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 Part V: BEEP MEEP NEEP BONG DONG BEEENNNNN

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

Let’s do another, and for the first time, let’s move largely out of the 80s. This is basically “all-Konami edition” with a few other games sprinkled in.

GARFIELD!!
Konami (1991)
Gameplay Type: Dodger

I always wondered how Garfield, who is established as being grotesquely overweight and out of shape, is also ninja-like when he stands on the fence to do his comedy routines?

You’re on a fence and you have to dodge pies and shoes and get lasagna Jon makes for you. Like so many LCDs, this feels like a generic gameplay template that any theme could have been plugged into. Does it feel like Garfield? Um, no. Is it fun? Not really. It’s so bland and the scoring is so slow and not unexciting. One thing I admire about Nintendo’s Game & Watch series: it has really smart scoring. Here, dodging shoes and pies doesn’t really earn you anything, even though that’s what you spend most of the game doing. I’m not on the fence for this one: Garfield is lame.

KINGMAN!!
Tomy/Tandy (1982)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

They could redo the graphics and make this a Toronto Raptors game.

A putrid, broken Donkey Kong rip-off (it looks like Donkey Kong mixed with Darth Vader. Darth Kong? Donkey Vader?) with some of the most unresponsive controls I’ve seen. I spent fifteen minutes trying to make it to the top, but the piles of poo that take the spot of the barrels come down in perfect intervals to prevent any progress, and it’s impossible to time anything when there’s no certainty the controls will actually respond to your commands. I wonder how many “Mom, Dad, this isn’t Donkey Kong” cries went out on Christmas mornings when kids unwrapped this unplayable knock-off. I mean, not that the Donkey Kong table-tops were better. They weren’t, but at least they were authentically awful.

GOLDENEYE 007!!
Tiger Electronics (1995)
Gameplay Type: Combative

No clue why did one didn’t have a background.

Run right and shoot left and right, or sometimes throw a karate kick. Typical effort-free Tiger Electronics dump. Wow, Rare Ltd. sure had their work cut out for them, here. I think the Nintendo 64 game had a more exciting menu than this game.

SPACE JAM!!
Tiger Electronics (1995)
Gameplay Type: Basketball

How hard can it be to make a basketball game, for Christ sake? But I never even saw my own basket in multiple sessions with this. Space Jam seems to be oriented like a cross the road game, but I never successfully pulled off a steal, never got a shot or a pass off (and only once saw Daffy Duck the entire time). Jesus wept. I’m sorry, Your Airness.. I failed you. And you thought the Bad Boy Pistons did Jordan dirty. Ouch.

C!!
Konami (1989)
Gameplay Type: Gallery Shooter

No, Up Up Down Down doesn’t work. I tried.

C in this case stands for Contra. I’m not sure what I expected, but C is just a five-channel gallery shooter that has various meaningless LCD doodles pass by to give the illusion of forward movement, but really, this is just “line up with thing and shoot.” It’s no guarantee that’ll actually work. Multiple times my bullets went right through something, for apparently no reason. Maybe because we both switched channels, but if we switched channels and the bullets are animated in that channel that the alien is in, and they pass through the aliens, how is that not a hit? Terrible game. Practically broken.

BATMAN!!
Tiger Electronics (1989)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

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This is sorta like a spinning plate game as an action game. There’s two channels of enemies and you have to dodge the attacks of one while taking out the other. I found it to be quite dull and there seemed to be massive lag with the timing after you came off the wall. I don’t know if that was a bug in the emulation or not, but this was practically unplayable.

GRADIUS!!
Konami (1989)
Gameplay Type: Gallery Shooter

I really want to do a Space Invaders type of game but haven’t been able to find one. The closest so far is probably Gradius, which is nothing like the classic Konami shmup it takes its name from. This is another five-channel gallery shooter, only with a much bigger emphasis on dodging than Contra’s LCD did. You have to shoot enemies while avoiding cannon fire from enemy islands above and below you. It’s quite competent but very boring and very unambitious. I know that Konami didn’t really make these, but they were among the cream of the crop in gaming at the time and they put their names on these games. Oh, it gets worse..

