And more grotesque.

PIRATE!! and MONKEY!!
Vtech (1981)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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These are the exact same game with different sprites, and easily the most basic of the higher-end Game & Watch rip-offs. They’re the most basic spinning plate style games, where you have three channels to block people climbing up things. For Monkey, it’s coconut trees. For Pirate, it’s your ship. I’m going to assume they just recycled the programs from this for some of those Explorer games from above, and other games still to come. I wouldn’t want to play these, but at least they’re faster paced than other three-channel plate spinners and feature fun themes with awesome sprites, especially Pirate. See, I can be generous. But, let’s keep it real.. even their games that play fine are nothing compared to Nintendo’s.

PARACHUTE!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1981)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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It’s not simply the “name brand” aspect. Sorry all wannabes, but Nintendo just plain made better games. Here’s THEIR three-channel plate spinner. Parachute!! is the exact same gameplay as Vtech’s Pirate and Monkey, but it just plays faster, has better graphics, a more fun theme, and even little details like an LCD shark that occasionally pokes its fin and head up. The shark doesn’t even factor into gameplay, but it’s that extra touch towards making the experience as fun and playful as possible. As dirt simple a concept as this is, not to mention insanely easy from a gameplay perspective, it’s one of the best Game & Watch games and probably the best plate spinner ever made. It’s like popping LCD bubble-wrap.

PANCAKE!!
Vtech (1981)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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Another that looks like a Game & Watch. Remember, in 1981, before the NES, it was a lot easier for a parent who had a kid asking for a Game & Watch for Christmas to instead get one of these. It feels skeezy to me. It’s another Fire/Chef clone, and of all the direct rip-offs of Game & Watch releases, Pancake plays the best. It’s still boring though.

BANANA!! and SLEEP WALKER!!
Vtech Time & Fun (1981)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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Vtech was pretty shameless about ripping off many of Nintendo’s Game & Watch designs. The iconic Manhole by Nintendo is pilfered here not once, but twice, only with much worse gameplay as the timing of when you have to make cover a path is all wrong. Given how Nintendo is famously litigious, I genuinely can’t believe they didn’t sue Vtech for some of their designs. Then again, this takes a famously decent Game & Watch and makes it nearly unplayable. Maybe they considered it free quality advertising?

ESCAPE!!
Vtech (1981)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

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It looks a lot like a real Game & Watch, and I think the actual gameplay is original. Then again, I haven’t played every Game & Watch so maybe I’m wrong. It’s sort of like Turtle Bridge, except without the crossing-back part. the idea is you’re sneaking prisoners out of a jail. The gate opens and closes, and there’s two lanes of guards that have five total openings. As long as the guards are on the bricks, you’re safe to move. If they pass through one of the five archways, they can see you. It’s not a bad concept, honestly. It’s one of Vtech’s stronger games, but I still didn’t really enjoy it. It would have been better with clearer-marked safety zones. Yea, I’ll go ahead and call this the best Vtech Game & Swatch.

BOMB FIGHT!!
Vtech Mini-Time & Fun (1982)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedIt’s extremely hard for any of these games to actually get me to zonk out on, so imagine my surprise when this turned out to cost me over fifteen minutes. It’s not even better than other spinning plate games, really. Some dude chucks bombs at an elephant and you move the trunk and squirt them back at him. That’ sit. It’s easy. It’s so stupid, yet I just totally zoned out playing it, and next thing I know the Secret Base video on the Utah Jazz I was watching had finished and I was still playing. Maybe it’s because it’s so cramped and that adds to the intensity. Actually, no, here’s why: because it’s the only LCD juggler I’ve played where you can get ahead of the bounce. The water spray works at any distance. It doesn’t feel like you have to wait until the object is right on top of you to deflect it. Never seen that before, and it makes the game more exciting than artificial close calls. Wow. Even Vtech made a decent LCD. It proves my theory: EVERYONE who made many of these (and Vtech had over a hundred) had at least one winner.

RUSSIAN GAME & WATCH CLONES!!
Angstrem (1980s)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

A real 1984 Mickey Mouse Game & Watch, later reskinned as Egg.