THE ADVENTURES OF BAYOU BILLY!!
Konami (1989)
Gameplay Type: Combative

Replace the snake with a honey badger and this could have been The Gods Must Be Crazy: Part II

I’ve done a LOT of LCD brawlers now, and Bayou Billy (based on a somewhat obscure NES genre smorgasbord) might be the worst yet. It’s SO sluggish and it feels like it’s only registers every-third button press when you’re on attack, even if you haven’t already just attacked. When you have a snake attacking you from one side and what looks like Strong Bad if he just totally let himself go attacking you from the other, it’s like the game can’t decide what to let you do, and chooses to let you do nothing most of the time. I’m starting to see why legitimate gaming magazines didn’t give LCDs the time of day. Imagine all the money that they could have saved people if they had though.

BUCKY O’HARE!!
Konami (1991)
Gameplay Type: Gallery Shooter

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Another gallery shooter, and one that gets old even quicker than Gradius. BUT, oddly enough, this does more to feel like Gradius than Gradius. There’s bosses, and you even switch characters after you beat the first boss. I got to the second boss a few times and he was a bullet sponge. You get generous hit points and lives yourself, a stark contrast to Bayou Billy’s “40 health, when it’s gone, Game Over” setup. Everything is in place for this to be Konami’s best LCD, except strong gameplay. Bucky O’Hare actually bored me right out of the gates, and if not for the bosses, I’d of quit long before I did. ENOUGH WITH THE GALLERY SHOOTERS, Konami. Try a spinning plate game or something. At the time I’m writing this, I haven’t played Blades of Steel yet. It’s up next, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s a sudden death hockey shoot-out arranged like a gallery shooter. I really wouldn’t. Let’s see..

BLADES OF STEEL!!
Konami (1989)
Gameplay Type: Dodger/Reflex Tester

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedWhoa. Hold on. Okay, so I was partially right. It is sort of oriented like a shooter, but it’s not a gallery shooter. It’s not really a hockey game either, but it’s actually a not awful concept for an LCD hockey-themed game. There’s no defense involved. You’re just trying to score as many goals in the time limit as possible. You have to take the puck, wait for a clearing and wait for the meter behind the goalie to flash a star, at which point if you fire, you’ll get a goal. It’s actually a clever way to make the extremely limited LCD hardware feel kinda like the NES game, and it works! Yea, this is only good for an LCD game, but I could see myself losing track of time playing this. Absolutely. Clever idea. I’m impressed. At this point, I’m convinced every LCD manufacturer had at least one “who’d of thunk it?” quality game.

DOUBLE DRIBBLE!!
Konami (1989)
Gameplay Type: Dodger/Reflex Tester

Yes, the iconic Double Dribble dunks are in the game. Kinda.

indie-gamer-chick-approvedBasically the same concept as Blades of Steel, only now you’re playing a 1-on-2 basketball game. You have to just break free of your defenders and time the meter above the basket. Here, the timing is a lot different than it is in Blade of Steel. You want to shoot when the meter is white so the ball’s arc drops in as the meter is lit for a goal. I liked Blades of Steel a lot more, but this is also a perfectly acceptable little waste of time. Gosh, I wonder if the NFL Football game will be along the same lines.

NFL FOOTBALL!!
Konami (1989)
Gameplay Type: American Football

Better than strips of red lights, no?

Easily the most ambitious LCD I’ve ever played, there is nothing half-assed about NFL Football. The funny thing is, they could have done that. The most successful LCD ever was the legendary Mattel Electronic Football that was a major fad in the late 70s (along with Coleco’s Electronic Quarterback), and a barely updated version of that would have worked, but instead, NFL Football focuses trying to make it feel like the sport. You only play offense and can choose between four plays (five including field goals when you’re in range) and have to scroll around the field looking for openings. It works and legitimately feels like the evolutionary Electronic Quarterback, and the problem is, I just never had fun with those. My Godfather’s son had both the Mattel and Coleco games. I still have them around here somewhere, and I never thought they were any fun. But, all credit where it’s due: while I didn’t have fun with this, I imagine kids of the era probably enjoyed it for what it was.

THE LONE RANGER!!
1989 (Konami)
Gameplay Type: Gallery Shooter

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedAs you know from my earlier bitching, gallery shooters are all over LCD. Which one has the most channels? Konami’s Lone Ranger, with a whopping ELEVEN different channels to take shots from. Each angle works towards taking out a bandit from a different angle or distance, and for me, I actually did kind of enjoy memorizing which channel hit which person from which distance. Even better: the characters come up with their hands up, and some will surrender and just disappear. You’re only supposed to shoot the ones who draw their gun on you. It’s so smart and makes the game kind of twitchy. Yep, this is the best of its breed. So far the best LCD shooter I’ve experienced. The funny thing is, Konami made a vastly underrated NES game based on the character, and their LCD game is probably one of the stronger LCDs out there. You’re even incentivized to fire accurately, as you only get 40 bullets. Well, what do you know? They actually did make a really good gallery shooter. So what’s the story on Contra and Gradius being so boring, gang?

FRISKY TOM!!
Bandai (1982)
Gameplay Type: Action-Arcade

We have a new LCD Champion!

This should have gone Part IV, along with the other arcade games, but the truth is.. I’d never heard of it before. I don’t know how good the arcade game is, but as an LCD game, this is really very fun without having to qualify that statement. This is actually the best LCD game I’ve ever played by a mile. It’s sort of like Donkey Kong Jr. meets Pipe Dream. You have to shimmy around this mess of pipes, collect the pipes that are knocked down by evil mice that are total nightmare fuel, and replace where they go. The ultimate object is to fill a tub full of water. It’s crazy addictive, exciting, and so much fun.

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I played this game for over an hour on Saturday. I just couldn’t put it down. I wish it had more dynamic scoring, and I wish the collision was a little better, but I only wish for those things because this is the most addictive, exciting LCD I’ve ever played. Take a bow, Bandai. You’re the new champion of LCD gaming at Indie Gamer Chick. For the first time, I can say an LCD game is genuinely outstanding, and I never thought I’d use those words to describe an LCD. Wow. I’m blown away over here. It turns out that truly great LCD gaming wasn’t a pipe dream after all.

 

LCD Games of the 80s: Part II

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

“Waaaaa, you didn’t play the good ones.” There are no good ones. But fine. Here’s eight more LCD games, some of which I got from here.

BARTMAN: AVENGER OF EVIL!!
Acclaim (1990)
Gameplay Type: Dodger

If you can do the Bartman then you’re bad like Michael Jackson. It’s true. Michael Jackson did a lot of ten-year-olds.

Okay, so this is from the early 90s. Sue me. This one sort of tries to do what the double-screened Game & Watch games do, only on one screen. Here you play as Bart Simpson. On the top of the screen, Nelson has kidnapped Maggie and is shooting rocks at you. You have to dodge them while waiting for the Bartman costume to spawn. Once you have all three pieces of it, the action moves to the bottom of the screen where you dodge watermelons and apples. Santa’s Little Helper will occasionally give you an apple that you throw back at Nelson. Ten apples and the gameplay loop resets. Once I figured out what I was doing, the game was still boring but at least playable. It’s better than the Simpsons Arcade Game because at least this is quick.

I speculated in the first set of LCD reviews that a major part of the appeal of these games was that kids thought they were getting away with something naughty by playing them. Even if the gameplay was horrible, it’s the idea that they were playing video games when they weren’t supposed to. By time Bartman came out, Game Boy was out and there were better options. BUT, in 1990 the Simpsons was considered bad for kids. Because Bart said “damn” and “hell”. Of course, like anything else, the controversy just made the Simpsons even more desirable for children. So imagine you’re a young person in 1990, sitting in church and playing a Simpsons game. You’d feel like you were the biggest little stinker in the world. I hate to break this to you, but they knew. Yes, they knew you what you were doing and you’d already gotten your punishment. You were playing this.