Even though I’m not at all a fan of the Game & Watch anti-classic Egg, aka Mickey Mouse, I had to include this in my series of LCDs of the 80s. In Soviet Russia, the USSR authorized Game & Watch clones to be manufactured. 18 were made, and legends of the franchise titles like Octopus (released there as Mysteries of the Ocean) and Chef (released there as Merry Chef) were cloned pixel-for-pixel. Then, there’s Mickey Mouse, which not only got a pixel-for-pixel clone, but the exact same game code was reused ELEVEN MORE TIMES! Here’s the three examples I’ve been able to play.

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Why make two-thirds of your entire LCD game lineup the same game? There’s two reasons for that. The first is these we made on a fraction of the budget and the factory making them could only produce one type of circuit board. The way LCD games work, you can have the exact same game code but shape the actual lights differently, and that’s what they did. The second reason, and the most interesting: in Russia, they actually sold kits that allowed you to change the theme of your Game & Watch. It would still be the same game of Egg, of course, but the appearance would be different. That’s neat. While I personally don’t like Egg at all.. and I also don’t endorse cloning (in this case, it’s the appropriate use of the term).. part of me is happy kids from he other side of the Iron Curtain had their own Game & Watch series. For some reason, that puts a smile on my face. Gaming is truly universal.

MICKEY MOUSE!! and DONKEY KONG CIRCUS!!
Nintendo Game & Watch Panorama Series (1984)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate/Juggler

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In the very first LCD Games of the 80s feature I did here at IGC, I gave a snarky one-line review to these games, but they deserve better. I consider all juggler-type games to be part of the broader spinning-plate theme, and this is a prime example of it. As Mickey or Donkey Kong, depending on which version you play (though after checking a couple times, I’ve determined they’re the exact same difficulty either way), you move back and forth and juggle pineapples or batons that drop through five different channels. Drop one and you lose a life. Here’s the twist: there four actual spots you can stand on and your hands are stuck over two different channels as fireballs (or burning batons) fall onto the playfield, and if you touch the fire, you also lose a life. It’s awful because (1) there’s no sense of momentum. They could have easily added above and below motion lines to show you which direction the objects are going. (2) The timing of when the fire will hit your hands is so touchy and often synced perfectly with a falling object you have to juggle. I hated these. I really hated them.

PENGUIN LAND!!
by Bandai (1983)
Gameplay Type: Versus Action

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This could have been one of the greats, but I didn’t get a chance to play it two player. It’s a battle type game. Bombs fall onto the playfield and the penguin has to catch them and throw them back at the walrus and wait for ice cubes to spawn on the left side of the screen. Stack three ice cubes to reach the top of the screen and score points. It’s a lot of fun, actually. A different concept. But I couldn’t get the anyone to play it with me. Oh, and despite being based on the Doki Doki Penguin Land series, this isn’t a puzzle game. That’s so weird.

WILD MAN JUMP!! and MONKEY JUMP!!
Vtech (1981 and 1982)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

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Vtech actually could rip-off with the best of them, but to their credit, their Donkey Kong is a closer LCD Donkey Kong than the crap that Coleco came up with. It LOOK so much like Donkey Kong that I’m stunned this wasn’t a major lawsuit from Nintendo, who DID in fact sue over Tiger’s King Kong game (and Tiger’s King Kong game sort of jump-started the whole Nintendo/Universal fiasco, with Tiger Electronics being the first company to actually ask Universal “hey wait, do you even own King Kong to begin with?”). Ironically, this is a LOT closer to Donkey Kong than King Kong ever was. Both these games play functionally the same, though I feel the colored game is a lot more unresponsive. I managed to reach the top of both games only when I stopped trying to grab the items and just legged it to the top. They look like Donkey Kong but there’s nothing fun about them.

DONKEY ANGLER!!
Gakken (1982?)
Gameplay Type: Spinning Plate

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I got so excited when I heard the name. I pictured Donkey Kong in a tacky fishing jackets. One of those fuzzy fishing lures that I’ve never actually seen (and I’ve “gone fishing” with my Dad a dozen times, though if you never get a bite, does it really count as fishing, or did we really just drive off to stare at body of water while contemplating if it’s worth impaling yourself “accidentally” with a hook if it’ll get you home to your TV and video games faster?). But actually this is just a three channel spinning plate game. The thing that really strikes me about this is just how much it looks like a Game & Watch. Even the sprites look exactly like Nintendo’s Mr. Game & Watch-type sprites. It’s so close it gets uncomfortable. Anyway, boring game but at least a little faster-paced than your typical plate spinner.

GRAB MAN!!
Unknown Developer (1980s? 90s?)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase

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This is literally the same game as the Toby Pac-Man, with the same “must be facing the dots rules” that I showed in LCD Games of the 80s IV. UPDATE: I actually got the game working once I realized I had to actually hold the movement buttons down. Also, I might be DUMB for not figuring that out since I literally have done 100 of these games and should have known that. Anyway, it’s weird that, of all the games to copy, the weird Pac-Man where you can’t eat dots if you’re facing the wrong direction was the one.

LAS VEGAS!!
Bandai (1981)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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I probably shouldn’t have even included this one, but the theme boggled my mind so much that I had to. You hear the name “LAS VEGAS” and you naturally assume “card games, maybe dice, maybe roulette.” Nope. It’s a minimalist spinning plate game. Three careless slot jockeys are playing and when they hit a jackpot, you’re a degenerate grabbing the coins that slip pass them, I guess? There’s only three channels and the game tells you what they’re getting. It’s so weird and stupid. Why? Why would you even make this game? It’s boring and it feels like it should be a different name. Slot Jockey! There you go!

TOM & JERRY POPPER!!
Gakken (1983)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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Another spinning plate game, though this one is a bit more challenging by virtue of how the sprites are done. They’re supposed to be balloons that Jerry is launching at you, and they sorta bob around and shrink like they’re fading into the background. It’s hard to clock. Here’s what’s REALLY weird: it’s a three channel plate spinner, but there’s a huge gap between the second and third panels. You don’t step on that gap, mind you. You jump from the 2nd channel to the 3rd like normal. It makes it feels like this “we gotta fit this all in to a small screen” haphazard design. Tom & Jerry’s not fun, but it’s notably weird.

MOTOR CROSS!!
Unknown Manufacturer (19??)
Gameplay Type: Racer

Remember the “TWO WEEKS” scene from Total Recall? Well, “GET READY FOR A SURPRISE!”

This feels like a cruel joke, because it’s shaped just like a Game Boy. It feels like something designed to dupe witless parents too stupid to realize they didn’t just find the bargain of the century while trying to find little Timmy a Game Boy for Christmas. I get that this phenomena exists in all forms of entertainment, from Asylum Mock Busters to Mega Super Rangers to alarmingly red Game Boy knock-offs. But the really batshit thing? Motor Cross is, no joke, the first racing LCD I’ve played that doesn’t suck. I can’t believe it at all! It makes me feel unclean to heap any praise on this obvious attempt at confusing unaware consumers, but Motor Cross’ gameplay is rock solid, genuinely exciting, kind of addictive, and yes, even fun.

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedMotor Cross actually does feel like a race, with an accelerator, breaking, laps, and fuel consumption. Huh. Even wilder is just how many objects on screen you might have to weave around. Sometimes, the entire course fills with bikes, and successfully navigating through it feels incredible. Finally, Motor Cross does what I didn’t think was possible in an LCD game: creates a sense of speed. There’s three speed you can use, and I shit you not, they work to make it feel like you’re on a bike traveling at a high velocity. I don’t think it quite beats Frisky Tom, but it’s one of the best LCD games I’ve ever played. Goddamnit, I have no choice but to declare Motor Cross the greatest LCD racing game until a more ethical option comes along.

ISIDORO & SONJA – CACCIA AL LADRO!!
aka HEATHCLIFF & SONJA – HUNT THE THIEF
Vtech (1982)
Gameplay Type: Spinning Plate

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Apparently “Heathcliff or Garfield” was a debate before I was born. I didn’t even know Heathcliff existed by time I was a Saturday Morning Cartoon watcher, but they still reran Garfield & Friends on TV. Game, set, match. Garfield wins. Fatality! But, hey, at least Heathcliff has a pair of games that are marginally better than the Konami Garfield LCD. This is the weaker of the two. You have to throw bombs up at someone raiding fish out of garbage cans. Occasionally a dog gets in the way, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to move it. I thought throwing a bomb at the dog would get it to move, but it doesn’t. It seems to move randomly, and that means you can’t defend that can. The fish remaining are presented by sprites. Vtech seemed to specialize in action-defense (oxymoron, I know) but this was not good.