ZELDA!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1989)
Gameplay Type: Adventure/Combative

“Zelda” is shorthand for either the game series or the original Legend of Zelda. But, in fact, the only actual game in the franchise that is called simply “Zelda” is this one.

This released three weeks after Game Boy in North America. So imagine going into a store and seeing this, which was relatively expensive ($34.99 in 1989 dollars, about $75 today) and Game Boy ($90 in 1989, or about $190 today). One was a permanent investment in gaming. The other you’d be lucky if a child pulled five minutes of enjoyment out of. If your parents opted not to save up for the Game Boy, I hope you didn’t follow their example of impatience and bad purchase judgment. Because it’s probably one of the worst of the Game & Watch games. You move left and right on the bottom screen, killing an enemy on the right. Then you climb stairs. This goes on until you fight a dragon on the top screen. It really does seem like it’s trying to make it feel as Zeldaish as possible with hearts and potions to use, but Zelda Game & Watch is soooooo bad. It makes the CDi titles look like game of the year contenders by comparison.

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

When Game & Watch became an unprecedented hit, there were a lot of companies that hopped onto the bandwagon. VTech was one of the most successful at getting shelf space. They did well. They’re still in existence today and were actually part of a massive data breach at some point. Maybe they should have stuck to the off-brand games. In fact, there’s a strong chance a lot of my older fans who THINK they had an actual Nintendo Game & Watch as a kid might have really had a VTech Time & Fun game. But unlike other companies (many of them Russian) who would just straight-up clone Game & Watch titles and slap a different name on them, VTech made their own, original games, most of which seem to retain the same “keep it simple, stupid” gameplay that made Game & Watch titles, if not good, still playable today. Safari uses the “cross the street” mechanics that were popular with LCD games. Here you’re an explorer who must.. avoid..

Is that………..

Safari (VTech, Time & Fun)-220718-130232

Oh God.
Safari (VTech, Time & Fun)-220718-130308
OH GOD!!
Safari (VTech, Time & Fun)-220718-130311
Good lord………………..

Sigh.

It was a different time.

THE TERMINATOR!!
Tiger Electronics (1988)
Gameplay Type: Gallery Shooter

“You didn’t do any Tiger Electronics games! How could you do a review of LCDs and not do a single Tiger game?”

Yeah, I’ve heard the reputation of them. I feel fear too, you know. I never claimed to be brave.

Thank god Arnie would never be associated with another bad game after this.

Tiger Electronics’ handheld LCD games are universally considered some of the worst “video games” ever made. But, honestly Terminator isn’t that bad. It’s a really simple gallery shooter. Apparently someone included Tiger in MAME, but I’m nowhere near my MAME cabinet. And the computer that runs my cabinet uses a 2010 version of the emulator and I really don’t want to update it since my understanding is it might render some ROMs non-working. It’s a lot of work. I’ll stick to the simulators. Find me more of them that require as few clicks to play as possible and I’ll gladly do them. Anyway, this is an insanely, crazy simple game that’s boring as fuck. Move left and right, shoot, rinse, repeat. If Donkey Kong 3 is the current “it must be as good as the actual arcade version of Donkey Kong 3 to not completely suck” barometer, Terminator doesn’t quite make it. It’s that boring.

Though I do appreciate that you can’t actually see (most) of the bullets you shoot. I don’t know what kind of guns they use to fight aliens in Contra, but like, that’s not how guns work! You point one, you pull the trigger, and before your brain can process that you’ve finished the task of firing the gun, the bullet has already completed doing its thing. So go figure that a Tiger Electronics handheld from 1988 would have the most accurate depiction of firearms in gaming history. Well, besides Duck Hunt, which I guess works that way too and has a muzzle flash. I guess that whole paragraph was pointless. Moving on..

MARIO’S BOMBS AWAY!!
Nintendo Panorama (1983)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

Mario's Bombs Away (Nintendo, Panorama Screen)-220718-131633

Another “cross the road” format game. Honestly, the best Game & Watch titles follow that formula. It’s simple and allows for the most variations without feeling like you’re just copying one game over and over. Here, you’re Mario fighting in an actual war (holy shit!), carrying bombs across enemy lines so you can blow up the camping soldiers (HOLY SHIT!!). I mean, Jesus Christ! Mario was a solider! With a body count! Do you wonder if all the “adventures” he went on afterwards were a coping mechanism fantasy to deal with the PTSD he developed from all the terrible atrocities he had to commit here? It can’t be ruled out.

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedAnyway, this is one of the better LCD games I’ve played so far. You have to raise and lower the bomb you carry to avoid the enemy’s torches and the flame started by one of your own guys chain smoking and tossing the butts into a leaky canister of gasoline that causes a flame to go across the ground. It’s actually pretty intense. While it’s hard to get the timing down of when the torches will light the bomb fuse without being able to see motion, I’m revising my verdict and awarding Mario’s Bombs Away my seal of approval. It’s an original, intense, quality cross the road game. And also, look at Mario’s face on the device. That’s the face of a dude that’s seen things. Horrible, horrible things.

DONKEY KONG JR.!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1983)
Game Type: Cross the Road

There’s more LCD versions of DK Jr. than there are Army of Darkness DVDs.

This is not to be confused with Donkey Kong II or the Tabletop/Panorama LCD (which was made by Nintendo but released outside of Japan by Coleco). This is like a smaller version of Donkey Kong II BUT with a larger emphasis of using the vines. Once again, you have to grab a key and zig-zag Junior to the top of the screen to unlock your Daddy. Honestly, I think this game plays better than Donkey Kong II. It combines elements from several authentic DK Jr. stages and even has the “drop a fruit on the enemy to score points mechanic” that, to be honest, I would never have expected to have been attempted in one of these.

Is it fun? Well…………… no. But I did have to think about it this time.

EGG!! and MICKEY MOUSE!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1981)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate

Screw eating the eggs. That hat you’re using seems to have an unlimited capacity. Patent it and feast upon filet mignon for the rest of your days.

Nintendo reskinned several Game & Watch games to star Disney’s cash rat. Thus, Egg became Mickey Mouse and Donkey Kong Circus became.. well.. Mickey Mouse. That must have been confusing. Weirdly, Egg and Mickey Mouse both came out on the same day in August, 1981. Besides cross-the-road games, the other common, easy to execute LCD gameplay style is “spin the plate” games, where you have to judge which of several objects is the next one you have to touch. Also, this might be the first ever video game where you play as the villain. Because in Egg, you play as the Big Bad Wolf, stealing eggs from chickens. Wouldn’t the Big Bad Wolf.. you know.. EAT THE CHICKENS?

Imagine a parent in 1981 trying to REALLY make their child happy and buying both Egg and Mickey Moues, thinking they’re different games. You know this had to have happened at least once.

Well, I think the issue is Nintendo was trying to get the Disney license (they’d worked together for decades when Nintendo made playing cards) but wasn’t sure if they would get it. So they made two versions of this, and had to design a character that could seamlessly replace the Mickey Mouse character if they couldn’t work with the House of Mouse. That’s my theory, at least. Anyway, I’m not a fan of these because it becomes too hard to determine the speed after a while. This is one (two) of those games where Game & Watch Gallery had a really easy time making the concept more playable. Just add motion and poof: you’re 80% less boring. 20% being purely genetic.

Does that count as eight? Only seven? Fine.

OCTOPUS!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1981)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

The Octopus should seriously come back as a boss somewhere. Great character model.

I figure the surest way for a Game & Watch game, or any LCD game for that matter, to win the Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval, is to be a cross-the-road game that has a unique, addictive play mechanic. Octopus is almost that. That idea is you have to wait for the tentacles to coil and uncoil, move to the treasure chest in the bottom corner of the screen and scoop up as much loot as possible, then return to the ship for bonus points. The more points you score, the faster the tentacles move. And that’s really it. It’s almost fun. It’s so close, but the lack of motion hurts this one. It’s why the remake on Game & Watch Gallery is so strong. This is just short of that.