ISIDORO & SONJA – IL FUOCO!!
aka HEATHCLIFF & SONJA – FIRE
Vtech (1982)
Gameplay Type: Spinning Plate

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Remember the “spray the bombs with the elephant trunk?” game from above? Same concept turned upside down. As Heathcliff, you spray drops of fire with a hose. Like Bomb Fight, you don’t have to wait to stop the drops of fire. You can destroy the fire at any spot of progress instead of waiting for it to be on top of you like a typical Game & Watch game. It changes it from feeling like a spinning plate game into a genuine defensive-oriented game. It’s not as fun as the bomb game though. It feels less claustrophobic and thus isn’t as exciting. I’m leaning towards not liking this, but let it be said: Heathcliff’s best LCD absolutely curb stomps Garfield’s.

CRAZY CHEWY!!
Vtech (1982)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase

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Once I remembered this is a Pac-Man clone and held down the movement buttons instead of pressing them like a normal LCD game, I found Crazy Chewy to be, far and away, the best Pac-Man LCD clone ever made. It’s not very hard, and the power-pellets last a generous amount of time. But, it’s actually not a bad little knock-off, and I’m only not awarding it my seal of approval because I just personally ain’t a Pac-Man fan. Generic and soulless and I imagine many a kid said “that’s NOT Pac-Man!” on Christmas mornings, but if you were a mega-sized Pacmaniac during this era, you had a pretty solid clone of it here.

CHICKY WOGGY!!
Vtech (Tini-Arcade 1981/Arcade Time & Fun 1982)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase

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Chicky Woggy is basically reverse-Pac-Man. Instead of eating the dots, you lay them down. You start with one wolf chasing you, and eating one of the two worms are like power-pellets that let you eat the wolves, but they only last a second or two. Like, on just the second level, I ate a worm, moved up only two spaces and the wolf killed me. Even considering that, I was able to clear multiple levels. Like other Vtech games, this got two releases: one as a premium color-picture tabletop similar to Nintendo’s Panorama or Coleco’s tabletops, and one as a simple LCD with a dial. Looking at the dial, ugh, can you imagine trying to play an LCD with that thing? Anyway, I’m giving it a pass for the same reason I did Chewy: I’m not a huge Pac-Man fan to begin with, but if you were a little kid in the early 80s who was gaga for the Pac, I imagine owning these would have passed the time in a car ride a lot better.

GALAXY II!!
Epoch (1981)
Gameplay Type: Gallery Shooter

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedI had this hunch that a Space Invaders-like LCD would be excellent. I’m grateful for Galaxy II, which proved I was 100% right. Actually, this is really like a better version of Coleco’s take on Galaxian. Even the sprites look very similar. But, this is a much better game that’s a lot of fun. A gallery shooter where the aliens dive down at you. I wish the controls were a little more responsive, and I wish it was just a channel or two wider, but otherwise, this is a solid shooter. A kid who opened this on Christmas morning in 1981 was a very lucky kid, especially compared to most of the larger fluorescent tube games. They usually suck, but Galaxy II is the best gallery shooter in LCD gaming that I’ve played and behind only Frisky Tom and Frogger on my top games list.

LCD Games VI: LC You, Wouldn’t Want to D You

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

Let’s finish the second IGC LCD trilogy!

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG!!
Tiger Electronics (1992)
Gameplay Type: Combative

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All credit where it’s due: Tiger didn’t half-ass their Sonic effort. They probably recognized this as a game that needed to achieve play-ability to help boost their reputation and earn further sales for their line. There’s ambition here. There’s levels. There’s a moderate variety of enemies that require different tactics to beat. There’s not one but TWO boss fights! There’s water hazards. You can get high-speed boosts and invincibility. The issue is, it doesn’t feel at all like Sonic. Even by 1992, Sonic bopping enemies wasn’t the hook: speed was. This isn’t a fast paced game. It’s plodding as hell. It takes forever to get to a boss. Worst of all, the gameplay is boring. Then again, how does one do a solid platformer that doesn’t have animation? I have no clue.

BACK TO THE FUTURE!!
Tiger Electronics (1988)
Gameplay Type: Racer

Based on the TV series, but actually more like it’s based on the movie, or not. You have to dodge rocks and oil slicks to presumably get the Delorean up to 88 mph, but I never got over 70 mph. I was bound and determined to get this, but I never even saw the rescue mechanics. I have no clue what I wasn’t doing right. This was one of those weird “the background isn’t there” but I imagine that didn’t matter. This was boring.