And now I feel like I’m on a quest to find a good one of these LCDs. I just bought every DSi Game & Watch release, plus the first three Game & Watch Gallery titles on Virtual Console for comparison sake. Weirdly enough, playing these games does make me feel like I missed out on something. I’m gaining an understanding of the gaming upbringing of my older fans, and a better appreciation for the era that I came into the hobby, from 1996 – 1998. By that point, I never had to worry about getting stuck with one of these crappy “games.” Nope. I just have to hear older people say that this is all they had and they walked uphill in three feet of snow both ways to get them and they liked them. Weirdos.

LCD Games of the 80s

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

WE INTERRUPT INDIE GAMER CHICK’S SIX GAME ARCADE ARCHIVE MARATHON TO BRING YOU CATHY BEING SUBJECTED TO LCD HANDHELD GAMES FROM THE 1980s

We what?

Oh fuck my life.

I never owned those cheap Tiger LCDs as a kid and Game & Watch as a series was all but dead by time I was born. The Game Boy came out in the United States just a month after I did. And both of us were discolored and coated disgusting fluids. Or maybe that was just me. But you fuckers haven’t shut up about how “good” these were on Twitter since I started this retro voyage of mine so I found a place that has simulated versions of them. I normally don’t go for playing games via unauthorized emulators here at Indie Gamer Chick (unless I need them to compare to games I paid for) but that’s not exactly what this is. So I’m taking a quick gander at eight LCDs from the 1980s. Alright, my body is ready. Hit it.

DONKEY KONG!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1982)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

Nintendo has done a series of Game & Watch Gallery games. They might as well do another round and include them with Switch online.

It took me a while to figure out that you can’t jump if there’s a girder above you. The object is to climb to the second screen, activate a crane, then jump onto the swinging hook to cut wires that support Donkey Kong. Every time you cut a wire you end up having to start at the bottom and climb your way back up, this time with faster barrels and girders that are deadly to you. The concept is fine, and honestly the gameplay, while too easy and boring, is genuinely better than the Donkey Kong 3 arcade game. This is also the game that gave birth to the plus-shaped D-Pad. But I didn’t play with an authentic device so I can’t tell you how it feels. Still, this is a pretty historic game. Crappy, but historic.

Crappy and historic.. shit, this really is a Donkey Kong game!

DONKEY KONG!!
Coleco (1981)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

What an absolutely terrible game. Unlike the Game & Watch game (which, to be fair, came out a year after this and could learn from this game’s mistakes), this Donkey Kong actually tried to be as faithful as possible to Donkey Kong. It failed. It failed badly. It’s a fail whale. Hail hail the fail whale. I mean, look at it.

The yellow lines are the ladders. The yellow spots on the floor are supposed to be the rivets. The packages of McDonalds french fries are supposed to be the fireballs. This is Gaming Hell, people.

It’s clunky. Without movement it’s hard to know what stuff like the fireballs in stage two (which tries to mimic the rivet board from the arcade game) will actually do. It’s even ugly to look at. At least Game & Watch releases had neat, clear looking LCD characters that had funny, distinctive faces. They were so nice looking that they became a Smash Bros. character. This? Imagine being a kid in 1981, seeing this in stores, and begging your parents for this for Christmas. It cost $60 in 1981, which is over $150 today. A lot of money for most families. And then you get it, and you play it, and you realize there’s no Santa Claus. And your parents hate you because they just spent over $150 in 2019-equivalent dollars on something you can’t possibly play for more than 10 minutes before wanting to die.

Nice cameo in Gremlins though.

DONKEY KONG II!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1983)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

Again, shockingly, this is more engaging than Donkey Kong 3. It really speaks to how bad of an idea that game was.

Not to be confused with Donkey Kong Jr., though the game actually stars Junior and seems based on his game. You start on the bottom screen, jump up to get a key, then zig-zag your way to the top screen, where you have to again jump for the key, then push it into one of the locks caging Donkey Kong. Unlike Donkey Kong, where you automatically go to the bottom screen upon completing a cycle, in DK II you have to get to manually make your way back to the bottom to start the cycle over. Or, you can sacrifice a life to get there. The concept is fine, but like every other game I’ve played, getting the timing down is hard because there’s no actual motion to track. It’s guess work, and if you have no sense of timing, you’re fucked. Also, there seemed to be a few times that I don’t think surviving was possible because any direction moved, including jumping, would lead to my death based on where the enemies were. Another turd.