INDY 500!!
Tiger Electronics R-Zone (1995)
Gameplay Type: Racer

R-Zone was, I guess, Tiger’s low-rent version of Virtual Boy. I used to see it in clearance bins in toy stores. It’s hilarious that Tiger Electronics took serious the device that everyone else was snickering about under their breath. Really, it was just more LCD gaming, only with “carts” which is something Atari abandoned with Cosmos in the early 80s. Indy 500 is a super bland driving game that simply isn’t fun. You have to shift gears, stay on the road. Snore. I wanted to recognize R-Zone since this is likely the last LCD game feature I’ll be doing, but this is the only one I could find.

DORAEMON!!
Bandai (1983)
Gameplay Type: Maze Chase

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedBandai is kind of the greatest maker of LCDs ever, and nobody knows it. In Part V, I found their finest work in Frisky Tom, the greatest LCD ever made. BUT, they also have the best maze chase LCD I’ve played. And yes, these are really not LCDs, but rather “Vacuum Fluorescent Displays” or VFDs, but tomato/potato. LCD is a format of gaming, and whether the screen is physically LCD or VFD, the gameplay is done in the standard LCD format. Either way, this game, based on the popular Japanese franchise, features you moving around a maze and grabbing bells while dodging mice. You’re given enough time if you find a mouse next to you to dodge it, and that cushion makes this so much more playable than most Tiger or Coleco chasers. It’s not exactly the most exciting game, but I was happy playing it.

ULTRAMAN
(1983, Bandai)
Gameplay Type: Dodger/Spinning-Plate

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Okay, so not all Bandai games were good. In fact, their Burgertime was pretty shitty. Ultraman isn’t good either. It’s boring as hell, but at least there’s ambition here. The problem is you have to wait to score 500 points before you get to transform into Ultraman. That’s 50 slow moving bullets you have to just move out of the way of. Then, you have to grab some energy thing (despite being a Power Rangers/Sentai fangirl, I’ve never watched Ultraman) that transforms you. Then you have to fight the villains, and the game kind of becomes a spinning plate game where you have to stop them from destroying the city by karate chopping or kicking them. It’s not the worst concept, but getting to become Ultraman is such a boring slog. When the game forgets to count a point, which happens, you feel like crying. If not for that part, this wouldn’t be the worst effort. Sadly, Ultraman is more like Mediocreman

ROBOCOP 2!!
Tiger Electronics (1990)
Gameplay Type: Combative

BOOM! HEADSHOT!

I can’t believe this franchise was marketed as heavily to children as it was. Yea, I know it was made into a cartoon too, but I’ve never met anyone who associated the Robocop with the cartoon. They associated it with the ED209 blowing some poor fucker into giblets, and Robocop 2 features a child drug kingpin who nearly kills Robocop. The game is just a massively sluggish, unresponsive shooter. It’s one of those LCDs that Tiger phoned it, which was par for the course for them. Naturally, they made a sequel..

ROBOCOP 3!!
Tiger Electronics (1992)
Gameplay Type: Combative

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedThis does a little more with the shooting than a normal Tiger Electronics game. In fact, it’s oriented more like a spinning plate game. There’s a few channels that you have move up and down and shoot punks. There’s scrolling but you don’t even need to do that, as the boss will come to you after you shoot X amount of punks. After two levels, you also have to rescue a girl that’s captured by the boss. Robocop 3 has smart scoring and the pace is fast enough that it’s not a typical bore. Golly, would look at that.. Robocop 3 isn’t Robocrap. Wow. I’m stunned. I mean, I know Tiger was capable of doing decent games, but I wasn’t expecting Robocop 3 to be one of them. Never assume.

SWAMP THING!!
Tiger Electronics (1991)
Gametype: Combative/Adventure

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I think the emulation for this must have been broken, because half the time, the game wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do. If I pressed attack, the game ducked. If I tried to use a special move, the game ducked. I even switched my keyboard, but it kept happening. When the game actually worked, this is one of those “effort was made” Tiger games that has depth. You scroll right, but there’s also pipes you can take, Mario-style. There’s a punch move that NEVER worked (every time I tried it, the game like did the animation for it for a split second before going back to being stun-locked in a ducking animation) and a fire move where you melt into the ground and two columns of fire rise up on the sides the screen. If this is how the real Swamp Thing played, YIKES, terrible! But, if it was emulation, damn. This had a shot.