DONKEY KONG JR.!!
Coleco/Nintendo (1983)
Gameplay Type: Cross the Road

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indie-gamer-chick-approvedThis is an odd cat. Unlike the Donkey Kong tabletop that was developed by Coleco, this one was made by Nintendo, presumably to show Coleco how to make a decent LCD game. Not that Nintendo’s Game & Watch games were amazing or anything, but compared to the shit Coleco seemed to have been vomiting up, they were incredible. And this is actually one of the better games. You grab a key and zig-zag Junior to the right of the screen, where you ride umbrellas downward and balloons upward to free your Daddy. It’s weird that you don’t have to locate the key and you start every level by jumping up to get it, but the twist there is, if you miss hitting the lock that Donkey Kong swings up and down, you drop the key and have to make your way back to the start to get another. I’d still rather play anything else, but if.. okay WHEN.. I go to Hell, if Satan tells me my only options are to play LCD games, if this is on the menu it won’t be so bad.

DONKEY KONG CIRCUS / MICKEY MOUSE
Nintendo Panorama (1984)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate/Juggler

Mario is a cruel taskmaster. Which is the original origin story of Donkey Kong. It’s true.

It’s juggling. With Donkey Kong or Mickey Mouse. It’s boring. Please shoot me.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS COMPUTER FANTASY GAME!!
Mattel Electronics (1981)
Gameplay Type: Minimalist Adventure

You’re warned if there’s pits nearby. ET really could have used that.

This is an interesting one that requires you to draw a map using pen and paper like a fucking savage. You’re placed in grid that’s full of pits. Somewhere in the maze is a magic arrow and a dragon. You have to find the arrow, then sort out what room the dragon is in, get next to that room, point at it and shoot the arrow. It sort of defeats the purpose of being a handheld game by needing pen & paper to play it, though I guess it’s not really D&D without those materials either. It’s an incredibly simple concept, but it works. It’s not really fun in the strictest sense but it’s a decent enough time waster. And with all the pits, I’m curious if Howard Scott Warshaw owned one of these.

MARIO BROS.!!
Nintendo Game & Watch (1983)
Gameplay Type: Spinning-Plate/Juggler

Mario Bros. (Nintendo, Multi Screen)-220718-144832

This one makes no effort to play like the arcade game, because at the time, Nintendo’s concept was that Mario would be the “every-man” who worked a variety of odd jobs. Here, you have to pass packages between Mario and Luigi up a series of conveyor belts. It’s another take on the plate-spinning style gameplay with the twist being that you have to move two characters on two different screens independent of each-other. Even with the twist, I find most of these type of games boring, and this one is no exception.

TRON!!
Tomy (1982)
Gameplay Type: Snake-Like

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This one tries to recreate the light-cycle scene from the movie, but in over ten minutes of playing I couldn’t once beat the computer. Even when I had a speed advantage and got in front of it, it would always turn fast enough to hang in there. When I finally thought I had boxed it in, I simply died anyway. It makes me think the Donkey Kong Jr. game above had the right idea by trying to play tribute to the spirit of the game while also making something original that is more tailored to the hardware.

Shit like these games makes me appreciate my gaming upbringing a little more. I’ve had a LOT of my older fans wax nostalgically about the glory days of these things. I hope this doesn’t come across as condescending, but I feel a little sorry for them. Because these are terrible games. I honestly can’t believe they were ever considered an acceptable substitute to arcade games or even the most primitive Atari 2600 games. At least with the 2600 you could see objects move. Here they just sort of blink out of existence in one part of the screen and reemerge somewhere else. Maybe you guys from that time felt like you were getting away with something naughty by playing these at church or at school. Maybe they were bad deliberately, as part of a conspiracy. By teachers. Because compared to these, school work.. any school work.. would probably look pretty damn stimulating.

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