BATTLETOADS!!
Tiger Electronics (1991)
Gameplay Type: Combative

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One of the absolute most boring LCDs I’ve experienced in this entire run. The gameplay is based on the second level well sequence from the NES game. Ravens fly by and you have to punch and kick them, while faces blow tornadoes at you. After FOREVER, you reach the bottom, where the Evil Queen shows up to.. uh.. I’m not entirely sure but I never seemed to be able to hit her. You can switch between the different characters, which in theory is nice, but the game takes your button presses as friendly advice that can be ignored. Like, I would hit the ravens and it would count as a hit, but then I’d take damage anyway. Apparently there’s a boss, but I never got to it even after over thirty minutes of gameplay. The real pain in the ass? Both times I reached the Evil Queen section, I didn’t die by losing life. I ran out of time. Are you kidding me? I’m so mad that this is what they came up with for Battletoads: a port of the most overly long and terminally boring part of the game. Yikes. I’ve never liked a single game in the Battletoads franchise, so when I say “Battletoads deserved better” that’s saying something.

JUDGE DREDD!!
Tiger Electronics (1995)
Gameplay Type: Combative

When you think there’s no bottom, Tiger Electronics comes through with another low. In Judge Dredd, you walk, wait for an enemy to come within range and then kick or punch them. If they’re to the edge of the screen, you have to hop-up an ever-present ladder and wait for them to step closer. Then you drop down, punch them, and they’ll drop their weapon, which you actually have to press a button to bend over slowly to get, because of course you do, because this is shit. Then you walk forward and try to use it. BUT, if you get shot, you lose the gun. And you will get shot, because there’s a massive lag between the command to shoot and the shot being fired. It’s a boring premise to begin with, but this is trash with the controls. Absolutely Dreddful.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS!!
Tiger Electronics (1993)
Gameplay Type: Dodger

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Wow. This is the most incredibly boring game I’ve ever played in my entire life. They were aiming for a dodge-type game where you duck under bulbs and hide behind a Christmas Tree if a gnome shows up. Then you have to hop across roof tops and time the button to grab candy. This is so goddamned boring that I legitimately almost dozed-off playing it. Tim Burton must be spinning in his coffin. He’s not dead, but I just picture Tim Burton sleeping in a coffin.

SUPER DOUBLE DRAGON!!
Tiger Electronics (1993)
Gameplay Type: Combative

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Sigh. Well, at least you’re not kicking Lex Luthor in the balls. Guys show up. You jump up and kick them. You can stay on the ground and kick them but it’s much more effective to just jump up and do it. You’re less likely to take damage that way. Sure, Double Dragon is about fighting the same guys over and over again, so the LCD game should be a close approximation to it. But, the thing that makes Double Dragon fun is, frankly, the violence. You need animation for violence. For that sense of OOMPH, and for a variety of moves. Here the moves are a punch, a kick, and allegedly the ability to use special moves or grab weapons, but every time I tried to get them I took damage. The only good thing I can say about Super Double Dragon: it’s better than just plain Double Dragon was as an LCD. A lot less Lex Luthor.

THE INCREDIBLE CRASH TEST DUMMIES!!
Tiger Electronics (1993)
Gameplay Type: Racer

Want to do a racing type of game? Why would you make an LCD game like that? Something that isn’t capable of creating a sense of speed? Here, the idea is you’re trying to build up enough speed to deliberately crash yourself through the air, and you can build up speed by reaching out and petting a dog, I think? I got my speed one tick away from the top, but never got all the way there. Like so many LCD games, it takes too long to get to the hook of the game. I never managed to crash, and after twenty minutes of trying, I didn’t want to play this anymore. Holy crap, is this boring.

BATMAN FOREVER: DOUBLE DOSE OF DOOM!!
Tiger Electronics (1995)
Gameplay Type: Combative

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You have to punch or throw the Baterang at Two-Face if he’s in front of you. If he’s to the left of you, you have to call in Robin, who swings in and hits him (regardless of whether he’s above or below you). You also have to hop over pits, because when you think of Batman, you think pits. This is just a boring retread of the same type of game they’ve done to death. Enough with the brawlers! It’s not happening, Tiger. This is just boring. Really, really boring. I’m barely hanging on by this point.

MC HAMMER: U CAN’T TOUCH THIS!
Tiger Electronics (1991)
Gameplay Type: Rhythm

You’re right, I can’t.

Only two decent games this time? Fudge. I need a part VII, don’t I? Yea, I do. Part VII coming Sunday.

 

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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